Bungled budgeting


THE BUSH administration, which has orchestrated some of the largest spending increases in history, is finally trying to show that it's getting tough about federal spending. It absolutely will not tolerate any more of this Lawrence Welk stuff.

You may recall that last year Congress earmarked $500,000 to renovate the North Dakota birthplace of bandleader Welk. Members of Congress whose careers have been little more than pork-grabs joined in the indignation over Congress' free-spending ways. Let's be clear: The appropriation was outrageous. It served briefly as a useful symbol of Congress' lack of spending discipline even in times of fiscal catastrophe. But if it's symbols the Bush people want, they've got plenty to choose from, globs of pork that pass into the budget with the administration's consent: grants to study the Hatfield-McCoy feud, for example, or purchase the home of William McKinley's in-laws.

For the first time since World War II, Washington spending will swallow up 25 percent of the U.S. Gross National Product this year. Even with those supposedly torturous spending caps, discretionary domestic spending next year will be at its second highest level in history -- after the last budget of the Carter administration.

Against this monument of indiscipline, Lawrence Welk's birthplace looks pretty puny. The upside is that $500,000 will be saved. At this rate, the administration may balance the budget by, oh, the year 2300.

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