Deroy Murdock: Padding coronavirus stimulus package with pork angers this John Kennedy

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Listening to John Kennedy decry federal spending must be like hearing Ronald Reagan demand tax hikes.

So far, there is no Democrat, prominent or otherwise, named Ronald Reagan who fights for Big Government. However, the GOP now is blessed with an advocate for limited government who happens to share the name of America’s 35th president: John Kennedy.

Who saw that coming?

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Unlike Democrat John Fitzgerald Kennedy, U.S. Sen. John Neely Kennedy of Louisiana is a Republican. Beyond this intriguing parallel, one thing that sets today’s Kennedy apart is his manner of speaking. Kennedy is more colorful than a box of crayons. This sometime government-school substitute teacher has become one of the GOP’s toughest, yet most hilarious, advocates for conservative solutions and common sense. He is a Sazerac-like blend of Mark Twain and Milton Friedman.

Kennedy — who enjoys lifetime ratings of 79 percent from the American Conservative Union and 84 percent from the Club for Growth — was in rare form as the final guest on Fox News Channel’s latest episode of "Sunday Morning Futures."

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“Life is hard, but it’s harder when you’re stupid,” Kennedy began. He stood on a New Orleans street in front of a quintessentially Big Easy structure graced with an elegant, wrought-iron terrace. The Bayou State’s junior senator was justifiably outraged at the excessive and needless expenditures that his Capitol Hill colleagues injected into the $2.2 trillion COVID-19 rescue legislation that President Donald J. Trump signed on Friday.

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“Congress polls right up there with robocalls and sinkholes,” Kennedy told anchor Maria Bartiromo. “This was not a Lincoln moment.”

Kennedy decried “spending porn,” namely the absurd, extravagant items that senators and House members slipped into this measure, which had little if anything to do with the global pandemic now devastating 177 nations. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi introduced her own 1,404-page bill, which reeked with such irrelevancies as windmill subsidies, mandatory early voting, and per-flight jet-emissions reports.

A tsunami of criticism swept away most of Pelosi’s naughty trinkets, although some X-rated items survived. As reported by American Transparency/OpenTheBooks.com (on whose advisory board I serve), these sexy things included:

  • $50 million for the Institute of Museum and Library Services 
  • $75 million for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. 
  • $88 million to the Peace Corps for “evacuating volunteers and U.S. direct hires from overseas.” $12,054 per evacuee sounds rather first class. The agency sacked all of its 7,300 volunteers in 61 foreign nations on March 15. 
  • $150 million ($75 million each) for the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities 
  • $1 billion for Amtrak 
  • $30.8 billion to the Department of Education for a “state Fiscal Stabilization Fund.” This includes “state-flexibility” grants ($3 billion), money for K-12 schools ($13.5 billion), and an infusion for colleges and universities ($14.25 billion). 

For his part, Kennedy railed against Congress’ Mardi Gras parade of non-germane excesses, among them: $25 million for (ironically) the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, fresh housing-construction funds, and a $60 million booster for NASA.

“It was started by Speaker Pelosi with her Left of Lenin, Bridge-to-Nowhere projects,” Kennedy complained. “But I think once we drill down, we’re gonna find out that she’s not the only one. I think some other people in powerful positions piled on, and I don’t like it. And it’s not fair to the American people.”

Kennedy was especially frustrated about the plight of his effort to instruct the Treasury Department to give state treasurers the names and addresses of people who own $26 billion in uncashed U.S. bonds. Kennedy, who served five terms as Louisiana state treasurer, wanted these bondholders’ savings handed over during this national emergency.

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When he tried to add this provision, Kennedy said, “I was told, ‘Oh, it’s not relevant to the bill.’” And yet this measure includes money for the Smithsonian Institution and even an accelerated Food and Drug Administration review of suntan lotion.

“Now look: I’m tight as a tick. I squeak when I walk, I’m so cheap with taxpayer money,” Kennedy continued. “But I swallowed it and said, ‘We’re going to spend $2 trillion-plus, because the American people need it.’ But when I pick up this bill and see this kind of spending porn, where people were taking advantage of a catastrophe for the American people, it pisses me off!”

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