Sometimes we have to do a lot of digging to hunt down a juicy story. Sometimes, the material practically writes itself. This situation is definitely the latter. It also gives us a chance to start using our vintage nickname for Jon Bruning — “Wrong Way Jon.”
So what did “Wrong Way Jon” do to cause us to bust out his nickname twice in the same week? Well it’s all a microcosm of the big fight going down on Capitol Hill in DC over the omnibus bill, which would fund the government for another year, and earmarks. Like some of his conservative cohorts in the Senate, Bruning got busted asking for earmarks while simultaneously criticizing them. Now, like any novice politician, he’s doing his best to back away faster than an arachnophobe from your cute pet tarantula.
As a hard core “conservative” (and yes, we will put conservative in quotation marks when referring to Bruning from now on), Bruning has come out against in earmarks in any and all forms. He thinks they’re a burden on the system, ballooning the federal deficit and just all around nasty. Then, Senator Nelson was kind enough to publicly point out that Bruning had requested that Nelson ask for $500,000 to fight meth addiction in Nebraska.
Whoops. Wrong way, Jon.
Here’s the problem with vilifying each and every earmark: you toss the baby out with the bath water. Earmarks aren’t all special requests slipped into bills by sneaky politicians. A lot of them are just appropriation designations for funds that are already available. They also account for only 1-2% of the federal budget so cutting them won’t magically solve the deficit.
Hitting earmarks is a popular thing for newbie politicians to do, just like many conservative politicians cried about tort reform being the fix for all the health care problems during the reform debate. Sounds good, but in the real world the solution is always more complex than a popular talking point.
“Wrong Way Jon” said he is now returning the funds that were appropriated to fight meth in rural Nebraska (kind of like he returned the potentially illegal campaign contribution from TransCanada pipeline company once he got called out). His reason: “We don’t want it.”
We don’t want it?! Meth labs are still a problem in Nebraska. Bruning even touts his record fighting meth production in the state on his “exploratory committee” website. But he doesn’t want federal money to help fight his war on drugs. We’re confused. Which way do you want to go, Jon?
Nelson on the other hand has never denied that he requests earmarks for Nebraska. His current requests are helping to build an ethanol research center at UNL and an event facility at McCook Community College.
Bruning was a liberal, now he’s a conservative. He requests earmarks, then he sends them back saying they were never earmarks, and we don’t need the money for a problem he highlights on his own website. Well, if they were never earmarks, then why send them back? It looks like “Wrong Way Jon” can’t even decide which way is the wrong way anymore.