Let “Cuts” Be Cuts

How often have we seen this kind of story?  Congress needs to pass an important measure by a deadline.  As it becomes clear that the bill will pass, somehow, new provisions, unrelated to the purpose of the original bill, get added in hopes that they also can ride the train to enactment.  And when the additions involve new spending, as they often do, and deficit hawks insist that the new spending be paid for by offsetting “cuts,” Congress somehow finds precisely the amount of “cuts” that are necessary to make up the difference.

So it is with an Afghan war spending bill now working its way through Congress.  Democrats in the House have added $10 billion in new spending to help local school districts avoid teacher layoffs.  According to the linked article, the $10 billion would be “funded” through multiple “cuts” in prior spending bills, including last year’s dismally unsuccessful “stimulus” bill.  Other “cuts” would come from defense spending, community development, and rural internet projects.

As a matter of policy, I don’t think the federal government should concern itself with local teacher layoffs.  Those matters should be reserved for local government entities, which are best positioned to decide whether to seek additional tax revenues and, if such efforts fail, to make judgments on how to respond in accordance with their budgets.  Teacher layoffs are not necessarily a bad thing, particularly in districts where the growth in teacher hiring has been disproportionate to the growth in student population, and are certainly not a matter of federal concern.

More fundamentally, I’d like to see the $10 billion in “cuts” that would “finance” the new spending under this proposal be implemented as real cuts.  If there is $10 billion in savings to be had, let’s just actually save that money, rather than dreaming up new ways to spend it.

1 thought on “Let “Cuts” Be Cuts

  1. The President surely “inherited” a bad economic situation 18 months ago. However, I’ve seen virtually nothing in his and Congress’ agenda that seems likely to lead to long-term improvement in the economic environment in the country.

    It would be difficult not to create (“or save”) millions of jobs when spending $800 billion of borrowed funds. Nonetheless, it seems clear that few jobs have been created in the private sector, and that the funds spent to date have largely not been spent on roads, bridges, school building, or other “infrastructure” projects. Instead, my impression is that a substantial portion of the “stimulus funds” used to date have been doled out to state and local governments to enable them to (not entirely successfully) avoid budget cuts.

    At this point, I’m not always certain what sources of “facts” are reliable – however, I recently heard a report that only about half of the “stimulus funds” have been spent to date. I seem to remember the President telling us, in early 2009, that the country needed to borrow $800 billion immediately to avoid a financial disaster on the scale of the Great Depresson, and that much of funds would be spent for “shovel ready” infrastructure projects. If so, why has only half of the money been spent to date? If the report I heard was incorrect, and all of the “stimulus funds” have been spent, it”s too bad we cannot bring back Clara Peller of Wendy’s TV commercial fame to ask “where’s the beef?”

    Critics of the current administration and congress can fairly claim that the 10 billion of borrowed funds that Congress now wants to divert from the “stimulus funds” and pay out to school teachers, looks like a “slush fund” disbursement designed to curry favor in the November elections.


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