Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Spending Cuts for the War

Congressional Republicans are starting to talk about the need for spending cuts in order to pay for relief efforts for Katrina and Rita. But such talk hides the truth about possible spending cuts.

First, as Mike pointed out a while back, the Republicans are using hurricane-relief expenses as an excuse to target programs that they wanted to cut when we had a budget surplus (remember those days?). This isn't about budget-balancing so much as about social priorities. They're the majority party; they have the power and the right to puruse their social agenda. But they should have the guts to admit that's what they're up to.

Second, a lot of the cuts to social programs will cost more money in the long run The more poor people you have, the more people you have in prison (at $30k a head annually) or in minimum-wage jobs that contribute almost nothing to tax revenue. Judicious spending in economic trouble spots improves people's lives and saves money over time. Cutting social spending to get a short-term, on-paper savings on just puts the bill on a credit card to be paid off in five, ten, twenty years--paid off at 19%.

Third, and most important, ANY SPENDING CUTS WON'T ACTUALLY BE A RESULT OF HURRICANE RELIEF EFFORTS. The hurricanes came onto U.S. soil. killed U.S. citizens, and destroyed U.S. property. We had to respond to them. Saddam Hussein didn't kill anyone on U.S. soil and he had no means of doing so. So clearly hurricane-relief spending was more important than the Iraq war, and any money we cut from the budget is not to pay for the more important task (hurricane relief) but rather for the less important task (Iraq). And since the Iraq war is so expensive (what are we up to now? $250 billion?), its cost will be the cause of any and all belt-tightening we do now and for as long as we're paying to keep 120,000 troops on the ground there.


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