Talk of fiscal restraint has been a hallmark of the Tea Party movement. But—by at least one symbolic measure—congressional Tea Partiers are not living up to their "belt-tightening" rhetoric. In a Hotline report, Reid Wilson tabulated the amount of earmarks requested by members of the Tea Party caucus in Congress for the fiscal year of 2010. What he found were 764 earmarks requested by the 52 member caucus totaling over $1 billion dollars. Because so many of these congressmen have pledged support to cut government spending in any way they can, they've been singled out—particularly by liberal pundits—for their contradictory actions:
'The Hypocrisy Is Pretty Revealing Here' Blogging at the Daily Kos, Jed Lewison emphasizes that earmarks are only a problem when Congress uses them to reward their financial contributors. Having said that: "$1 billion is chump change, but the hypocrisy is pretty revealing here. Banning earmarks is just about the only specific idea to cut spending that tea partiers have identified, yet of the 52 members of the caucus, only 16 took no earmarks. The remaining 36 members—69% of the caucus—took an average of 21 earmarks apiece."
- It's An Embarrassment For Tea Partiers The Washington Monthly's Steve Benen doesn't think earmark practices should be a big issue. But Tea Party ideology has made it one: "Whether these right-wing lawmakers support, oppose, seek, or refuse earmarks is really of no consequence. The whole fight strikes me as kind of silly.But I do think there's something to be said for intellectual consistency, and think there's a problem when members of Congress align themselves with far-right zealots, taking a stand against earmarks, only to turn around and see those identical members of Congress requesting over $1 billion in earmarks."
- Hardly the First Indication that the GOP Isn't Genuine in Fighting Pork Alex Seitz-Wald at the liberal site Think Progress, points out several other times where Republicans—and Tea Partiers—have gone back on their pledges: "Tea party favorite Sen.-elect Rand Paul (R-KY) highlights this disparity between rhetoric and action well. In March, his website told supporters that 'a ban on wasteful earmark spending in Washington D.C. [is] one of the key points of his campaign.' But after winning the election, Paul told the Wall Street Journal that he 'will fight for Kentucky’s share of earmarks and federal pork,' suggesting it would be 'crazy' not to."
- Can't They at Least Be Consistent? The Chicago Tribune's Clarence Page makes reference to Jenny Holzer's famous aphorism "Protect Me From What I Want" as he details the Tea Party's massive earmark request. He reminds: "that's not a huge slice of the federal deficit, but still. For the sake of consistency, you might think earmark haters would at least offer the appearance of putting our money where their mouths have been."
- They Were 'For Earmarks Before They Were Against Them' quips Time writer Alex Altman who proceeds to note an apparently contradictory action by Tea Party caucus leader Michele Bachman: "This is one more example of how rhetoric about the importance of fiscal austerity often doesn't align with reality. This week Bachmann has denounced Congress' $1.2 billion settlement with black farmers as 'scamming the federal taxpayers.' As the Minneapolis Star-Tribune points out, her family farm has received more than $250,000 in federal farm subsidies over the past decade."