As a representative for the California Teachers Empowerment Network, last week I attended the Concerned Educators Against Forced Unionism conference in Washington, DC. The keynote speaker at the opening dinner was Senator (Doctor) Tom Coburn of Oklahoma.
I probably would never have heard of Senator Coburn, or at least wouldn't have remembered his name, were it not for frequent mentions on Instapundit in his role with Porkbusters. Put plainly, Senator Coburn doesn't believe in earmarks, commonly known as "pork", and has campaigned that he won't bring home the bacon to Oklahoma--and they elect him.
He opened his talk by stating that there are two areas where we don't trust Americans, health care and education--and that's why they're both in trouble. Government is too heavily involved in both. And he gave great talk from there.
I was fortunate enough to get to ask him a question. First I thanked him for his participation in Porkbusters, then I asked why, when earmarks are such a tiny share of the budget when compared to entitlement spending like welfare, social security, and Medicare, he spends so much time focusing on those earmarks instead of the much greater problem.
His answer was this: that earmarks are the "gateway drug" (his term) to bigger spending. Americans won't trust the Congress to fix social security and other entitlements until it shows it can handle the smaller responsibilities like earmarks.
I'm not sure the second part of his answer is correct, but it sure sounds good to my ears.