TCS Daily

Stick a Cork In It

By Tad DeHaven - June 9, 2003 12:00 AM

Last Monday evening in the midst of a war on terrorism and mushrooming federal debt the House of Representatives unanimously passed House Resolution 195. And what overwhelming concern of the people was resolved? "That the House of Representatives congratulates and commends Sammy Sosa of the Chicago Cubs for his amazing accomplishment and thanks him for tearing down barriers for Latinos around the world, for being a role model and an inspiration, and for letting us dream as big as our hearts will allow."

Sosa's accomplishment was his 500th Major League baseball home run knocked out of the Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati this past April. But in an amazingly ironic twist occurring only 24 hours after the resolution passed, the freshly Congressionally adorned "role model" and "inspiration" had the credibility of his entire career seriously called into question.

In the first inning of Tuesday night's ballgame against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Sosa was thrown out of the game when his broken bat revealed that it had been stuffed with cork. Baseball rules prohibit the use of a bat that "has been altered or tampered with in such a way to improve the distance factor" which is exactly what filling a bat with cork is intended to do.

Whether intentional or not (Sosa claims it wasn't) the implication for one of the national pastime's greatest power hitters cannot be understated. But while Mr. Sosa is busy cleaning off the egg on his face, another group of folks - specifically the sponsor and thirteen co-sponsors of H. Res. 195 lauding Sammy the night before - is going to need a bucket of water and some towels as well.

The entire spectacle cannot help but make one wonder why the House of Representatives doesn't have anything better to do with the taxpayers' time and money. But this is not an isolated example. Congress often conjures up questionable uses of taxpayer resources in the form of these "resolutions."

One recent resolution condemned "the practice of execution by stoning" (H. Con. Res. 26) while another called on Americans to observe a "Financial Literacy for Youth Month with appropriate programs and activities" (H. Res. 127). An anti-obesity resolution from the last Congress (H. Res. 438) informed the American people that obese men "are 200 percent more likely to have erectile dysfunction."

But while Congress is busy concerning itself with the anatomical issues of fat men, it fails to recognize the inherent hypocrisy. Namely, Congress has made virtually no effort to shrink our bloated government and displays little trouble with keeping spending up.

Almost 10 years after the Republicans swept into Congress, it is evident that the self-proclaimed party of limited government has become the party of unlimited spending. The GOP Congress has delivered three of the top five largest spending sprees in American history - the other two having occurred during World War II.

Remember when the oft-labeled 'revolutionary' Republicans used to talk about eliminating entire federal departments? Instead of closing down the Department of Education as loftily promised, spending on the department has increased by almost 140% since 1996 alone. In comparison, the Defense Department's budget has only grown by a third of that figure.

Sadly, the expansion of government is only scheduled to march onward despite an already serious debt problem that could become disastrous in the coming decade. Looming ominously on the horizon is a multi-trillion dollar fiscal hole in the nation's major entitlement programs that will come with the baby boomer's retirement rush. And time is not on our side.

But while the House is preoccupied passing resolutions praising tarnished baseball players and spending oodles of dollars with reckless abandon, the clock is ticking faster and faster. Republican and Democrat alike have let the spending genie out of the bottle for too long now. Congress had better put a 'cork' in it because a spending-induced economic disaster cannot just be wished away.

Tad DeHaven is a fiscal policy researcher residing in Arlington, VA.

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