The Power Of Porkbusters

Originally published at Beltway Blogroll

Instapundit Glenn Reynolds found a reason to boast in the State of the Union address that President Bush gave last night, and with good reason:

Okay, I have to gloat just a bit: Bush led off with earmarks. His actions aren’t as bold as I’d like, but still — back in 2005 when PorkBusters started, nobody in Washington cared and members of Congress were bragging about pork. Now the State of the Union leads of with an attack on earmarks, to thundering applause. Yeah, a lot of it’s a sham. But hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue, and this kind of hypocrisy indicates that the anti-earmark momentum is growing.

I’ve been tracking the power of the blog here at Beltway Blogroll since June 2005, and as my days at National Journal come to a close this week, I can say unequivocally that Porkbusters is the most successful demonstration I have seen of that influence. It is also the one with the greatest staying power.

It’s true that pork is still a problem and will remain one as long as Americans choose to elect panderers rather than statesmen. As I noted in November 2005, it’s next to impossible to catch the greased pig in Congress.

But you simply can’t deny that pork is a prominent policy issue now because of Porkbusters. Until bloggers across the political spectrum started ranting about pork after Hurricane Katrina, nobody outside of Republican presidential candidate John McCain, television broadcaster John Stossel and groups like Citizens Against Government Waste seemed to care — and all of their outrage went unheard by Washington’s powerbrokers.

Now the president is tackling the issue in the State of the Union. That is blog power, my friends.

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After Katrina: A Budgetary Blog Swarm

Originally published at NationalJournal.com
By K. Daniel Glover

The push by President Bush for the federal government to spend $200 billion to recover from Hurricane Katrina has sparked a firestorm of criticism from bloggers on the left and right.

Liberals see the reconstruction plan as an opportunity both to blast Republicans as budgetary hypocrites and to revive their longstanding complaints about Bush’s policies on taxes, war and domestic spending. Fiscal conservatives see the plan as further evidence that Bush is not one of their own. And the two bloggers who spearheaded a successful fundraiser for hurricane relief now have refocused on finding “pork” in the federal budget to help fund the reconstruction.

Liberal bloggers are gleefully noting the irony of a GOP president who preaches fiscal restraint now proposing, with little forethought, a massive spending plan to benefit one small region. Markos Moulitsas Zuniga of The Daily Kos called Bush “an LBJ-caliber spendthrift” in two separate posts.

Bush’s liberal critics characterize his plan not as an anomaly but as part of a pattern of fiscal irresponsibility. “As Democrats know and Republicans try to forget,” wrote Neil Sinhababu of The Ethical Werewolf, “this administration has turned the record budget surpluses of the late 1990s into unprecedented budget deficits. We’ve gone from a surplus of $236 billion in 2000 to a $412 billion deficit in 2004.”

They also see a political element to the Katrina relief — one that Joshua Micah Marshall of Talking Points Memo said is sure to benefit the same types of Bush cronies as the equally misguided spending on the war in Iraq.

“What’s driving this budgetary push is not a natural disaster but a political crisis, the president’s political crisis,” Marshall wrote. “The White House is trying to undo self-inflicted political damage on the national dime. … This will be Iraq all over again, with the same fetid mix of graft, zeal and hubris. Cronyism like you wouldn’t believe.”
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