Thursday, February 16, 2006

"Conservative Kabuki"

Terrific editorial in The New Republic:
One of the most familiar rituals in George W. Bush's Washington is the fantasizing that accompanies the president's annual budget. The ritual goes something like this: Bush announces plans to cut a variety of domestic spending programs. Conservatives cheer the spirit of the cuts -- even as they worry that they could be tough to implement or that they aren't ambitious enough. Then, during the budget process, most of these cuts are restored -- except those that affect the poor. And those cuts are too small to have any practical effect on the deficit. Which raises the question: At what point do conservatives acknowledge that their constant calls for spending restraint have real-world repercussions that are, to say the least, morally suspect?

....But, wouldn’t you know it, of the $40 billion in savings over five years finally approved last Wednesday, the vast majority of cuts affect the poor, who will face higher premiums, among other things. The effect of these cuts on the deficit will, in turn, be offset by the $70 billion in tax cuts.

....Only the poor have neither the votes nor the money to secure their goodies. The problem from the perspective of the budget-cutter is that, precisely because the poor aren’t a very powerful constituency, there isn’t much to take away in the first place.

....The point isn’t simply that cuts for the poor aren’t sufficient to rein in spending. It’s that the cuts do serious damage to the people who depend on the axed programs even as they do nothing to advance the goal of fiscal restraint. If conservatives really want to single out the poor for punishment, they should say so explicitly. Until then, they should stop pretending their rhetoric on spending accomplishes anything else.
But that would take guts and forthrightness -- two things completely lacking in this hoodwinking, GOP-controlled Congress.

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