CHOCOLA: Why it's time for Lugar to come home

April 21, 2012

Chocola“Earmarks,” also known as pork-barrel spending, are considered a “gateway drug” to corruption and bigger government in Washington. They got that well-deserved title because there’s a history of both Republicans and Democrats using earmarks as a currency to buy votes for all sorts of bad policies.

Sometimes, members of Congress have actually taken bribes in exchange for obtaining earmarks. The system was abused so badly that Americans shamed both parties into passing a temporary ban on the practice.

I’m thankful to say there are few Republicans left who still support earmarks. Regrettably, one of the remaining few is 35-year Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar. Recently, Lugar was one of only 13 Republicans to join Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid in voting against a permanent ban on earmarks.

Lugar’s vote against a permanent ban on earmarks I hope will be the capstone on a decidedly big-government, anti-economic-growth voting record. Lugar is a good man, and in some ways he has served Indiana and our country well, but his 35-year career in Washington proves he is no fiscal conservative.

What our country needs, now more than ever, is genuine fiscal restraint and policies that increase economic growth. Lugar has time and again voted to expand the size of government, raise taxes and increase government regulation. Examples abound through the decades.

In 1978, Lugar voted to bail out New York City. In 1979, Lugar voted to bail out Chrysler with $1.5 billion in federal loan guarantees. In 1982, he voted to increase the gasoline tax. In 1983, he voted to increase Social Security taxes. In 1984, he voted against a 10-percent cut in the federal budget. In 1995, he voted against a work requirement for welfare recipients. In 1998, he voted against a $195.5 billion income-tax cut.

More recently, Lugar has voted to keep the infamous “Bridge to Nowhere” earmark for Alaska and for a Democratic cap-and-trade scheme; he even voted against endorsing the view that Congress has a “moral obligation” to reduce deficit spending.

Lugar has voted for endless bailouts, including the Wall Street bailout, the auto bailout, and the bailouts of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. In 2010, he voted against Senate Republicans’ plans to temporarily stop requesting earmarks.

The loud message sent by the 2010 elections did not change Lugar’s voting behavior. Last year, he voted to give President Obama the power to raise our national debt even higher.

Finally, in January, Lugar voted against a permanent ban on earmarks, despite universal contempt for the practice and the fact that a ban is supported by most Republicans and most Americans.

Enough is enough. The Club for Growth PAC watched Indiana for a long time. We looked for signs that Lugar had changed his ways, but we found none, which is why we are supporting conservative Indiana Treasurer Richard Mourdock for U.S. Senate. Sadly, when it comes to solving our nation’s dire fiscal problems, Lugar is not the answer; he’s part of the cause. Lugar has had many opportunities to take America in a positive direction, but he has voted to keep the status quo.

There is no reason to believe six more years from Lugar in Washington will be different from the past 35 years. It’s time for him to come back home to Indiana. It’s time to move Washington in a more fiscally conservative direction.•


Chocola, a former Indiana congressman, is president of the Club for Growth. Send comments on this column to ibjedit@ibj.com.

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