Priorities for Cutting Government Spending

February 28th, 2011

By Tom Carter

It’s often a mistake to paint all of the liberal mainstream media with the same brush.  Granted, the New York Times and many others have pretty much descended into being little more than propaganda organs for liberals in general and the Democratic Party in particular.  That’s not to say that conservatives and the Republican Party don’t have a few major media outlets in their pocket — the Washington Times and Fox News come to mind.  The big difference, however, is that they admit to their particular worldview while their colleagues on the left don’t.

I’ve made the point before that the Washington Post doesn’t deserve to be lumped in with the same bunch of left-wing media organs as the New York Times.  The Post proved that again yesterday with an editorial titled What government is for.  It’s a serious, thoughtful recognition that in our present economic dilemma there have to be serious cuts in spending.  The editorial lists and briefly discusses what they consider to be the priorities of government.  Reasonable conservatives and liberals alike shouldn’t find much to disagree with.

The Post editorial begins:

On the Sunday Opinions page today, we publish alarms from a number of advocates for federal programs endangered by Republican budget cutting. We sympathize with many of the appeals. But we also recognize that the United States is facing a fiscal challenge that, if unaddressed, threatens U.S. prosperity and global leadership.

Then they list their view of the appropriate priorities of government:

First among ours is protecting the nation and preserving the peace. For the better part of a century, the United States has been the guarantor of peace for the world, and the world is better off for it – on balance freer, more peaceful and more prosperous. America has made some terrible mistakes abroad and no doubt spends money on bases or weapons systems that it could do without. But when politicians insist that, because the U.S. budget is strained, we can’t possibly keep troops in Germany, or Korea, or Afghanistan, we don’t have much sympathy. America is wealthier, its economy far more able to generate tax revenue, because of the global harmony that it helps maintain – and that no other country could provide.

That harmony doesn’t flow just from military power. The far smaller expenditures for diplomacy, foreign aid and democracy promotion serve U.S. interests as well as values. Cutbacks in those accounts are easy and self-defeating.

Is that the kind of statement to be expected from a liberal newspaper?  From the New York Times, never.  For the Washington Post, it’s not so unusual.

Second, government should ensure that no one goes hungry, homeless or uncared for when sick. …

Third, government should promote economic growth. …

Fourth, the country is better off if inequality is lessened; if all children, no matter the station of their birth, can aspire to wealth and greatness. …

Finally, there are elements of a healthy, humane society that only government can provide: …

And then there are the nice-to-haves. … But as a matter of politics and fairness, some of the nice-to-haves are going to have to take a hit: There are worthy things that government is no longer going to be able to do.

Read the complete editorial.  It represents the kind of thinking liberals must arrive at in order to support essential spending cuts in areas they favor.  It also provides an example of rational prioritization for reducing government spending.

Now, if conservatives can bring themselves to be as open-minded about tax increases, at least for the short term, perhaps we can save our nation’s economy.

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2 Responses to “Priorities for Cutting Government Spending”

  1. Dan Miller |

    Tom, I read the editorial and agree with parts of it. Other parts of it are simply too ambiguous to agree or disagree with. For example, the editorial states, “government should ensure that no one goes hungry, homeless or uncared for when sick.” Assuming, I think correctly, that it means within the United States, are there significant numbers of people involuntarily hungry, homeless or uncared for when sick? Rereading Judge Kessler’s February 26 ObamaCare decision, one finds that nobody can involuntarily “opt out” of medical care in the United States because

    in contrast to other markets for goods and services, if an individual is sick or injured, medical providers may not refuse basic medical services under federal law, regardless of the individual’s ability to pay. See Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act of 1986, 42 U.S.C. § 1395dd (requiring all hospitals participating in Medicare and offering emergency services to stabilize any patient who arrives, regardless of whether the patient has insurance). In addition to this federal requirement, most hospitals “have some obligation to provide care for free or for a minimal charge to members of their community who could not afford it otherwise” and “[f]or-profit hospitals also provide such charity or reduced-price care.”

    What level of care for the sick beyond this need be provided with government resources from tax revenues? Organ transplants? Fertility enhancements? Cancer treatments for those with terminal cancer? Prolonging briefly the lives of terminally ill old people?

    What about hunger? Some charitable groups have been prevented from feeding the hungry because they fail to meet standards established by governments for doing so with appropriately certified chefs in appropriately certified facilities (as distinguished from people cooking it in their own kitchens for delivery to the hungry). What types of food should be provided for the hungry? Cheap, basic and neither appetizing nor particularly nutritious? Junk food? The very best?

    Homeless people? Are there significant numbers of people who are homeless because there are no places for them to find shelter? How about those who could find shelter but don’t want to abide by the rules set by the providers? What sort of shelter? Minimal? Modest? Luxurious?

    As to all of these things and others noted in the editorial, how much is enough and at what point does long term dependence on them develop? We have seen long term welfare dependence develop to the point that there are more than a few people on welfare whose parents, grandparents and great grandparents were as well. It can happen and become a bottomless pit for people as well as for tax money.

  2. Tom Carter |

    Right on all points, Dan. There’s a lot of detail that’s not addressed in the editorial, but I don’t think that was their purpose. The significance of it, to me, is a recognition of the unavoidable necessity of cutting spending without the emphasis being on defense (although defense shouldn’t be immune). I also agree with the priorities as they listed them. And note the areas they’re specifically recognizing that must be cut — when was the last time a “liberal” paper said anything like that?

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