LOW HANGING. AND DIMINUTIVE.

After months and months of prodding, the House Republicans have finally coughed up a list of specific things they want to cut from the budget. The hit list totals…wait for it…$58 billion.

Wow! $58 billion sure is a lot of money! Unless of course we're talking about the Federal budget. Let me double check something.

Yes, we're talking about the Federal budget. Let's take a quick look at these cuts in perspective, despite Perspective's well-established liberal bias. Click to embiggen:

Wow, over 4/10ths of one percent of the FY2011 budget! Oddly enough the $58 billion all comes out of non-defense discretionary spending, which makes sense because I think that is the largest share of the budget.

Oh.

Well surely they targeted wasteful spending and clear examples of unnecessary programs.

Oh for fuck's sake.

You could almost respect their misguided zeal – rhetorically, if not in practice – for "cutting spending" if it was not such an obvious smokescreen for partisan hackery. Like, "Let's target everything our donors and base don't like and call it fiscal responsibility" as though cutting the National Endowment for the Arts is actually going to make a dent.

Or perhaps I'm just being cynical. Maybe the two most unnecessary items in the budget really are job training and the EPA.

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37 Responses to “LOW HANGING. AND DIMINUTIVE.”

  1. HoosierPoli Says:

    They could have closed an equal budget gap by allowing the Bush tax cuts for the top margin to expire. But that would punish rich people. Instead, they're going to cut funding for women, children, and infants. You know, the over-privileged.

  2. Natalie Says:

    It seems like more and more people are getting on this bandwagon finally. The idea that we can exclude the defense department from cuts when we're "oh so serious" about fiscal responsibility is pretty demented. I've talked about it more than one on my blog as well and I'm glad to see it getting around. I'm gonna whore myself out now, cool?

    http://42liberal.zubon.org/?tag=defense-spending

  3. Ben Says:

    Jesus H. Was there a time when Republicans didn't treat public life as a big fucking wank that they pretend to give a shit about in-between bouts of handing out money to their friends? I can't believe there's a person involved in crafting these cuts that honestly thought they were the best thing for the country rather than the best thing for the Republican party.

  4. cromartie Says:

    When the portion of the electorate that isn't white and over the age of 60 shows up for the 2012s, they aren't going to be very happy with the GOP now, are they?

  5. acer Says:

    FUCK these people. I'm aching from the exhaustion of even thinking about taking their "ideas" seriously. If you're a right-wing libertarian, it was fun while it lasted, but you can go ahead and eat my whole asshole. Also, Ryan in '12!

  6. Facehammer Says:

    But but but the Republicans and Democrats are all exactly the same, don't you know!

  7. comrade x Says:

    Facehammer: not exactly the same but pretty fuckin' close.
    What is the Democrats plan? Probably pretty much the same.

  8. A.B.A.B.D Says:

    Ben: I suspect that your analysis of the Republicans' level of denial doesn't quite give them credit for the mental gymnastics of which they are capable. I have no doubt that they do believe that these cuts are the best thing for the country, since they also believe that Republicans are the only REAL AMERICANS.

    Their proposals remind me of a person who is extremely obese and decides to take some belt-tightening measure by cutting fruits and vegetables out of their diet, while completely ignoring the fact that the vast majority of their calories comes from eating a gallon of ice cream per day. Yeah, I'm sure that plan is going to result in massive weight loss.

    The thing that's truly frightening is the reaction of the press in parroting the party line of these cuts being substantial reductions to the budget, when they're actually so miniscule as to be nearly the equivalent of a rounding error. What they should have said was "It took these fucktwads how many months to come out with this shit? Can't we withhold their pay for wasting everyone's time by presenting this laundry list of conservatives' favorite bug-a-boos and red herrings as a significant proposal?"

  9. dick nixon Says:

    I am in daily contact with the Dept. of Defense as a condition of my employment, and have spent countless hours in Washington (and at the Pentagon) advising various agencies.

    The simplistic thing would be to tell you about cronyism and waste, which do occur. There is a bigger problem, however, and it is structural. The administration (and this includes private contractors) of DOD programs is about 50% too large for the tasks assigned. The budget stream is so great that any agency can have nearly anything it wants at any time–and this includes programs that are specifically designed as budget placeholders, i.e., stuff that is thought up for the sole purpose of maintaining and/or expanding sub-agency budgets.

    I have often thought that the DOD budget could be reduced 25-35% without significantly impacting national security. After more thought, I think I could guarantee that outcome. Unfortunatly, this would severely impact important contractors, whose revenue support our political elite, who ,in turn support them.

  10. anotherbozo Says:

    Silly, Ed, you left out the gazillions in FOREIGN AID we put out! It's gotta be a huge part of one of them pie charts there. Everybody knows that–just look at all the citizen surveys that confirm it. Don't know why the Tea Partiers haven't singled that out, it should be the first to go, yessir.

  11. a Says:

    Their proposals remind me of a person who is extremely obese and decides to take some belt-tightening measure by cutting fruits and vegetables out of their diet, while completely ignoring the fact that the vast majority of their calories comes from eating a gallon of ice cream per day. Yeah, I'm sure that plan is going to result in massive weight loss.

    The best metaphor ever!

    I am seriously going to use this one – far too often.

  12. sluggo Says:

    @ dick nixon

    I'll not only match your 25% budget cut without diminishing national security, but raise it. I think national security will be greater. I have found that limited resources make people work smarter and focus on what is important.

  13. bb in GA Says:

    Now you know why I have been riding the split Republican party horse since the rise of the T-party.

    We can honestly argue what needs to decreased, but I think everything should be on the table including the SS benefits I receive and the Medicare I'm about to join up with.

    This anemic, cynical behavior will not stand w/ the T-party people and if the Rs don't get real, I believe more than ever the Ts will bolt to a 3rd party.

    Then y'all can start singing that old Democrat party song "Happy Days are Here Again." come 2012.

    //bb

  14. Monkey Business Says:

    @bb in GA: I don't think there's anyone that disagrees with the sentiment that Social Security and Medicare should be on the table too. However, good luck messing with two programs that massively benefit seniors, who vote in significantly larger margins than their lesser-aged counterparts.

    We, as a country, need to have adult conversations about a lot of issues. However, our political environment has become so partisan and we're so far apart on so many issues that it just doesn't seem possible. Not only that, but issues that don't fucking matter consume all the oxygen in the room, and don't leave anything for the important stuff.

  15. John Says:

    And now we see (as if we didn't already know) the reason why these folks refused to name programs pre-election. Because if there had been any time for folks to sink their teeth into these farcically small cuts, they'd have been laughed off of the ballot.

    Now, as any intelligent person predicted six months ago, they can quietly announce that they don't actually plan to cut anything of any significance.

    See, I could possibly get behind the Republican message of fiscal responsibility if they weren't such goddamned liars about it.

  16. Jude Says:

    Hey, Monkey Business–I disagree with that sentiment. You realize that SS is fully funded for the next 30 years, right? And that by eliminating the cap on payroll taxes for SS, it would be solvent for eternity, right?

    Cut the hell out of Defense spending and raise taxes on rich motherfuckers. Problem solved.

    Now I'm gonna ride my unicorn home from the rainbow factory.

  17. bb in GA Says:

    Jude:

    The heavy load your Unicorn is dragging thru the sky is called Medicare. Currently, about 60% of the medical care dollars that you spend in your whole life are spent in the last six months of your life. That sucker's gonna blow up inside the next 10 years.

    I tease my wife that if we get Medicare in shape that our last six months will be about two months long.

    //bb

  18. Charlie Says:

    Regarding the benefits that the government provides, it's time we admitted that they cost money and we should be willing to pay for them. When my grandfather died two years ago, he cried over the phone with me about the fear that he would run out of money and be a burden on the rest of us. I told him that is why I pay Social Security and taxes. This is part of a generational social contract which is a smaller portion of our greater social contract. We look out for one another. As a Christian, I am supposed to see everyone as my neighbor and part of my family. They are the Children of my Father and I don;t count the costs of helping them. Like Stephen Colbert said, it's time we accept this or shut up. We can afford to help the aged, infirm, and the poor. Even if we could not, we have a moral duty to sacrifice some of what we otherwise need to provide for them.

  19. anotherbozo Says:

    @a Says: Gail Collins' metaphor today is similar, and just possibly better:

    "…This is supposed to be part of the G.O.P. budget-balancing initiative, and on that count it is somewhat like planning to lose 50 pounds by reducing your intake of kale."

  20. Zach Says:

    Ed –

    "In practical terms, the spending decrease is actually closer to $35 billion, since Congress failed to pass a budget for fiscal year 2011, and agencies have been operating at 2010 funding levels."

    Even though it sucks they're cutting what they are, we shouldn't given them any credit for cutting from the proposed 2011 budget, versus cutting from the actual funding agencies are receiving right now.

  21. anotherbozo Says:

    Charlie, you don't have to be Christian to realize that we're all connected, that my brother's suffering diminishes me, and that our screwing up the planet is the most immoral act we can commit. Moralities from all over agree on these basic tenets.

  22. HoosierPoli Says:

    I've got a better idea: Let's actually tax people for once. But we wouldn't want to raise taxes on people who are struggling. If only there were some way we could only raise taxes on the people who are doing extremely well, but keeps them free from burdens if they fall on hard times…

  23. Charlie Says:

    anotherbozo, just trying to remind the readership that not all Christians are suckling the corporate teat.

  24. Xynzee Says:

    @ Chatlie: Thanks for saying that.

    Now let's talk redistribution of wealth: http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/welfare-state/Content?oid=6686284

  25. Nunya Says:

    @MonkeyBusiness and BB – I'll be amongst many others who have a giant beef with touching Medicare and Social Security. While I'm a long way from ever touching a dime of that money, IK have been paying into the fund since I was 15 and the thought of that social contract being rewritten post-facto doesn't fly with me.

    Raise the withholding rate if you must but allowing people, the vast majority of whom don't have pensions or rely on an unstable 401K is going to turn old age back into what it was before these programs existed… a crafshoot involving the elderly living in chicken coops.

    Shit happens and people find themselves unable to work. Without realizing this reality, you doom your nation.

  26. Aaron Weber Says:

    The Republican plan is stupid, painful, and insignificant– but at the same time, it's an actual list of specific cuts. I don't agree with all of them; hell, I don't agree with most of them. But if we can't make a small cut anywhere, can we cut anything at all?

  27. John Says:

    @Aaron Weber:

    It's not about whether we can make small cuts or not. It's about the uselessness of the proposed cuts in the face of what they purport to do. The Republicans see a yard full of completely overgrown and out-of-control weeds, and they come to our door and say, "We'll take care of that weed problem for you." So they propose to go and cut the very last nanometer off of the top of the weeds.

    We're not saying, "Oh my lord, don't you dare cut those weeds", we're saying, "Who the hell are you to talk about weed control while doing absolutely nothing meaningful to control weeds?"

    If they'd sacked up and actually proposed some hard cuts to programs that actually matter to the federal budget, they wouldn't be getting this scorn.

  28. Craig Says:

    Obama's budget proposal guts LIHEAP, so r's and d's are exactly the same.

  29. TheDeviantE Says:

    @anotherbozo, @A.B.A.B.D, and @a: you should probably keep in mind that us fat people actually don't eat a gallon of icecream a day, some of us bike or walk to work, are vegetarian, and often eat healthier than our skinny partners/friends/relatives (I know I do). That, and the fact that if you want to find people who are eating "outrageous" numbers of calories a day you want to look at PRO ATHLETES (and sometimes genetically skinny actors asked to play fat characters). I know it's shocking and all, but having us used as a metaphor of all that is wrong with (pick your evil): corporations, the government, the republican party, your best friend's sister's parenting style, actually is pretty shitty.

  30. Hunter Says:

    @bb et al.: can we just dump the idea that Social Security is part of the problem? It has nothing to do with the deficit, except that it's the country's single largest creditor.

    Social Security funding it outside the general revenue stream, and it's a trust fund, not an entitlement. Cutting Social Security benefits isn't going to do squat about the deficit.

    As far as reducing spending, the Pentagon has actually come up with substantial proposed cuts that would go a long way toward meeting their ridiculous goal, but the Republicans don't want to touch those — it impacts their major donors.

  31. Sara Says:

    bb in GA:

    Currently, about 60% of the medical care dollars that you spend in your whole life are spent in the last six months of your life. […] I tease my wife that if we get Medicare in shape that our last six months will be about two months long.

    I live in Australia, where we still have a more-or-less functioning public health care system (although our politicians have tried to 'Americanize' our system, I kid you not). We spend roughly 9% of GDP instead of the 16% America spends, and we don't limit the amount spent to give dying people a few more months of life to do that.

    After living in both countries and experiencing both health care systems first-hand, here's the things that seemed like they make the biggest difference, to me:

    1. In most places here, most people can find a doctor who will see them for zero out-of-pocket cost, or at most $50ish, because the government guarantees doctors get paid for almost every patient they see. That means a lot more people get treated early in an illness, when it typically costs less to treat. Preventative care is also better here, which keeps overall costs down.

    2. Most of our hospitals are state-owned, so exactly 0% of their operating budget goes into profits to pay their owners / shareholders. Some of our bigger city hospitals are world-class, in terms of both facilities and staff expertise. Some aren't so great. They all look pretty grim, and none that I've been in offer the 'hotel-like' rooms private hospitals often boast now. I don't mind that; after most of my ops, I'm on such strong drugs I don't much notice the decor ;)

    3. Our Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme subsidizes most prescriptions, and hence effectively 'buys' most medicines dispensed in this country, before on-selling to consumers at reduced prices. That means they're big enough to negotiate with the big pharma to pay a fair price for each medicine. If a drug's determined not to be any better than existing ones, and/or to cost so much that price way exceeds benefits, they don't buy it… so to compete in this market at all, drug companies have to agree to a price the government will pay, which limits their profits. (Non-PBS drugs can still be prescribed and sold here, they just aren't subsidized, and most Australians are so used to paying $20 for a prescription that the real price of their meds gives them major sticker-shock.)

    So there are ways to spend a lot less on health care without limiting end-of-life care… but it does mean health care is a much less profitable field for many in it. Not everyone likes that idea.

  32. My Says:

    The sheer level of fraud/waste/abuse of tax dollars withing the Federal govt. and certain humongous portions thereof that goes on is beyond the belief of the average American. Steps are being taken, but if the POTUS was serious about fixing our fiscal situation, they would be leaps. I frequently pray for a Fatrimmer Czar with a task force of 70-100 personnel and small teams from each agency (maybe 5-6 people) as liaison to whip out the budgetary chainsaw and start fixing some shit, like, yesterday.

    Not kidding, we can throw millions/billions/trillions around all day, but what it comes down to is $500 here, $10,000 there, all throughout the Federal govt., by the hundreds of thousands of supervisors/managers who as a rule do not seem to understand/give a shit that our economy is in part tanking because they "need" to spend the rest of the money in the budget on useless crap in order to ensure…well, that they have more "extra" money in their already inflated/poorly managed budget for next year. At the end of the day, the oversight organs of govt. are woefully incapable of wasting time on fraud/waste/abuse that doesn't tally upwards of six figures.

    Sigh….

  33. Ron Paul Fan Says:

    We should be in crisis mode. The far Right wants to legislate morality and the far left wants to spend us to oblivion. How about ending the wars. I agree Bush is to blame but it doesn't make it ok. Our debt is higher than our GDP. We're fighting two wars and we're concerned about NPR? NPR would survive on there own funding. If it's really "public" it should not receive Gov't money. I wish people were as concerned about ending the war as they are for saving NPR… maybe we would get somewhere. It's sad. Ron Paul 2012.. because he tells the truth.

  34. WhiskeyTango Says:

    Ever since 2003, I've been, what, gobsmacked, agog, whatever, at the unimaginable stupidity of the Republicans.
    Ever since there have been historians, one of the great repeating memes of history has been the efforts of national leaders to finance wars.
    I won't bore readers with details, but Roman leaders turned cartwheels to get money to finance their various military adventures.
    The whole point of the Spanish exploration of the Americas was to get gold to pay for wars in Holland (and elsewhere.)
    And yet, "W" started 2 wars, and then LOWERED taxes. And put the cost of those wars "off the books".
    We know where the money's going. But we won't do anything about it.