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Rome Wasn't Burnt in a Day: The Real Deal on How Politicians, Bureaucrats, and Other Washington Barbarians are Bankrupting America Hardcover – September 7, 2004
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From Publishers Weekly
Elected to Congress in 1994 as a Contract with America revolutionary, Scarborough spent six years representing the Florida panhandle, and currently hosts the MSNBC political talk show Scarborough Country. His book is part memoir, part political treatise that purports to explain how various "Washington barbarians" are bankrupting America. Full of partisan and reformer zeal, the freshman class of 1994 set out on its crusade to reform Congress and reduce government spending. However, the crusaders met their Saladin in President Clinton and his skillful use of the veto pen. The House freshmen were further disillusioned when their leadership opted for compromise rather than continued confrontation following the government shutdown in 1995. Scarborough bitterly compares the Republican leadership to the pigs in George Orwell's Animal Farm—indistinguishable from the corrupt Democratic bosses they had ousted. His account of the Republican Congress is well told from the perspective of the House freshmen, but Scarborough never asks the hard questions about why the Gingrich Republicans became so unpopular with voters. Similarly, the book's promise to reveal the "real deal" about why government spending continues to rise, is nothing more than the revelation that interest groups, lobbyists and politicians collude on government spending because it is in their mutual self-interest.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
“Joe is a refreshingly independent thinker and straight talker.” (Senator John McCain)
“A strong, independent voice...[a] hard-hitting collection of revelations.” (Mario M. Cuomo)
“Scarborough pulls no punches.” (Daily News)
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The author was a member of the so-called "class of 94." The Republicans gained control of the House of Representatives that year running on their "contract with America" calling for some big changes. In actuality, Joe Scarborough found that after much effort by many of these committed freshmen congressmen, it was to be business as usual in Washington D.C.
Scarborough has some good words for Newt Gingrich, the Speaker of the House, but he also blames Gingrich for his failure to stand up to President Clinton. He conveys that the failure of Gingrich to outlast Clinton in the 1996 budget impasse, which resulted in a shutdown of the government, was the death of the Republican revolution brought on by the class of 94 and the contract with America, and became the initial step in the spending spree which continues today even under President Bush. Even though President Bush has evidently made little effort to control spending, the author still believes that he is the best choice for President at this time.
Financial discipline is a worthy goal, but enforcing it is unpopular because government spending is a source of power and most of our political leaders and their staffs would rather spend more than less. Consider some of the questionable programs that get funded, such as these items from the 1998 Highway Bill: $3 million spent on a film extolling the virtues of highways; $20 million directed at building roads overseas; $1.5 million to study the parking habits of truckers at their favorite truck stops; $500,000 to study sidewalks at the Kennedy Center; $2.75 million to build a smoother access road to a baseball park in Dayton, Ohio.
2005 Update: There were 6,371 earmarked amendments in the Federal highway bill enacted in 2005. One infamous example was a $230 million bridge to the Ketchikan, Alaska airport (on an island) that became known as "the bridge to nowhere." This particular earmark was ultimately eliminated, but only on the understanding that the State of Alaska could retain the funds for use as it saw fit.
The author uses his own experiences to relate how "the party of Reagan" morphed within a few years into a party bent on launching new spending programs at the same time that it was cutting taxes.
To "change the way Washington works," Scarborough advocates process-related changes such as a Congressional pay freeze until the federal budget is balanced and statutory term limits (6 years) for members of the House of Representatives. His suggestions might not prove a panacea, but they are certainly worth considering.