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Opening the spending floodgates.

ITEM: The Minneapolis Star Tribune for October 2 reports: "So far, Operation Offset has served mainly as a big target for Democratic and Republican leaders trying to protect cherished programs from the chopping block. The White House ... is cool to Operation Offset's suggestion of delaying the Medicare prescription drug plan.... Democrats also have balked at the proposed delay of Medicare drug benefits, along with cuts to student loans and other social programs.... There's also been fairly bipartisan opposition to rescinding some or all of the $24 billion in ,special congressional district 'earmarks' approved in this year's $286.5 billion transportation spending bill. ]Minnesota Democrat Rep. James] Oberstar called it a 'catchy, snooty idea' that ignores the economic development needs of the rest of the country."

ITEM: In the Weekly Standard for October 3, Fred Barnes writes: "Small government conservatives have revolted against President Bush and the Republican leadership of the Senate and the House. Their goal, with hurricane recovery costs soaring, is what it's always been: to hold down spending and restrain the growth of government. It is an impossible dream or close to impossible."

CORRECTION: Big-government advocates, including some who call themselves conservatives, love the unwarranted conclusion that it is impossible to cut spending. This includes the president, who of late seems like a cross between Jimmy Carter--telling Americans to reduce their thermostats and curb their driving habits--and Lyndon Johnson of Great Society notoriety. Indeed, when the president was asked about the money to pay for Hurricane Katrina, he blithely answered: "It's going to cost whatever it's going to cost."

Mr. Bush later did issue a few token words about spending cuts. However, those imaginary cuts are previously rejected ones. Moreover, as the Los Angeles Times noted, the bulk of those, even if enacted, would come after Bush left office. Keep in mind that this "conservative" president has "expanded federal non-entitlement programs in his first term almost twice as fast each year as Lyndon Johnson did during his entire presidency," as noted by the Cato Institute. Mr. Bush has overseen an increase in non-defense discretionary spending of a whopping 37 percent. Even if homeland security spending is deducted, the increase in non-defense discretionary spending during the Bush first term was up by 23 percent.

The White House, "big-government conservatives" at the Weekly Standard, and typical liberal legislators recoil from even the modest cuts of Operation Offset, proposed by the House Republican Study Committee led by Indiana Rep. Mike Pence. (For his efforts, says the Weekly Standard, Pence is "loathed by Bush aides and House Republican leaders.") The offsets would pay for Katrina's expenses by cutting one dollar of existing spending for each dollar of new spending, which is hardly broad slashing. Just postponing the Medicare prescription drug benefit by a year would save an estimated $30 billion to $40 billion. Freezing discretionary spending for a year would save almost $48 billion.

A smidgen of prudence is anathema to those addicted to spending other people's money. Hard as it is to believe, there was a time when many Republicans said they actually wanted to eliminate programs. Columnist Mona Charen was unkind enough to recall the 101 largest programs the GOP promised to end in 1995. Not only are they still around, the inflation-adjusted combined budgets of those programs have since skyrocketed 27 percent. Katrina just provided the latest excuse for unconstitutional squandering.
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Author:Hoar, William P.
Publication:The New American
Article Type:Correction notice
Date:Nov 14, 2005
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