Senator-elect Rand Paul of Kentucky is a libertarian, a physician, a Tea Party favorite, and an ... earmark enthusiast. Yes, you heard right:
In a bigger shift from his campaign pledge to end earmarks, he tells me that they are a bad “symbol” of easy spending but that he will fight for Kentucky’s share of earmarks and federal pork, as long as it’s doled out transparently at the committee level and not parachuted in in the dead of night. “I will advocate for Kentucky’s interests,” he says.
Paul's not wrong -- earmarks are just a symbol; they're a tiny percentage of the federal budget and generally involve already authorized funds that someone would appropriate in any case. But after whining about out-of-control spending for his entire campaign, including earmarks, the switch is impressive, at least in terms of expediency. It's also not surprising, at least to anyone paying attention.
"I would have expected a little more time between Paul’s election and statements like this one," writes Veronique de Rugy, who is shocked -- shocked! -- at the Republican's easy hypocrisy, citing a February statement by the Son of Ron supporting Sen. Jim DeMint's attack on earmarks:
“The Tea Party movement is an effort to get government under control,” Rand said. “I’m running to represent Kentuckians and to dismantle the culture of professional politicians in Washington. Leadership isn’t photo-ops with oversized fake cardboard checks. That kind of thinking is bankrupting our nation.”
DeMint himself can't seem to figure out whether he's for or against spending cuts, either. Where Paul goes wrong is thinking the Tea Party is trying to get government under control. As he's well demonstrated, the Tea Party movement has only given more power to Republicans, who will do the same old Republican things they did when they were last in power, deficits and debt be damned. Let's inquire of the Tea Party in its own language: How's that hopey-changey stuff working out for you now?
-- Tim Fernholz