Senator Tom Coburn held a conference call with bloggers this morning to discuss his list of Worst Waste of the Year, as well as the failed auto bailout bill.  The WWOTY list details over $1.3 billion in pork spending that should raise eyebrows, which I’ll detail at the end. He called it a “very little tasting” of the stupidity that occurs in Washington, and that there are many more projects just like these.  Washington doesn’t “practic[e] common sense,” Coburn says.  He wants to see Congress apply the same standards that American families do on their own spending.

Quick hits on points raised:

  • Noel Sheppard: The underlying assumptions on employment and revenue in the ’09 budget have fallen by the wayside, and we’re spending a ton more money than the $3.1 trillion budgeted.  What’s your prediction for the deficit next year? — Coburn predicts $1.6 trillion, quadrupling what we have now.  That comes from short-term thinking, and spending without consideration of where the money will originate.  Politicians have no perspective outside the next election.  The reason people aren’t even looking at the numbers is because of this peculiar parochialism.
  • Coburn says he’s already working with the Obama team to reduce duplicate and wasteful spending.  The two of them worked together on budget matters in the Senate, so this doesn’t come as a surprise.
  • Less than one percent of federal programs have metrics assigned to them to measure performance.  For instance, we’re adding billions to LIHEAP even though we will have the lowest heating costs in years.
  • What role do you think UAW had in the collapse of the automakers and on the bailout? — Management signed those contracts, because a strike would have impacted their bonuses.  Short-term management thinking led to those uncompetitive labor costs at the Big Three.  The failure of last night “solely lies with UAW,” Coburn said.  The UAW refused to give a date on concessions, and without concessions, the Big Three can’t compete.
  • Coburn says that the White House signal to give the money from TARP is a “big mistake”.  It will lead to requests from every failing private enterprise to get rescued by the Treasury.  Going down that road would be a “giant mistake”.  The TARP funds were intended to unlock the credit markets, not to provide government rescues for failing private businesses.
  • What about the CRA (Fausta)?  It’s a big problem.  We need to end government distortion of private markets for the purpose of social engineering.  As long as that remains on the books, it will continue to lead to credit crises because it forces lenders to make bad loans.
  • What do we need to do to get Coburn more allies for common-sense conservatism (Dan Riehl)?  We need a better farm team.  We don’t need more career politicians.  America needs long-term thinkers who will take heat in the short term to build long-term success.  Coburn sees a intestinal deficit among some Republicans.  Bloggers need to raise those issues in their blogs.
  • People have to get involved.  They have to start taking risks to get the government they want and to hold it accountable.  We need an organized approach to hold our representatives accountable.  “Shame is a powerful tool.”
  • Coburn says Republicans might actually do better at blocking bad bills with a smaller minority.  The cohesiveness should increase as each remaining member will realize that they have no other power in the 111th Congress except by remaining together as a bloc.  That seems a little optimistic to me, but I hope he’s correct.