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Long way around to zero.

If there's one thing everyone in Washington seems to agree on, it's the goal of deficit reduction. Zero deficit are the magic words for the Clinton Administration and its critics, for the majority Democrats in Congress and the minority Republicans. The President says he's proposed all the spending cuts possible, including some he wishes he didn't have to make. Senator Robert Dole, the Republican leader, is Bill Clinton simply hasn't tried hard enough. Everyone challenges everyone else to cut deeper, to cut to the bone, to eradicate root and branch all those costly Federal programs that should have been eliminated long ago--that have no useful purpose any more, if they ever had one.

If there's another thing everyone in Washington seems to agree on, it's that taxation is inherently evil--an ugly expedient to be invoked only as a matter of last resort. Bill Clinton says he wishes he didn't have to raise taxes at all--in fact, he'd rather cut them--but the zero deficit mandate leaves him with no choice but to seek new revenues. The Republicans concede that a few minor tax increases might be inevitable, but certainly nothing on the scale Clinton has proposed. If the Democrats were really determined to cut spending, the Republicans insist, no tax increases would be necessary.

Well, it ain't necessarily so. Writing in these pages a couple of months ago, economist Gar Alperovitz argued persuasively that our sluggish economy and persistently high unemployment make this a poor time to grant top priority to reduced Federal spending. And we've never ranked taxation among the deadliest sins. The crucial question, it has always seemed to us, is not, "How high are taxes?" but, "How fair are they and for what are they being spent?"

We have no trouble at all identifying items--some of them quite expensive--that ought to be eliminated from the Federal budget right now. That they continue to drain the Treasury is proof positive of the utter hypocrisy of the Clinton Administration and its critics as they continue their clamor for cost-cutting. Here are some samples of ludicrous boondoggles that continue to enjoy the support of Congress and the Executive Branch:

[paragraph] The superconducting supercollider, a king-size Texas toy dear to the hearts of some theoretical physicists but necessary to no one else. Its eventual cost will exceed $11 billion, and Bill Clinton says we need it to preserve America's "competitive edge." The House of Representatives voted late in June to kill the project (as it did last year). Clinton said he hoped the Senate would restore it (as it did last year). But now that the special Texas Senatorial election is no longer a factor, the supercollider can surely be dumped.

[paragraph] Star Wars. Yes, we know that Defense Secretary Les Aspin held a press conference a month ago or so to proclaim the death of the Strategic Defense Initiative, Ronald Reagan's infantile dream of a marvelous celestial shield that would protect the United States from Soviet nuclear missiles. "We are here to observe ... the end of the Star Wars era," Aspin said. Then he announced that the Star Wars program would henceforth be known as the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization, which would cost--by remarkable coincidence--exactly as much as Star Wars: $3.8 billion in fiscal 1994. In fact, we suppose it will cost a little more, once you add up the new letterheads and business cards for Star Wars officials. It was always a foolish idea; with the end of the Cold War, it is totally absurd.

[paragraph] Space Station Freedom, which has cost about $9 billion over the last decade, will cost another $2 billion this year, and would require expenditures of $17.6 billion from fiscal 1994 to fiscal 1998. An independent NASA advisory panel has proposed options that would reduce the long-term cost by as much as $5 billion, but as The New York Times reported, the committee concluded that "none of these options would produce a completed, permanently staffed station at the end of the five-year period." Why go on throwing good money after bad?

[paragraph] On a smaller but no less fatuous level, the Federal Emergency Management Agency's continuing quest for means to keep the Federal Government running under enemy nuclear attack. This top-secret program has cost $1.5 billion over the last decade and is scheduled for an additional outlay of $136 million in the current fiscal year. The "Continuity of Government" project operates, of course, outside and in addition to the $1 billion or so FEMA spends annually on civil defense. Considering the agency's inept performance in real emergencies--hurricanes, earthquakes, and other natural disasters--there is no reason why it shouldn't be shut down.

This isn't intended to be an exhaustive list, but it would provide enough in the way of savings to obviate, for example, the Medicare cuts Clinton has proposed. As the late Senator Everett Dirksen, Republican of Illinois, used to say, "A billion dollars here, a billion dollars there, and pretty soon you're talking about real money." And there's ever so much more that can be cut: the CIA, currently engaged in its most intense mission in forty-five years--a frantic hunt for a new purpose now that the Soviet challenge is gone; the planned resumption of nuclear testing, which is expected to lead to $3 billion worth of "improvements" in nuclear stockpiles; the entire military establishment, swollen beyond all reason, capable all by itself of eliminating the Federal deficit.

Whether zero deficit is a worthy goal remains a serious question for economists (and all the rest of us) to ponder. But to swear dedication to the goal while persisting in the kind of mindless spending detailed here is politically, economically, and morally indefensible.

Sending a Message

Now you know: Bill Clinton is tough. The President of the United States is not a man to be trifled with. Let the word go out to friend and foe alike that this President, like all of his recent predecessors, will boldly send U.S. missiles into the night to slaughter innocent civilians in a distant land to demonstrate this country's might and its leader's willingness to exercise it.

"We sent the message we intended to send," Clinton said on his way to church the morning after the "punitive" U.S. raid on Baghdad.

Let us assume, for the moment, that there is substance to the rationale for the latest attack on Iraq: that Saddam Hussein's government did, indeed, send assassins to Kuwait to dispatch George Bush during his recent visit to that country. The evidence offered so far is pretty flimsy, and there is a certain persuasiveness to Saddam's denial ("Why should we kill a dead man?"), but let's say Saddam did what our Government says he did.

"This is an outrage," U.S. Ambassador Madeleine Albright told the United Nations Security Council at a session hurriedly convened as soon as all the Iraqis who needed to be killed were dead.

And it was an outrage; it's always an outrage when one government decides that its interests are best served by dispatching assassins into another land (if, indeed, that's what the government of Iraq did). It was an outrage when John Kennedy's government conspired to assassinate Fidel Castro and Ngo Dinh Diem, and when Richard Nixon's government conspired to assassinate Salvador Allende, and when George Bush's government conspired to assassinate Muamar Ghadafi. It's a lucky thing for the peaceful residents of McLean, Virginia, that no nation decided to direct its missiles at CIA headquarters in Langley.

Could someone tell our President that he has a State Department that is capable of delivering messages? Or that he could use the mail?

No Access, No Choice

Planned Parenthood in New York City recently announced it will begin picking up the slack for medical schools that no longer teach doctors how to perform abortions. Each year, the group hopes to train between twenty and thirty medical residents who would otherwise not learn the procedure in their obstetrics and gynecology programs.

"The fact that we have to step in means there is a collective failure in the medical-education system in this country," says Alexander Sanger, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of New York. "We will do our best to address that failure."

When Sanger took office a few years ago, all of the doctors who provided abortions for Planned Parenthood in New York City were in their sixties. As they retire, the clinics face a crisis trying to replace them. And if there is a shortage of doctors in New York City, elsewhere in the country the situation is even worse.

The number of medical-residency programs in the United States that include abortion training has dropped by half since 1985. Only 50 per cent of residency programs in obstetrics and gynecology offer abortion training at all, and in only 12 per cent of programs is such training required. Teaching hospitals have been intimidated by anti-choice forces into dropping abortion training. And harassment and terrorist violence against doctors have driven many from the field (see "The Right-to-Life Rampage," Page 24).

The net result is that, in 83 percent of U.S. counties, there is no place where a woman can get an abortion. Women must travel long distances and endure undue physical, emotional, and economic hardship to exercise their reproductive rights. Abortion providers in urban areas tell of finding desperate young women on the doorstep, sent by their doctors 200 miles to the nearest abortion clinic.

While obstetricians routinely offer amniocentesis, they have no contingency plans for their patients when they discover fetal abnormalities. Instead, these women, whose health and lives are threatened by their pregnancies, must turn to abortion clinics for services their doctors will no longer provide.

The drastic lack of access to abortion in this country is irrational and unjust. For many women today, it is as if the Government had taken away their legal right to reproductive choice. It is up to the pro-choice majority to bring abortion back into the mainstream of readily available medical care. We must insist that medical schools and hospitals not shirk their duty t provide this simple medical procedure, that the health-care workers who do provide abortion receive the support and protection they need, and that women not be prevented from exercising their legal rights because of the fanatical zeal of an anti-choice minority.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:federal deficit reduction
Publication:The Progressive
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Aug 1, 1993
Previous Article:A matter of intent.
Next Article:Hold the wretched refuse.

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