September 10, 2008; Page A15
Wall Street Journal Online.
"But, you know, when you've been taking all these earmarks when it's convenient, and then suddenly you're the champion anti-earmark person, that's not change. Come on! I mean, words mean something, you can't just make stuff up." -- Barack Obama, Sept. 6, 2008
In politics, words are cheap. What really counts are actions. Democrats and Republicans have talked about fiscal responsibility for years. In reality, both parties have a shameful record of wasting hundreds of billions of tax dollars on pork-barrel projects.
My Senate colleague Barack Obama is now attacking Gov. Sarah Palin over earmarks. Having worked with both John McCain and Mr. Obama on earmarks, and as a recovering earmarker myself, I can tell you that Mrs. Palin's leadership and record of reform stands well above that of Mr. Obama.
Mrs. Palin used her veto pen to slash more local projects than any other governor in the state's history. She cut nearly 10% of Alaska's budget this year, saving state residents $268 million. This included vetoing a $30,000 van for Campfire USA and $200,000 for a tennis court irrigation system. She succinctly justified these cuts by saying they were "not a state responsibility."
Meanwhile in Washington, Mr. Obama voted for numerous wasteful earmarks last year, including: $12 million for bicycle paths, $450,000 for the International Peace Museum, $500,000 for a baseball stadium and $392,000 for a visitor's center in Louisiana.
Mrs. Palin cut Alaska's federal earmark requests in half last year, one of the strongest moves against earmarks by any governor. It took real leadership to buck Alaska's decades-long earmark addiction.
Mr. Obama delivered over $100 million in earmarks to Illinois last year and has requested nearly a billion dollars in pet projects since 2005. His running mate, Joe Biden, is still indulging in earmarks, securing over $90 million worth this year.
Mrs. Palin also killed the infamous Bridge to Nowhere in her own state. Yes, she once supported the project: But after witnessing the problems created by earmarks for her state and for the nation's budget, she did what others like me have done: She changed her position and saved taxpayers millions. Even the Alaska Democratic Party credits her with killing the bridge.
When the Senate had its chance to stop the Bridge to Nowhere and transfer the money to Katrina rebuilding, Messrs. Obama and Biden voted for the $223 million earmark, siding with the old boys' club in the Senate. And to date, they still have not publicly renounced their support for the infamous earmark.
Mrs. Palin has proven courageous by taking on big spenders in her own party. In March of this year, the Anchorage Daily News reported that, "Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens is aggravated about what he sees as Gov. Sarah Palin's antagonism toward the earmarks he uses to steer federal money to the state."
Mr. Obama had a chance to take on his party when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid offered a sham ethics bill, which was widely criticized by watchdog groups such as Citizens Against Government Waste for shielding earmarks from public scrutiny. But instead of standing with taxpayers, Mr. Obama voted for the bill. Today, he claims he helped write the bill that failed to clean up Washington.
Mr. Obama has shown little restraint on earmarks until this year, when he decided to co-sponsor an earmark moratorium authored by Mr. McCain and myself. Mr. Obama is vulnerable on this issue, and he knows it. That is why he is lashing out at Mrs. Palin and trying to hide his own record.
Mrs. Palin is one of the strongest antiearmark governors in America. If more governors around the country would do what she has done, we would be much closer to fixing our nation's fiscal problems than we are.
Mrs. Palin's record here is solid and inspiring. She will help Mr. McCain shut down the congressional favor factory, and she has a record to prove it. Actions mean something. You can't just make stuff up.