The House voted today to cut its operating budget by 5%, a move supporters claim will save about $35 million. CNN sizes up the cut by saying each member will have to shave about $750,000 from their budget, “the equivalent of 1.5 staffers.” Each representative should fire whoever is supposed to be reading the legislation they vote on, because those guys obviously haven’t been doing a good job.
Republican Dan Lungren of California called the measure “a down payment on the future actions of this House.” Considering how much they’ll have to cut in order to balance the budget, let alone shrink the government, those are very reasonable down payment terms. With that kind of financing, you could get a house by putting down a handful of bottle caps and some pocket lint. Come to think of it, I believe Fannie Mae offered a plan like that.
Remarkably, the vote passed over 13 Democrat objections. They weren’t voting “no” because they’re eager to get busy with the really serious spending cuts. One of them was John Conyers of Michigan, who needs that sweet taxpayer funding to pay his aides for valet and babysitting services.
There’s been a lot of debate about the importance of symbolic measures lately. Even the Republican pledge to cut $100 billion from the budget this year is largely symbolic, and even at that, they’re having trouble figuring out how to pull it off. The current federal budget deficit is $1.3 trillion dollars, and the national debt is increasing by billions of dollars each day. Any cut less than that is either symbolic, or a “down payment,” depending on your level of optimism.
It’s aggravating to see that even the empty gestures are difficult to put off. There are Democrats insisting that every penny of our vast budget is untouchable. Washington claims it will become more responsible, but it won’t even stop shoveling candy down its throat while it talks about its big diet plans. Americans want major budget surgery, but Uncle Sam howls in pain while trimming his nails.
Big spending was a habit. Spending reductions must become a habit, too. We’ll find plenty of little chunks of flab to cut from the huge federal budget. All together, they’ll add up to a respectable down payment.