Behavior like that of an alien invasion

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 30, 2005

“Invasion,” a new ABC series about aliens using a hurricane as cover for an invasion of Earth, may be another example of life imitating art or art imitating life.

The plot of the series has aliens, the kind from another planet instead of another country, landing in aFloridaswamp during a hurricane. Somehow the alien beings take control of peoples’ minds and bodies. The victim may look like a normal person, but they start acting differently. This scenario is similar to how Republican House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and Speaker of the House Denny Hastert and other Republican leaders have been acting since Hurricane Katrina.

Based on the way they have been spending money, one could suspect that alien liberals have invaded Congress and taken over the Republican leadership. For instance, DeLay claimed thatthe Republicans have eliminated practically all of the wasteful spending in the federal budget. Moreover, he used the pork-laden federal highway bill that has over 6,300 earmarks as an example of Republican cost cutting.

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DeLay claims that since Congress really wanted to spend $375 billion instead of the $286 billion that they passed, the Republicans cut spending by $89 billion. That is like your teenager asking for $30, then claiming they saved you $10 because they settled for $20. Wrong! Your kid just took $20 from you. It is the same principle, only DeLay is talking about billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money.

Obviously DeLay’s credibility has been undermined by his indictment. But his credibility as a fiscal conservative was already shot when you consider that the so-called spending cuts he claimed in the highway bill would not have taken place if President Bush had not threatened to veto the legislation.

Keep in mind that DeLay is the same guy that, along with Hastert and other Republican leaders in Congress, signed the Contract withAmericathat promised a smaller, less wasteful government. It was that platform that led voters to put Republicans in the majority after the 1994 election. Clearly these can’t be the same people; real fiscal conservatives wouldn’t have made these statements. All we need is some eerie alien body snatching music in the background.

The alien takeover metaphor may not be too off beat. Washingtonchanges people. Power really does corrupt people’s thinking and undermines good people’s core convictions and principles, sometimes to such a degree that they no longer resemble themselves.

What now seems to be the problem with the Republicans is that they are no longer interested in core principles; they are only interested in staying in power. How else can we explain what columnist Robert Novak wrote about Hastert’s views on spending? Novak wrote, “Hastert believes it is not just the privilege, but the duty of a House member to deliver federal projects to his constituents.”

If Hastert really believes this, the Republican Party is in big trouble. The public has become very concerned about the federal deficit and the waste and misappropriation that are adding to the federal debt. And the conservative base that the Republican’s rely on is downright angry.

Both parties claim to be concerned about the deficit, but the Democrats have settled in an economic wasteland of higher taxes to pay for deficit spending and the Republicans are wandering in a fiscal wilderness of deficit spending hoping that economic growth will produce enough revenues to bail the country out. But that won’t work unless the Republicans stop spending every dime that comes in.

Thankfully, there are some Republican leaders who are taking a principled stand against deficit spending.

Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby has called for freezing all discretionary spending at current levels for a year or two to pay for hurricane relief. Furthermore,Shelbysaid that he would like to look at cuts to the entire budget, even nondiscretionary programs.Alabama’s junior senator, Jeff Sessions, who is concerned about the runaway spending on Katrina relief, supportsShelby’s recommendation.

Over in the House, Rep. Mike Pence (Indiana), Rep. Jeff Flake (Arizona) and about two dozen other conservative Republican congressmen and women have taken on the House leadership and called for offsets in the budget to cover the cost of hurricane relief.

Republican leaders are seriously underestimating the public’s disgust with waste and fraud. One thing that Katrina has done is give the public more evidence that billions upon billions of taxpayers’ dollars are being wasted, mismanaged, or misappropriated by government at every level. Journalists have reported that the Levee Board, the Orleans Parish agency responsible for maintaining the levees, misspent hundreds of millions of dollars. The Levee Board literally gambled with the lives and property ofNew Orleansresidents and lost. And what is sickening to many conservatives is that the Republican led Congress is about to reward this misconduct with billions of dollars more.

The vast majority of people want to help the victims of the hurricanes, but based on the incompetence and corruption inLouisianaand the waste of billions of dollars by FEMA, many have concluded that what the Republicans are doing is throwing good money after bad.

So while Republican leaders are running around waving what appears at this point to be a blank check chanting “Whatever it takes,” a grassroots revolt is building against the federal subsidization of massive waste and fraud and preparing to do “whatever it takes to stop it.”

Gary Palmer is president of the Alabama Policy Institute, a non-partisan, non-profit research and education organization dedicated to the preservation of free markets, limited government and strong families, which are indispensable to a prosperous society.