Imaginary savings used to justify $26-billion in extra spending

Photo of Hon. Ernest Istook
Hon. Ernest Istook
Former Republican Congressman
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      Hon. Ernest Istook

      Ernest J. Istook Jr. is a Distinguished Fellow at <a href="http://www.heritage.org/">The Heritage Foundation</a>. Istook served 14 years as a U.S. Congressman, then joined Heritage in 2007. He engaged in a wide and robust range of issues in Congress as he served on the House Appropriations Committee and chaired multiple subcommittees. He also served on the Homeland Security Committee.

      His congressional experience ranged from overall budget and spending issues to all forms of transportation, trade, defense, health care, education, labor, financial services, homeland security, religious liberty, and many others. He is a founder of the Republican Study Committee, the principal conservative caucus in the U.S. House.

      Tapping his broad experience, Istook is a frequent fill-in host for several major national talk radio programs; he writes weekly opinion columns for multiple outlets that include <a href="http://www.newsmax.com/blogs/ErnestIstook/id-66">NewsMax</a>, <a href="http://www.humanevents.com/search.php?author_name=Ernest++Istook">Human Events</a>, and The Daily Caller. His daily radio commentaries are heard on over 80 radio stations. He is a regular guest on many network and cable news and commentary programs.

      Istook’s professional background has been as a journalist, practicing attorney, public official and now policy expert. Overall, he served 25 years in elected office, ranging from city council to state legislature to U.S. Congress, all after he moved to Oklahoma in 1972 from his native Fort Worth, Texas. He also was the Republican nominee for Governor of Oklahoma in 2006.

      Istook holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Baylor University and law degree from Oklahoma City University. He and his wife, Judy, have five adult children and are active in church work. Istook served several years as a Boy Scout Scoutmaster. He is the grandson of Hungarian immigrants and the first college graduate in his entire family tree.

      His personal website is <a href="http://www.istook.com">www.istook.com</a>.

      Follow him on Twitter <a href="http://twitter.com/Ernest_Istook">@Ernest_Istook</a>.

Using the classic Washington fib that “It’s paid for,” Congress is spending an extra $26-billion to bail out state governments (who already got the lions’ share of last year’s failed $787-billion “stimulus” bill).

The House will rush back from a six-week recess to spend the money next week—an urgency that they instead should show to fix the economy by removing the twin threats of Jan. 1 tax hikes plus a bundle of job-killing regulations.

The $26-billion won’t fix the jobs crisis in the private sector, but will instead give job security to public employees, especially teachers and others who are heavily unionized.  And it gives states extra money for their Medicaid programs.

Senator Harry Reid tweaked the bill’s formulas to send more money to Maine, which prompted its senators—Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe—to break ranks Wednesday and end the GOP filibuster of the state bailout bill.  The amount of benefit to Maine is unclear, so it’s hard to compare with previous vote-buying such as the “Louisiana Purchase” to win the vote of Sen. Mary Landrieu (D, LA) or the “Cornhusker Kickback” to get a vote from Sen. Ben Nelson (D, NE).

But the proclamations of “It’s paid for.” amount to a typical Washington shell game.

POLITICO reported, “The biggest single cut is an $11.9 billion rollback of added food stamp benefits first approved as part of the giant recovery bill last year.”  But that offset isn’t expected to happen.   According to Huffington Post, “Democrats told HuffPost they will work to prevent the food stamp cuts from ever taking effect.”

Since the supposed food stamp cuts reportedly would not occur until 2014, Congress has plenty of time to reinstate the imaginary offsets.

Just like phony spending reductions were used to provide offsets in the Obamacare health care bill (thereby creating false claims of reducing the deficit), the same gimmick is being used to justify the $26-billion in new spending.

As Associated Press reported, “Most Republicans opposed the measure, calling it a payoff to public employee unions and warning that it would make the states ever-dependent on federal funds.”

The fact that spending—not savings—merits a priority rush job was not lost on Sen. Scott Brown (R, MA), who said there were better options:  “We can pay for that by not increasing taxes in the middle of a two year recession,” said Brown.

But once again, all thoughts of spending discipline are lost in Washington’s stampede to spend money.

Ernest Istook, former 14-year Member of Congress, is a Distinguished Fellow at The Heritage Foundation.  First appeared at www.foundry.org.