Please, Cut the Budget! (Just Not the Parts I Like)


Just about everyone likes, or at least claims to like, fiscal responsibility. A lot fewer people like it when it involves cutting their favorite programs and services. Which means that come budget time, there's frequently a lot of special pleading in Washington. In the L.A. Times, Michael Kinsley lists the formulaic elements that drive a lot of that special pleading:

Whether it takes the form of an op-ed piece, a speech, a press release or an open letter to the president, there are certain familiar elements. Among them:

1. Expression of general support for deficit reduction. Reference to easy answers (there are none). Reference to burden (all must share).

2. Reference to babies and bathwater. Former should not be discarded with latter.

3. This program/agency/tax break is different. A bargain for the taxpayers. Pays for itself many times over. To eliminate or cut would be bad for children/our troops.

4. Cost is small (a) as percentage of total budget; (b) compared with budget of Pentagon; (c) compared with projected cost of healthcare.

5. Optional comparisons to cost of just one jet fighter or 3.7 minutes of war on terror.

6. Names of famous people who support this program or tax cut, especially Colin Powell. Other good names: Madeleine Albright, Natalie Portman, George H.W. Bush (not W), Warren Buffett.

7. This is not about fair, responsible, across-the-board budget cutting. This is about the other side irresponsibly pursuing its ideological agenda, penalizing programs it doesn't like.

This last complaint, usually heard from Democrats about the budget that has passed the Republican-controlled House, is an odd one. If you're looking for places to save money, why wouldn't you concentrate on programs you don't approve of? Equal across-the-board cuts, of good programs and bad programs alike, are the opposite of responsible budgeting.

Anyone still looking for programs to cut should read Reason on how to slash the state and Nick Gillespie and Veronique de Rugy on balancing the budget

Here's budget chef Nick Gillespie on Reason.tv: