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September 14, 2005

DeLay Jumps the Shark

I'm duplicating a topic Rick just hit, but I just had to get my 2 cents in as well.

What in the ever-luvin' world???

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay said yesterday that Republicans have done so well in cutting spending that he declared an "ongoing victory," and said there is simply no fat left to cut in the federal budget.

Mr. DeLay was defending Republicans' choice to borrow money and add to this year's expected $331 billion deficit to pay for Hurricane Katrina relief. Some Republicans have said Congress should make cuts in other areas, but Mr. DeLay said that doesn't seem possible.

"My answer to those that want to offset the spending is sure, bring me the offsets, I'll be glad to do it. But nobody has been able to come up with any yet," the Texas Republican told reporters at his weekly briefing.

Asked if that meant the government was running at peak efficiency, Mr. DeLay said, "Yes, after 11 years of Republican majority we've pared it down pretty good."

I would really hope this has been taken out of context, but it's hard to see what larger context he might be talking about. There are entire departments many conservatives would like to see gone (e.g. Education Department, NEA). If DeLay's that tone deaf to the folks who put him in office, it's time for a change.

Fortunately, not everyone's that out of touch.

"This is hardly a well-oiled machine," said Rep. Jeff Flake, Arizona Republican. "There's a lot of fat to trim. ... I wonder if we've been serving in the same Congress."

American Conservative Union Chairman David A. Keene said federal spending already was "spiraling out of control" before Katrina, and conservatives are "increasingly losing faith in the president and the Republican leadership in Congress."

"Excluding military and homeland security, American taxpayers have witnessed the largest spending increase under any preceding president and Congress since the Great Depression," he said.

And here's someone else with their own list of things that could be cut.
Tom Schatz, president of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW), said if Mr. DeLay wants to know where to cut, "there are plenty of places to reduce."

His group soon will release a list of $2 trillion in suggested spending cuts over the next five years, and he said Congress also could cut the estimated $20 billion to $25 billion in pet projects that make their way into must-pass spending bills each year.

Now, I will say that Democrats, even in light of unfettered and un-vetoed spending by Republicans, still argue that we're not spending enough on this or that program, so I think we probably doing better financially vs. a Kerry presidency & Democrat Congress. However, to claim victory at this point in time is simply irresponsible.

OK, and outright nuts.

Posted by Doug at September 14, 2005 11:40 AM

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Tracked on September 14, 2005 03:54 PM


No, I don't think it's quite right to say DeLay is either "irresponsible" or "nuts" -- that doesn't really capture the totality of the picture here.

The truth is that he is LYING. Deliberately, knowingly, LYING. He is simply trying to mislead people and distort the reality of the situation. Pretending this is anything less is being too charitable.

Your government at work.

Posted by: tito at September 14, 2005 12:14 PM

Lying is to be stating something that goes against facts. DeLay, and a jillion Democrats, may really believe that all these entitlements and departments are necessary and proper for government. Thus they aren't lying, just really foolish.

If you're not willing to suggest that any Democrat that refuses to cut spending is lying, you can't accuse DeLay of that. And there's plenty of fodder for this on the Democrat side.

Posted by: Doug Payton at September 14, 2005 01:14 PM

Yeah, I'm with you 100% there. I'd like to see two of the largest components of our budget cut back by 75% and yet they just keep getting bigger and bigger. When will we stop BIG government and reduce the ridiculous amount we spend on our military (we spend more than the next 23 nations combined! Eight times that of China, which has the second largest military) and on our roads?

"Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes...known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few. ... No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare."

-James Madison

Posted by: Dan Trabue at September 14, 2005 06:21 PM

Yeah, war stinks. Should've never gotten into that Revolutionary one. And certainly not that World War 2 thing. *shudder*

OK, that may be a little (a lot?) extreme, but I think your statement about unilaterlly cutting our military budget to be almost as much so. Yes, it's a huge part of our budget (ranks up there with entitlements, which you didn't mention), but I think I'd rather spend more money and get better equipment than outfit our troops with inferior gear and, in consequence, spend more time and lives taking out the Taliban and Hussein, and liberating hundreds of thousands of Arabs.

If we just cut out waste and pork barrel stuff, we'd save puh-lenty for the roads, eh? Smaller government, not necessarily smaller military.

"Continual warfare"? Is that what you call 4 years in Afghanistan and Iraq? Yup, glad you weren't around for WWII. D-Day would've made you apoplectic. (Of course, I don't know how old you are, so you might have been around for it. If so, hope you recovered.)

Posted by: Doug Payton at September 14, 2005 09:18 PM

Just pointing out that liberals/progressives are not the big gov't hogs we're often made out to be. We'd try to cut the budget a great deal if we ever had the any representation (our current Democrats are wish-washy moderates for the most part) - we'd just cut it differently than conservatives.

So you're saying, Doug, that our military budget NEEDS to be more than the next 23 nations combined?

And continual warfare is Madison's term, although to hear some conservative folk talk about this "war" on terrorism, it may well be the never-ending war that Madison warned us about.

Or maybe Madison was talking about having military involved indefinitely all around the world, a continuous military? This has certainly been the case for at least the last oh, 50 years, at least.

And before you accuse me of isolationism, that is not what I'm talking about. I'm just agreeing with our founding father's concern about an out-of-control military machine.

"Overgrown military establishments are under any form of government inauspicious to liberty, and are to be regarded as particularly hostile to republican liberty." -George Washington

I'm saying that Washington, Jefferson and Madison would all be shocked and horrified at the size of our gov't - especially at the size of our military.

Posted by: Dan Trabue at September 15, 2005 09:21 AM

Yes, I'm sure you would cut the budget, but to our country's detrement. Look, we're likely as big a target, internationally, than the next 23 nations combined. And we're also expected to react to every issue that comes up across the globe. I would really like to see our troops come home who are stationed in nations where our purpose was to defend against the Soviets, but those countries often have a different opinion. And as I said, that money has literally saved lives in speedy actions. Just looking at the raw numbers doesn't tell the whole story.

I'd like to see real welfare reform; one that doesn't foster a multi-generational dependence on government. That would not only have the potential to cut spending by a boatload, but also foster stronger families and more independence.

And like I said, waste ought to be the first place we deal with the budget. One of this post's trackbacks links to NRO's The Corner where Ramesh Ponnuru lists waste on the order of tens of billions of dollars. If we were to cut budgets (physically cut, not just cut the rate of increase), this kind of stuff would decrease in departments that would have to actually pinch pennies. They don't have to now. I'm pretty sure you and I would agree on that.

"Continual warfare" was Madison's term, true, but it's part of the quote you chose when suggesting we could function on 25% of our military. If you think our military is out of control because of constant deployments in Somalia, Kosovo, Haiti, Germany, Korea, Afghanistan and Iraq, I'd be intereted in hearing why. I agree with some of those deployments and not others, but with 1/4th of our current military, which would you keep, while ensuring safety for our country?

And I'd suggest that Washington, Jefferson and Madison would be more shocked at how we've undermined personal responsiblity--individually and in the family--by ostensibly helping the poor by forcibly taking one person's money and giving it to them. I think they'd also look at liberal entitlement programs as cynical, since they assume that the American people won't care for the needy unless they are forced to do so (i.e. charity at the point of a gun), even then with an incredibly inefficient method of doing so (getting less than 25 cents of benefit for each dollar confiscated, something the private sector does far better with), and dealing a blow to personal responsiblity for the needy right around us ("the government will take care of them"). You want an example of waste? There's waste, and not just on a monetary level.

Posted by: Doug Payton at September 15, 2005 09:51 AM

The NEA is a department now?

Posted by: s9 at September 15, 2005 01:20 PM

Sorry, "agency". Whatever. It's stil under the Feds.

Posted by: Doug Payton at September 15, 2005 01:45 PM

Doug said:
"I'd be intereted in hearing why. I agree with some of those deployments and not others, but with 1/4th of our current military, which would you keep, while ensuring safety for our country?"

I think that most of our military adventurism makes us a target and, therefore, less secure. You mentioned that we were a target, I agree. It would be wise to ask, Why? instead of ever-increasing our bloated military budget in a kneejerk response.

Think of it this way: Suppose you were a small nation. You perceive that the LARGE nation over there (nation X) with a military budget 1000x yours is protecting X's own interest to your detriment. People in your nation are starving while resources are going to benefit X and multinational corporations.

Your own children are starving and you are unable to do anything about it. What do you do? Might you consider joining with "freedom-fighters" to strike blows against the Bully X nation? What might you be willing to do?

Posted by: Dan Trabue at September 15, 2005 03:01 PM

You said earlier that you're not talking about isolationism, but here, indeed, you are. If we might make that small nation mad, or any nation mad, we should not get involved anywhere.

And al-Qaeda doesn't fit your hypothetical. Bin Laden is pretty darn well off, and he still sponsored 4 flying bombs. Terrorists attacked France for not allowing headscarves.

Frankly, there are precious few countries that are antagonistic towards us who could not feed their own children. As a fer instance, I was just listening to Dennis Prager talk to an expert on Africa who said that all of Niger's oil profits for decades have been stolen or frittered away by one corrupt regime or another. Libya spent boatloads of cash on weapons instead of on its people.

Saudi Arabia rules with an iron fist, saving all the money for the family. And yet 19 Saudis attacked us instead of their own oppressive government. I'm sorry, but I don't see a whole lot of your hypothetical, but I see a lot of misplaced anger out there.

Posted by: Doug Payton at September 15, 2005 03:51 PM

I am indeed not talking about isolationism and I am serious when I say that I and many others consider ever-growing US militarization as a threat to world peace.

There are other ways to intervene with rogue regimes than warmaking and, it is my thought, more effective ways. War-making tends to spiral violence outward and onward.

Progressives would reduce the bloated military by a great amount (I said 75% off the cuff, but a great amount) and would spend some of the savings on:
1. A Dept. of Peace
2. Support of the UN and ICC, or something similar
3. International AID efforts

As a starting point.

The US is spending nearly half a trillion dollars a year on our military solutions. The whole world spends about one trillion dollars. Do you realize even half of that with that money, we could:

1. teach the world to read
2. end starvation and malnutrition
3. help create meaningful work for the unemployed

Those three steps alone, I'd suggest, would go much further towards creating a more peaceful world than the trillions of dollars we've spent in the last few decades on militarization.

Further, it would be truer to our higher ideals for those of us who are of a faith tradition (and I mention that because the author of this site and I are both from Christian backgrounds), and this would be true of humanists who have no faith tradition, as well.

Do you get what I'm saying? I'm saying it is cheaper/more fiscally responsible, more logical and more moral to find pre-emptive peaceful solutions than not.

Small gov't = progressives. Conservatives wanna join us (If my memory serves correctly, our gov't has grown more under the last three Republican administrations than the Democratic ones)?

Posted by: Dan Trabue at September 15, 2005 05:24 PM

I find interesting the things you'd spend money on, as a starting point.

A Dept. of Peace - Indeed, another bureaucracy to layer on top of those organizations already trying to promote it, and indeed what we already do with our diplomats. George Washington had something to say about peace: "To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace." The contrary is thusly true; if you are not prepared for war, don't plan on peace. (This is not to say that preparing for war fully prevents it. Washington just noted that it was the most effective way.)

Support of the UN and ICC - Ah the UN, otherwise known as "The Kofi Annan Home for Underprivileged Despots", who brought you the Oil-for-Palaces program (aka "No Dictator Left Behind"). You want our money to go into their pockets? And let's not forget dictators at the helm of the Human Rights Commission. Not sure how the ICC would spread peace, unless you mean bringing said despots to justice. But then, you have to go in and get them, and how do you think we got Milosevic and Hussein? (Hint: Army/Navy/Air Force/Marines. Doh!)

International AID efforts - Aid that filters up through our bureaucracy, and then down another one to reach the actual people. Why can't I just give my money to the people or organizations directly instead of having most of it siphoned off before it gets there (if it gets there at all, depending on the target country's government)?

Basically, you'd rather spend it on more and more bureaucrats who will take my money upon penalty of jail (now there's "compassion") and give it to who they think need it most (or will give them a better trade deal or some such thing). If I'm taxed less and I give my money directly to the organizations there, the target folks get more of it. Isn't that the better, more fiscally responsible and more compassionate way of doing things? (Or don't you have enough faith in Americans' compassion?) It would allow those of a faith tradition to give to organizations that match their priorities, and allow the humanists to do the same, rather than having to lobby yet another bureaucracy (and pay those lobbyists--more waste) to determine the few organizations that "win".

It is better, of course, but you'd rather have more federal and world agencies get created. That, my friend, is "bigger government". The first three items on your list are classic, big government, liberal solutions.

In the meantime, our big military buildup under Reagan did cost us a bundle, but compared to defeating the Soviet Union without firing a shot or a nuclear missile, I'd say that was money well spent (unless you'd have preferred the Soviets to conquer their neighbors unabated, which is what they were doing). And 9/11 has caused a number of changes in our current bureaucracy. I will definitely concede that under the current President Bush, Congress has gone on an un-vetoed (and very un-conservative, mind you) shopping spree. But when I talk about "smaller government", I'm talking about fewer departments and agencies, combined with (and actually, resulting in) less need for money, resulting in lower tax requirements. I think you just want to shuffle the ledger, reducing neither the number or cost of these departments and agencies, and indeed increasing them. Which you then call "smaller government", no less.

I think we pretty well understand each other at this point. I don't think we'll be changing each other's mind, but thanks for helping me better arrange my thoughts the next time someone brings up the subject.

Posted by: Doug Payton at September 15, 2005 07:35 PM

Doug Payton writes: Sorry, "agency". Whatever. It's still under the Feds.

Okay, but you said there were "entire departments many conservatives would like to see gone (e.g. Education Department, NEA)," but you have only mentioned one department. The other entity in the list is a mere independent agency, with a budget not even 1/500th the size of the Department of Education.

So what departments besides the Department of Education would you like to see abolished tomorrow? And can we assume that, by abolishing them, you mean that all of their offices and programs would be terminated, and not transferred or shifted into other existing departments? Are there any offices in the Department of Education that you would not terminate? Are you sure you want to call for eliminating the Office for Civil Rights and the Office of Federal Student Aid, for example? A large percentage of the department's 70 billion dollar budget goes to federal student aid— are you really ready to pull the plug on that?

I ask, because I often hear conservatives say they want to eliminate entire departments, but when faced with a clear accounting of a what offices and programs would be terminated by their policy, many conservatives who aren't radical libertarians start backtracking.

Don't get me wrong— I have a lot of anarchist friends who would be very happy to see several entire departments of the federal government obliterated. High on their lists are the departments of justice, defense, state and the treasury. I'd personally probably want to leave the treasury and state departments running on skeleton crews, but I understand their desires to see the whole lot scragged.

However, me and my friends are probably not the conservatives you are thinking of when you talk about conservatives wanting to eliminate entire departments.

Posted by: s9 at September 16, 2005 03:28 AM

Jimmy Carter invented the Dept. of Education as a political present. For 200 years prior to that, somehow we managed. Looking down the list of departments, I would not that students got financial aid, schools made improvements, they handled special eduction, historically black colleges and universities still existed, blacks still had civil rights protected in school, and kids who needed to still learned English before the Education Department existed. Education is a State issue, unless there's an enumerated power in the Constitution regarding education that I've missed.

Posted by: Doug Payton at September 16, 2005 06:04 AM

RE: dept of education: Before the 70s, we only had 60% of our kids graduating high school. (It actually decreases as you go down, 50% in the '50s, etc.)

I'm not necessarily defending the Dept of Ed (esp. the current version), but you have to pay attention to education and invest in it if you want to try to educate all children (in the 90%s graduating from high school now).

For 200 years prior to the 70s, we were only educating a minority of our children and there's a huge difference between less than half and nearly all.

Posted by: Dan Trabue at September 16, 2005 10:15 AM

And how many of those graduates can read, or are subjects of grade inflation? I understand your point, but I don't know how much of that change to credit the Dept. of Education with. You already pointed out that the graduation rate was increasing by about 10% a decade before the department, and it sounds like that trend continued afterwards.

States can and should (and do) pay attention to education. The closer you are to the problem the better the solution (or the more swift the accountability). If we want the federal government involved, the Constitution should say so. It doesn't. Amending it is an option, but Carter decided to just create it out of whole cloth.

Posted by: Doug Payton at September 16, 2005 10:31 AM

Re: your suggestion that I'm advocating BIG gov't:

I'm talking about spending less net money. How is that BIG gov't? And there are depts I'd close down, too. NASA would be gone. Maybe Education.

(To be honest, I don't know enough about whether our Education Cabinet is helping much at this point. I know that the No Child Left Behind Act isn't. I agree that local decisions are generally best.) I'd end our "War on Drugs" and all the prisons necessary to house ALL those citizens. Oh, yes, I'm sure I'd have a much smaller gov't than conservatives (and democrats) have created.

So don't talk to me about a smaller gov't until you are actually advocating one.

Yes, I'm talking about creating a Peace Dept. You can say that to plan for war is how you prepare for peace, but logic dictates that to create a more peaceful world you must plan for peace. Surely you'd agree with such a commonsense notion?

Yes, the UN has problems. So does the US. We don't give up on it because it has problems do we? You work out the problems because it is helpful to have an over-seeing body.

I'm decentralized enought to believe that most decisions ought to be local, but we do need larger bodies to intervene in cases of human rights neglect, just as we did in the US in the Civil Rights era. Do you disagree that a larger, non-local body was helpful there? Even if it had its problems? Well, I think the same is true on an international level.

I began this discussion in an effort to explain why I wasn't an isolationist, and how I think we can better resolve our problems in ways other than warmaking. Surely you agree that war ought to be avoided, and if we can find other ways to end human rights abuses, we ought to? Well, the UN and an ICC are important components of doing so. If there are problems, fix them.

Doug said:
"you'd rather spend it on more and more bureaucrats who will take my money upon penalty of jail "

As it is, YOUR big gov't is taking MY money under penalty of jail for your solutions, so don't offer that as a defense of what's wrong with my solutions. I'm suggesting using our collective money for our collective good, just as you are. The difference is I'm talking about taking less of it and having more positive results.

Posted by: Dan Trabue at September 16, 2005 10:33 AM

Fair enough, Doug. At least you're honest enough to say you'd love to see the Pell Grant abolished. An awful lot of conservatives back off when asked to connect their "destroy the Education Department" rhetoric with the practical effect of their policy proposal.

You've still danced away from the other part of the question. Education is only one department. What other entire departments do you want to see abolished outright? Here are some candidates for you: Transportation, Veterans Affairs, Housing and Urban Development, Commerce, etc.

Personally, I'd like to see the entire federal government not just shrunk down to the size where it can be drowned in the bathtub, á la Grover Norquist's infamous quip, but eviscerated completely. Put it out of business. Sell off the nuclear arsenal to the highest corporate bidders we can find with good credit, spin off the U.S. mint to the federal reserve, default on every last bit of treasury debt we otherwise can't pay off, and completely zero out the IRS with absolutely no revenue to collect at the federal level whatsoever. Tell me how far short of that you're willing to go, Doug.

Are you really an anti-federalist? Or do you just pretend to be one on the web for political points?

Posted by: s9 at September 16, 2005 01:22 PM