Congressional Pork and the Animal Farm

Many who look back on their high school days remember studying the works of George Orwell in literature class.  Orwell's novella Animal Farm, an allegory about the rise and corruption of Soviet communism, holds important lessons for today's politicians. 

Animal Farm centers on a group of pigs who organize a revolution against their cruel farmer, Mr. Jones.  The pigs, led by Napoleon, proclaim their new farm as a workers' paradise in which all farm animals are equal.  In the end, Napoleon and his pigs become so corrupt with power that they become indistinguishable from their former master. 

The dictator Napoleon then declares a new law for all of the farm animals "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others."  The moral of this story is that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Now step back into the real world.  Earlier this year Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham was sentenced to federal prison for corruption.  Cunningham, a Vietnam-era hero who represented San Diego's 50th district, utilized the now too common practice of "earmarking" spending bills with items for special interests. 

These types of earmarks, better known as "pork," are inserted into spending bills by congressional members as rewards to lobbyists and constituents.  Earmarks rarely undergo scrutiny to determine their value to the American people. 

Cunningham utilized this corrupt practice to an absolute degree.  He inserted earmarks into defense spending bills for government contractors who had been kicking back bribe money to the now jailed congressman.  The contractors lavished Cunningham with a mansion, a Rolls Royce, and the kind of furniture that one could only find in a palace.

Cunningham is not alone in his spending abuses.  Democrat Senator Robert Byrd's long abuse of earmarks has literally transformed his home state of West Virginia into his own personal shrine.  There are now countless government funded buildings, highways, bridges and statues that bear his name. 

The congressional delegation from Alaska (comprised wholly of Republicans) became notorious for its earmark for the now infamous "bridge to nowhere."  This bridge, with a price tag of hundreds of millions of dollars, literally leads to an island that is nearly deserted.

Earmarks quickly add up…a few million dollars here, and a few more million there.  Millions become hundreds of millions, and then become billions.  Now you are talking serious money and serious debt.

Last spring,President Bush announced his support for a line-item veto to allow the president to eliminate questionable spending items in the budget.  This is an important step towards restoring fiscal sanity in the spend-crazy Congress.  But a line-item veto is only part of the solution.  It only treats one symptom of runaway government spending. 

The true cause is, and will continue to be, a Leviathan government that controls far too many aspects of our everyday lives. When we are subject to a behemoth federal government injecting itself into our daily lives and picking the winners and losers in society, corruption and abuse of power naturally flourish. 

The 1994 elections that brought Republicans to power in Congress ushered in a short period of balanced budgets and fiscal discipline.  There was even talk of downsizing the federal government by eliminating several cabinet level departments.  But like the farm animals who overthrew their cruel farmer, the revolutionaries of 1994 are beginning to resemble the rascals they threw out of power in that historic election.

The Republican-led Congress must return to its 1994 roots and champion those conservative ideas and principles that truly empower individual Americans with liberty, prosperity, and self-determination.  It is time for a re-awakening within the conservative movement.  To do otherwise would be truly Orwellian.

Rick Reiss is a FreedomWorks Congressional Action Team Leader and lives in Temecula, California.