Pres. Obama and Sen. Bayh

Pres. Obama and Sen. Bayh

By: Brian Sikma

Indiana Senator Evan Bayh (D) has long been perceived as a moderate Democrat with conservative fiscal leanings.  His opinion editorial in the Wall Street Journal on March 4 helped reinforce this perception.  Titled “Deficits and Fiscal Credibility“, the op-ed made an excellent case for why President Obama should refuse to sign the $410 billion omnibus spending bill that takes care of unfinished spending business from last year.

Critics of the omnibus spending bill have pointed out that it grows the budgets of various government agencies and departments by about 8% and includes nearly 9,000 special interest “earmark” projects.  At a time when American families and businesses are trimming their budgets to reflect the realities of the economic downturn, the federal government should not be expanding the budgets of various agencies and embarking on the fulfillment of a 9,000 item goodie list that bails out special interests and leaves Americans holding an empty bag.

Some may say it took a certain level of political courage for Senator Bayh to urge his fellow Senators to vote against a bill heavily supported by his Party’s leadership in the House and the President of his own party.  The issuing of a direct challenge to the president to live up to the hope filled promises of the campaign trail by vetoing the bill was certainly a welcome development, but a closer look at Senator Bayh’s record and recent history illustrates a problem not with the message, but with the messenger.

As Senator Bayh argues for credibility in Washington on fiscal matters and the deficit, his record in the days leading up to the op-ed’s publication illustrates a deficit of credibility on his part.  Just 19 days before issuing his call for fiscal discipline, Senator Bayh voted in favor of H.R. 1, the President’s $790 billion economic stimulus plan.  The real cost of the plan runs well over $1 trillion by the time you add in the interest that will accrue from the new debt that will have to be issued to cover the spending spree.

Voting in favor of a $790 billion stimulus bill that is not timely, targeted, or temporary, (to paraphrase the advice of one the President’s own economic advisors) is not an exercise in fiscal discipline.  Nor is it an exercise in political courage for Senator Bayh to carefully dust off his conservative credentials just before a potentially heated re-election campaign in 2010.

To eliminate this credibility deficit, Senator Bayh and lawmakers like him who talk the talk but fail to walk the walk need to begin acting on their stated principles and not just talking about them.  Voting for bailouts and stimulus bills and then turning around to seize the high ground against a spending package with misplaced priorities is not what constituents need.   The American people deserve to be served by leaders who understand that wasteful government spending is always bad, no matter how distant or how close the next election may be.