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.