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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.

Editorial: Guns vs. butter, again

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.The Associated Press
Monday, March 20, 2017 05:33 am
Don’t think of President Trump’s “proposed budget” as a fiscal instrument. These things never get through Congress, which keeps all the money-allocating authority for itself. Think of it as a philosophical statement, a list of presidential principles. It tells us a lot about where Trump wants to take the country. We can also learn a lot from the negative reaction to the proposal. The howls of outrage are coming even from Republican governors, who have gotten used to doling out federal largesse and reaping the good feelings in return. But, really, the outcry is coming from all over the place.

Consider just this small list from The New York Times:

“Christine Owens, the executive director of the National Employment Law Project, called the proposed cuts to the Labor Department a ‘draconian’ budget that ‘is virtually a complete breach of faith with America’s workers.’ Amnesty International called the cuts to foreign aid ‘shameful’ and predicted ‘global consequences.’ The Union of Concerned Scientists said cuts to scientific programs were ‘antiquated ideas and misguided science, which will hurt our economy, kill jobs, make us less safe.’

“The American Library Association said that eliminating federal funds for libraries was ‘counterproductive and shortsighted.’ Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, said, ‘This budget takes a meat cleaver to public education.’ ”

This is the traditional guns vs. butter debate. Unfortunately, we take the guns for granted and have started liking the butter — and  demanding more of it all the time. The last time a Republican tried to make “draconian” cuts to the federal government, “Save Big Bird” became the rallying cry of federally funded entrenched interests. This time around it is apparently “Save Meals on Wheels.”

Once upon a time, policy planners asked sensible questions about proposals: 1. Is this something that should be done? 2. If so, should it be by the government or private sector? 3. If we give it to government, which level should it go to? 4. How will this be paid for and by whom? 5. How do we measure the effectiveness of our program? 6. How do we know when it’s time to end it?

Today, it is just assumed that if something is a good idea, then the federal government should do it, it doesn’t matter how much it costs, and it will never end.

That is insane. 

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