Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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June 4, 2009

WON'T SOMEONE THINK OF THE CHILDREN?.... In April, President Obama and his cabinet identified $100 billion in easy-to-make cuts to the federal budget. His detractors scoffed, calling the cuts a very small drop in a very large bucket.

So, the president encouraged congressional Republicans to give the administration a hand. Obama vowed to take the GOP seriously if lawmakers could identify reasonable budget cuts, targeting wasteful and unnecessary spending.

Republican leaders have apparently finished their homework project, but I don't think the White House is going to like the results.

Responding to a challenge from President Barack Obama, House GOP leaders are offering up a roster of more than $23 billion in spending cuts over the next five years.

The proposed cuts, which were to be sent to the White House on Thursday, bear little resemblance to the dramatic proposals Republicans unfurled when they took over Congress 14 years ago.

Rather than proposing, for example, the elimination of the Education Department, as they have in the past, Republicans are suggesting killing a program that pays for building sidewalks, bike paths and crossing guards as part of the Safe Routes to Schools program. That would save $183 million a year.

For all the talk about "wasteful government spending" from GOP leaders, I actually thought the Republicans might come up with some half-credible ideas. If they combed through the budget, looking for some common-sense cuts, I figured they were bound to find a few spending measures that would prove hard to defend.

But they want to go after the Safe Routes to Schools program? Really? They think we're spending too much on making sure children get to school without getting hit by cars?

I'll concede that I haven't researched this thoroughly. It's possible Republicans have evidence to suggest the Safe Routes to Schools program overlaps with some other program, making the $183 million a year redundant. Maybe.

But at face value, $183 million a year on crosswalks and crossing guards seems like money well spent.

Cutting the budget sure is challenging, isn't it?

Steve Benen 1:50 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (40)

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Comments

Wasn't it $100 million, not billion?

Posted by: Matt on June 4, 2009 at 1:44 PM | PERMALINK

Steve, it's like this — they want to make abortion illegal, but they really don't give a shit if kids get killed on their way to school. Once they're out of the womb, they're on their own.

Posted by: Screamin' Demon on June 4, 2009 at 1:44 PM | PERMALINK

And of course there is absolutely no waste or anything we can possibly cut in any part of the defense budget.

Posted by: Virginia on June 4, 2009 at 1:48 PM | PERMALINK

They think we're spending too much on making sure our children get to school without getting hit by cars?

Fixed.

Our children are walking those paths to public schools. Their children are home schooled or else enrolled in a private religious academy.

Posted by: TR on June 4, 2009 at 1:50 PM | PERMALINK

Unless the point is to make a large number of ridiculous suggestions. Then they can pound the table with their "we offered ideas and Obama refused to include us in the process."

I find it highly unlikely that the opponents of "big government" have never before thought about how to reduce the budget.

Posted by: brent on June 4, 2009 at 1:51 PM | PERMALINK

Well, cutting out the sidewalks programs saves U.S. taxpayers a whopping 61 cents apiece! Who needs safe kids when you have that kind of money to be saved!

Posted by: jimBOB on June 4, 2009 at 1:51 PM | PERMALINK

I'm guessing that the underlying assumption is that taxpayers drive their children to school. It is only those non tax paying poor folks children who use sidewalks to get to school.

Posted by: thebewilderness on June 4, 2009 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

This is the main thing that bugs me about the whole "small government" meme and attacks on "Tax and Spend policies": They can't do it. They DON'T have any real cuts to make and the more they try cutting government, the more they'll kill real programs that do good. For all the hype about wasteful government, they can't find any in reality.

And that's the real reason Repubs couldn't cut spending when they controlled Congress and the Whitehouse. It's not that they're closet liberals who betrayed conservativism. It's because conservativism is based entirely on fantasies. And once they're actually tasked with cutting waste, they can't do it. And the more spending they cut, the less popular they'd be.

The reality is that we're a liberal nation that prefers a powerful government, and the only folks who suggest otherwise are conservatives living in a fantasy world. But when the rubber hits the road, they expect the government to take care of things too.

Posted by: Doctor Biobrain on June 4, 2009 at 1:58 PM | PERMALINK

You wait...after being ridiculed for NO NEW IDEAS/CUTS the GOP will start whining that Obama took all the EASY cuts...they had to THINK about it...

Posted by: SYSPROG on June 4, 2009 at 1:59 PM | PERMALINK

The problem with any real budget cuts is the accompanying political suicide.

The top three expenditures are:

1. Social Security
2. Defense
3. Medicare

Good luck to any politician attempting any real cuts to those three albatrosses.

Absent cuts to those three programs, you'll be nickeling-and-diming, which is what both sides of the political aisle do now.

Posted by: Jayson on June 4, 2009 at 1:59 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, come on. We're only gonna lose - what? - 5, 6 kids a year. Tops.

Posted by: McNich on June 4, 2009 at 2:01 PM | PERMALINK

Well, we could at least save half that amount by eliminating just the Safe Routes around high schools. Honestly, if a kid hasn't learned to safely cross a street by the time he's a teenager, what hope is there for him?
;-)

Posted by: PattyP on June 4, 2009 at 2:11 PM | PERMALINK

"Cutting the budget sure is challenging, isn't it?"

Oh, I don't know, Murray Blum seemed to do an okay job of it in "Dave."

Posted by: Boliver on June 4, 2009 at 2:13 PM | PERMALINK

The reason why the Republicans don't want to offer plans to cut government spending is because the easiest way to do so is to cut the workforce. But that was done already in the early 90's and all the work was just moved to private contractors. So to really cut government now would be to cut out the contractors and Republicans would never do that.

Posted by: Bubba on June 4, 2009 at 2:17 PM | PERMALINK

So I missed something. When did it become normal to drive kids to school? When I was young, we walked to school. And if we cut through the corn field, the farmer shot us with rock salt. And I'm not even that old. My parents had two cars, they could have driven me, but they didn't. It was just normal to walk. It would have been cool to have sidewalks, though.

Posted by: fostert on June 4, 2009 at 2:19 PM | PERMALINK

$183 million? Isn't that like the price of one F-22 fighter? And $23 billion over five years? Out of like $30 trillion in spending? That probably doesn't even cover copier paper for the IRS. Man, at least Republicans back in the day had some balls when it came to cutting the budget. Where, for example, are the cuts for:

* Unneeded military programs, like the F-22?
* Agricultural subsidies?
* Medicare and Medicaid (poor people and the elderly can just use emergency rooms. What? Those have all been reduced or eliminated? Never mind.)?
* Foreign aid to countries that cause us more trouble then they're worth or are blatantly antidemocratic, e.g. Egypt and Israel?

C'mon! Better Republicans, please.

Posted by: jonas on June 4, 2009 at 2:20 PM | PERMALINK

"Cutting the budget sure is challenging, isn't it?"

Oh, I don't know, Murray Blum seemed to do an okay job of it in "Dave."

If I remember correctly, the first thing he did was smack around the defense contracting procedures. Not something the Republicans will be on board with.

The person who noted that all our money goes to defense, Social Security, and Medicare is correct. Actually interest on the debt is way up there too. But there is literally no way to balance the budget without cutting one of those or raising taxes. The entire non-defense discretionary spending amount is less than the budget deficit.

We could shutter every embassy, close every park, fire everyone in federal law enforcement, cancel every welfare payment, shut down NASA, and eliminate every federal government function the Republicans have ever complained about, and it still wouldn't be enough.

Posted by: ArkPanda on June 4, 2009 at 2:24 PM | PERMALINK
Wasn't it $100 million, not billion?

Posted by: Matt on June 4, 2009 at 1:44 PM


Yes it was. Hopefully Steve will edit the post. Posted by: TG Chicago on June 4, 2009 at 2:24 PM | PERMALINK

Wow, commenters at HotAir.com are pissed at the Republicans' weak tea:

http://hotair.com/headlines/?p=41962

Posted by: TG Chicago on June 4, 2009 at 2:28 PM | PERMALINK

A statement that was making the rounds among policy types during the early part of this decade:

"It helps to think of the government as an insurance company with an army."

Posted by: divF on June 4, 2009 at 2:28 PM | PERMALINK

Honestly, if a kid hasn't learned to safely cross a street by the time he's a teenager, what hope is there for him?

No, they can't use that rationale, because it would be considered pro-evolution.

Posted by: bleh on June 4, 2009 at 2:29 PM | PERMALINK

I'm curious what else they came up with.

Far be it for me to suggest their ideas have merit, but I can see this as being one program that, on the oversimplified face of it, belongs in the hands of the states. I'm curious to know more about the history of the program, the reasons for enacting it, and whether those conditions have changed.

Posted by: Rian Mueller on June 4, 2009 at 2:31 PM | PERMALINK

I guess I should add that I live a block away from an elementary school. And most parents walk their kids to school. But I don't live in Real America, I live in Boulder. When those kids get older, their parents will do something even more un-American, they'll give them a bus pass. The horror! Imagine these kids being subjected to the alien belief that there are methods of transportation that don't involve cars. What's next? Giving them bikes? Oh yeah, the evil parents of Boulder already do that too. It's amazing that Real America hasn't nuked us yet.

Posted by: fostert on June 4, 2009 at 2:32 PM | PERMALINK

Only $23 B? Geez. What wusses. What about eliminating Social Security and Medicare. Such proposals would show real cojones. Oh. I forgot. The GOP is full of shit.

They didn't cut spending when Dubya was in office and they had complete control of all three (yes, three) branches of government. One would have thought they could've gotten rid of the education department then. But no.

And after lambasting Obama over his "puny" cuts, all they can come up with is $23B? Clowns.

I'm surprised the GOP didn't propose a 90 percent reduction in taxes, and. . .preservation of all programs. Except those that benefit the poor, that is.

Posted by: tec619 on June 4, 2009 at 2:32 PM | PERMALINK

Typical. Whenever there's money that needs to be cut, the Repubs can always be counted on to go after the poorest, youngest, neediest and least able to defend themselves (i.e., those groups that can't afford an army of high-priced lobbyists). Hell, why don't they just go whole-hog and eliminate public schools altogether and send the kids to work mining coal? (I can see Cheney smiling that half-smile grimace and rubbing his clammy hands together at the prospect). Actually, by the time most of the these kids today grow up hard labor will probably be the only type of job left, and that's only because it can't be shipped overseas.

Posted by: electrolite on June 4, 2009 at 2:35 PM | PERMALINK

Do you think, just maybe BHO was being sneaky and hoping the ReRushlickins would come up with mean cuts?

Posted by: Neil B ♪ on June 4, 2009 at 2:37 PM | PERMALINK

If there was some way to get suburban parents against this, they would go after Republicans like crazed weasels.

Then again, lots of suburban parents drive SUVs and minivans because they are "safer," so it seems to be a clever move by the Republicans to screw the poor once again.

Posted by: Jon Karak on June 4, 2009 at 2:39 PM | PERMALINK

Well, when you consider that Democrats have been winning the youth vote, maybe the Repubs are trying to use this cut to limit that particular part of the electorate.

Posted by: Allan Snyder on June 4, 2009 at 2:50 PM | PERMALINK

Today's GOP: Objectively pro-roadkill!

It's possible Republicans have evidence to suggest the Safe Routes to Schools program overlaps with some other program, making the $183 million a year redundant.

Possible the GOP is arguing in good faith, and in command of the facts? I seriously doubt it.

Posted by: Gregory on June 4, 2009 at 2:55 PM | PERMALINK

Be hence the problem with the modern republican party: the stuff they hate, most people like. The stuff they like, most people hate.

Posted by: Northzax on June 4, 2009 at 3:03 PM | PERMALINK

Corssing guards are an unwarranted government intrusion on our God-given right to run over small pedestrians.

Posted by: Daddy Love on June 4, 2009 at 3:11 PM | PERMALINK

There can be no serious discusion of controlling the budget unless MILITARY SPENDING is put front and center. Over 1/3rd of all governement spending is tied to the Defense Department.

Things like NASA, Safe Routes to Schools, earmarks, NEA etc etc represent barely 5-7% of overall spending. Getting rid of all of them makes little to no difference.

Until that basic truth is acknowledged in Washington (and the rest of the country) any talk of 'deficit control' and 'spending cuts' is meaningless.

Posted by: thorin-1 on June 4, 2009 at 3:12 PM | PERMALINK

And of course there is absolutely no waste or anything we can possibly cut in any part of the defense budget.

Perish forbid! They scream if Obama proposes to slow the rate of increase -- and get the so-called "liberal media" to call it a "defense cut" into the bargain!

Posted by: Gregory on June 4, 2009 at 3:14 PM | PERMALINK
Murray Blum seemed to do an okay job of it in "Dave." Posted by: Boliver on June 4, 2009

not a great movie, but ...

Didn't you just love the way he urged Dave to get out of there as quick as he could because everybody else there seeemed dangerous?

That and the shower scene of course...

Posted by: MarkH on June 4, 2009 at 4:06 PM | PERMALINK

not a great movie

Sure it was!

That and the shower scene of course

I loved the way Sigourney Weaver was about to call him a "prick," looked down, and changed her mind.

Posted by: Gregory on June 4, 2009 at 4:40 PM | PERMALINK

On the face of it, it seems like a reasonable cut. Walking conditions around schools is a local matter, not the purview of the federal government.

Posted by: Gwen on June 4, 2009 at 6:05 PM | PERMALINK

Every day I drive to work along a 7-lane road to downtown. I pass a city grade school. Cuts have already meant that kids have to walk (no bus I mean) if they live within a mile of the school. (This is K-8, btw, that is, kids as young as 6.) Now walking a mile when you're 3 feet tall is hard enough. Imagine walking through crime-ridden neighborhoods and across a road that has 7 lanes of traffic-- going 40 mph. Not to mention this is in the north, so not only do they walk through extreme cold, they have to climb over snow banks and get splattered by slush as cars go by.

I cannot imagine that. And yet, 6 year olds do that every day. They are braver than I am. And frankly, I don't care how much it costs to make it a bit easier on them. We surely can't think that because these kids are poor, they should battle so much danger just to get to school?

And if you are scoffing at the notion of danger, I challenge you to get out of your car and walk a mile in an inner-city neighborhood. I won't even make you be 6 again.

Posted by: ashenden on June 4, 2009 at 7:15 PM | PERMALINK

Let me clarify: I agree that it's a problem in many locations. I agree that there should be improvements. I just think that each community should be responsible for fixing it.

I'm paying for it either way. But it's more appropriately funded through my property tax and sales taxes than my federal income tax.

Posted by: Gwen on June 4, 2009 at 7:28 PM | PERMALINK

"Let me clarify: I agree that it's a problem in many locations. I agree that there should be improvements. I just think that each community should be responsible for fixing it."

And what if they can't? Perhaps you have not noticed that many communities (and even whole states) are having a tough time in the current economy. Or perhaps you just don't care about kids if they aren't local to you.

This kind of thing is the very definition of "shovel-ready project" and is precisely where stimulus money is best spent.

Posted by: Shade Tail on June 4, 2009 at 10:45 PM | PERMALINK

Honestly, if a kid hasn't learned to safely cross a street by the time he's a teenager, what hope is there for him?

I know this was a joke, but not enough people recognize it as such. I have had it with careless assholes driving their cars as if they were not deadly objects. My daughter (11) was complaining to me about cars not stopping for her in the crosswalk, and one even had the audacity to beep at her for being in the crosswalk when they were in some sort of a ridiculous hurry. Someone who does that, deserves to lose their license.

My thinking is, if you are not driving your car so carefully that it is as harmless as a bicycle, then you are not driving it carefully enough.

Posted by: dr2chase on June 5, 2009 at 12:38 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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