Sadly enough, there's a difference these days.
And today we are truly wondering if conservatives must give up all together on the Republican Party.
The party certainly blew it during the Bush years, teaming up with the president to spend us to oblivion and ignore the border crisis. But there were signs the party would return to basic conservative principles when every House Republican voted against the stimulus package -- and only three Senate Republicans broke ranks to support the massive bill that no one had read.
Now, however, Republicans are among the chief proponents of some 8,500 "earmarks" in the $410 billion annual omnibus appropriations bill which is needed to keep federal agencies running.
Unbelievable. At a moment in our history in which the economy is tanking, companies are laying off longtime workers and families are sometimes unsure where their next meal is coming from, Congress is spending our money as recklessly as before.
Republicans have blown it all over again.
They had a golden opportunity to differentiate themselves from Democrats with regard to wasteful spending. They had a fastball right down the middle, with a spending bill that includes 8,570 pet projects wasting nearly $8 billion, according to Taxpayers for Common Sense.
Instead, Republicans joined in the raid on the Treasury, shamelessly and shamefully larding up the spending bill with their own little projects they could take credit for back home.
The bill increases federal spending by 8 percent, much greater than inflation.
Those of us who believe in constitutional government, in limited taxation and individual freedom, were crestfallen -- though not terribly surprised -- to see leading Republicans such as Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama go on the talk show circuit and proudly defend the looting of our progeny.
For Mr. Shelby, it is enough that the projects -- in his case, 64 earmarks worth $114 million -- "have merit."
That's it, then -- the test for whether Richard Shelby thinks the federal government should pay for something: whether it has merit. In his eyes, that is.
We have news for the good senator: There are many, many more things you could do with federal money that "have merit," but which you have no earthly business doing with federal taxpayers' money.
We have no doubt, for instance, that streetscaping in Tarrant, Ala., has merit. But is that something taxpayers in all 50 states should fund?
We had long ago given up hope on the majority of Congress to stop spending our children's and grandchildren's money. Now, with few exceptions, it appears we must give up on the whole of Congress.
Well, we are.
When the dust settles from this current plundering of taxpayers, Americans may find that they are the only ones who can save the country from financial ruin. There are no substantive checks and balances between the parties anymore.
It may take nothing less than a constitutional amendment to prevent further attacks on the public vault by our own representatives and senators.
That's quite a statement -- that we've given up hope our elected leaders will save the country. But they're the ones ransacking it.
It's a massive undertaking, too, to even consider changing the Constitution. But there are ways the states can accomplish it without having to go on bended knee to Washington: According to Article V of the Constitution, if asked by two-thirds of the state legislatures, Congress "shall" call a convention to propose such an amendment. It would then be voted on by the states and ratified if approved by three-quarters, or 38 of them.
Washington is simply leaving us no choice.
The stimulus bill was one thing. But this latest omnibus spending bill has erased any doubt.
Saving the country is up to us now.