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Once thought to afflict only college basketball players and fans, it would seem that politicians across the country came down with a very serious case of March madness. Tradition defines insanity as "doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results." If this is the case, then things could get messy as legislators and leaders everywhere let the same opportunities to make the right decision slip through their fingers, even as they considered the same failed ideas all over again.
In Washington, three major topics monopolized the short time Congress was in session before their Easter break: earmarks, social security, and the economy. Sen. Jim DeMint offered two important amendments to the FY 09 budget resolution. First was an earmark moratorium that would put a stop to congressional earmarks for one year while spending practices could be reevaluated. Despite the backing of all three major presidential candidates, the amendment failed due to lack of support on both sides of the aisle.
When it became clear that Congress couldn’t help itself on earmarks, FreedomWorks took matters into our hands with a "No Earmarks Pledge." The no-nonsense, personal pledge got the attention of blogs and papers as more and more Congressmen and congressional candidates signed the pledge – making a strong stand on earmark spending a central issue in many elections around the country.
Second, Sen. DeMint once again offered his "Stop the Raid" amendment that would force Congress to stop filling the Social Security Trust Fund with meaningless IOUs. This amendment also failed to pass, but it made an important point about reform and showed how the Senate was happy to choose pork barrel spending over securing the future of Americans. On its way to the big docket in the sky, Stop the Raid earned the ire of many activists who are tired of Washington’s empty promises – over 3, 346 people signed an open letter asking legislators to support the Amendment and they won’t be ignoring the issue as entitlement straits become ever more dire.
With their bosses out of town, FreedomWorks invited Hill staffers on the 24th for lunch and an intense session on the inequities inherent in sub-prime bailouts with Wharton Business School professor Todd Sinai. Though no “economic stimulus” type packages moved through Congress in March, FreedomWorks made sure that minds behind the policy were well equipped when the next bill came down the line in April.
Across the country it was more of the same – the same bad ideas in the same places. In Oregon, the governor proposed a cigarette tax hike – exactly like the one that failed the year before. New York, Illinois, and Kentucky also jumped on the cigarette tax hike bandwagon despite the fact that in addition to the inherent unfairness of such a tax, history has shown the promised revenue won’t be there. And in North Carolina, more counties thought a land transfer tax hike would be a brilliant idea, completely forgetting the way FreedomWorks NC routed the plan just last fall.
But in every instance, from states to the district, FreedomWorks was able to push our issues, keeping them on the agenda and holding officials accountable. On the Hill the pledge will make congressmen keep their word. And out in the states, activists will continue to protest their county commissioners, pummel their legislatures with emails, and generally demand good governance from those they elected.