Senator Rick Santorum is getting his turn now in the bleaching of the noonday sun. He was promoted last week from the minor leagues. This Politico piece is a good example of what Santorum can expect to see and hear about himself as he takes the plate in the Majors. His first comment upon taking the podium in Iowa was, “Game on!” He is now standing at the plate with big league pitchers throwing high and tight at 98 MPH.
There has been a lot of speculation over the cause of Rick Santorum’s late and meteoric rise in Iowa this week. I think I just figured it out. If it’s lunchtime where you are, grab yourself a BLT and I’ll explain.
At the exact same time that Santorum was surging, the powerful Iowa Pork Producers Association was ramping up for its annual Blue Ribbon Pork Festival. This year’s theme? “Baconpocalypse Now: I love the Smell of Bacon in the Morning.”
I did not – and you cannot – make this stuff up. And here’s another imagination-defying factoid: according to their website, IPPA sold out the event (that’s 4,000 tickets, folks) within 25 minutes.
Clearly, bacon is a big deal in Iowa.
So why wouldn’t they love a candidate who has built his career on bringing home the pork?
Santorum has been lauded by pundits and politicians everywhere for his deftness in what they call “retail politics.” In saying so they refer to the way he got out and pressed the flesh with “regular” Iowans in his four-month, 99-county, 300-zillion-town-hall jaunt across the state.
But this kind of direct-relationship politicking, which has been Santorum’s hallmark over the years, has other, more insidious faces.
Rick Santorum is a master earmarker.
Earmarks are those “little” expenditures tacked on to major legislation that would never be able to stand on their own merits. Earmarks are a key implement in the toolbox of most career politicians, one they wield strategically to fill their campaign coffers and preserve their incumbency. Politicians like Santorum use them to buy votes in their home districts.
But earmarks are political cocaine.
Voters who have to be bought once must be bought over and over again, each time with a little more of that heady “blow” from the national treasury.
With 100 vote-hungry politicos in the Senate and 435 more in the House, a million bucks here and two million over there quickly add up to billions and billions of rapidly-disappearing tax dollars. You don’t need a math lesson from Carl Sagan to understand that we’re talking about a lot of wasteful spending coming from the Congressional universe. And it escalates over time.
It was famed French philosopher and political scientist Alexis de Tocqueville who was credited with saying that “A democracy . . . can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidate promising the most benefits from the public treasury.”
Rick Santorum must be a huge de Tocqueville fan. But I doubt that Monsieur de Tocqueville intended for his comment to be taken as campaign advice by cagey politicians.
During his brief tenure in the Senate, Rick Santorum was apparently one of the most prolific earmarkers in Congressional history. And remarkably, he’s proud of it.
Say what you want about John McCain (and as a Reagan conservative and native Arizonan I have said plenty, including some things that were not complimentary), but he has been Washington’s staunchest opponent of special-interest spending by his Congressional colleagues. McCain and fellow Arizona anti-earmarker, Congressman Jeff Flake, have both been roundly criticized at home for “failing to bring home Arizona’s fair share.” But they have both courageously taken the bold and sometimes locally-unpopular position that if Washington’s runaway spending is to be reined in, it has to start with the end of pork-barrel-politics-as-usual; in other words, “it has to start with me.” Hey, there’s a novel concept.
By contrast, Santorum’s addiction to handing out “goodies” to his friends is rivaled only by my own admitted obsession with bacon – the real stuff that is, the thick-cut, maple-flavored, full-cholesterol kind. And just as my fondness for bacon has regrettably pushed my BMI beyond where it should be, Washington’s unbridled Santorum-style porking practices have helped turn our nation’s deficit into a prime candidate for a starring spot on America’s Biggest Loser.
But an unremorseful Rick Santorum doesn’t just want us to excuse his earmarking proclivities. Instead he smugly embraces special-interest handouts, and practically begs us to proclaim him the national poster boy for earmark spending. All while proclaiming himself a Conservative and courting the Tea Party vote.
Hard to believe? You said it. Et tu, Ricky?
Anyone can readily look at Santorum’s record and see why Eric Erickson, the head of the conservative blog Red State, has denounced Santorum’s abominable spending habits and dubbed him a “big government conservative.” Or why Rick Perry is reportedly making considerable headway against Santorum with TV ads that decry his support for numerous earmarks, including Alaska’s infamous “Bridge to Nowhere,” surely an example of some back-slapping, cigar-puffing, inter-Congressional special-interest horse-trading down in the exclusive Senate Dining Room.
But one need look no further than what’s lately coming out of Santorum’s own mouth to confirm his delinquency on core spending issues. Newsmax reported that, as recently as Friday at a town hall meeting in Dublin, New Hampshire, Santorum personally defended his repeated use of earmarks while in Congress, saying, “The idea that earmarks – that because someone earmarks, that they’re an irresponsible spender is just absurd,” adding that, “The people of Pennsylvania elected me to represent the interests of Pennsylvania.”
Absurd? Is that really what “representing the interests” of your state or district means now – helping the other Washington Big Spenders run the rest of us into the financial ditch? Have we really come to a point as a people where all we want is for our Congressional delegations to just blindly smash the piñata each year, and then dash home with as many goodies as they can grab from the federal financial fiesta?
Well, you can count me out on this one. Rick and his earmarks represent everything that’s wrong with Washington’s big-government, big-spending ways, whether they come from self-proclaimed conservatives or anyone else. If there’s a dime’s worth of difference between Santorum’s style of pork-barrel cronyism and Obama’s Solyndra-style paybacks to the people who helped put him in office, could somebody – anybody – explain it please?
I’ve had enough of entrenched politicians who serve themselves by trying to bribe the electorate with our own tax dollars. And I’m even more fed up with legislators (including former U.S. Senators) who disingenuously attempt to build their careers on paying off their constituents with OTHER Americans’ money. We’ve already got one of those in the White House.
Given the sudden dash by 25% of Iowans (did anybody notice how well Santorum did in rural districts?) to the camp of one of history’s most prolific and unapologetic pork-barrel politicians, one wonders whether it was the Iowa GOP running the caucuses, or the Iowa Bacon Board (again, that’s a real organization – I am not making this up!).
But in all seriousness, and with sincere apologies for poking a little fun at the great State of Iowa and its fabulous pork farmers (I’m a big bacon fan myself – thank you IPPA!), the only kind of hog products I’m buying this year are the Hormel kind, not the “phony-baloney conservative” brand of pork-barrel politicking being hawked by Rick Santorum.
It’s time to elect a president who will put Washington on a spending diet – a real spending diet – not another Santorum bacon binge.
by Greg Stapley
New Hampshire all the way . . . GO MITT! Governor Romney is at 81.5% probability to become the GOP nominee in Intrade right now.
“There must be a reason why some people can afford to live well. They must have worked for it. I only feel angry when I see waste. When I see people throwing away things that we could use.” — Mother Teresa