Greyhawk at The Mudville Gazette does an excellent job of highlighting all the pork that Congress funded while Building 18 at Walter Reed Army Hospital was falling apart. The reality is that we have a political system that encourages waste and pork and leaves programs that need funding high and dry.
Ultimately the failure is systemic in government — short of significant procedural reforms in the entire budgetary process, the impetus for pork remains just too high. While efforts such as extended rescission authority and pay-as-you-go budgeting may help, even those won’t necessarily be enough to prevent the kind of rampant fiscal mismanagement. Nor is either party much better than the others — the Democrats view of federal power makes them more likely to spend and the Republicans have consistently betrayed their small-government principles in the name of political expediency.
The reality is that as long as a Congressperson’s constituents want pork, they’ll get pork. For all the hue and cry against pork-barrel spending, it’s what keeps Senators and Representatives in office. The only way to fix that is to limit what the federal government can do and allow local governments more control over their own affairs — which would mean undoing the “mission creep” of the federal government that has been going on for decades and decades.
Alexander Tyler once famously observed that democracy dies when the public figures out that they can vote themselves the largesse of the public treasury. The Founders were rightly suspicious of direct democracy for that very reason — which is why the United States is a republic rather than a democracy.
In any event, the failure at Walter Reed was a bipartisan and systemic failure — while the typical partisan blowhards in Washington trade barbs, the problems go much deeper than that — and it seems as though no one in Washington outside a few isolated crusaders have any desire to delve into the real reasons why government continues to consume more and more and do worse and worse.