‘Naked, petty politics’ as usual

There’s really not a whole lot I can add to what two conservative kingpins have had to say about the decisions our government has made regarding sequestration cuts, but it’s also my job to make readers aware of them.

I wanted to begin with a quote from Maryland pro-liberty standardbearer Dan Bongino, who said in a release regarding the closing of the White House to public tours:

The President is a guest in the White House, the people of the United States are the Homeowners. Closing the White House to public tours, despite the negligible impact on the budgets of the U.S. Secret Service and the EOP (Executive Office of the President) is clearly a petty, naked gesture of pure politics rather than sound budgeting.

The White House closure reflects a continuing pattern with this administration of placing petty politics over public good. Inviting a group of multi-millionaire celebrities, and Obama campaign donors, to the White House to celebrate a family birthday, while at the same time closing the doors to America’s schoolchildren is a disgrace. During my tenure as a Secret Service agent securing the White House grounds, it was an immeasurable honor to see the excited faces of schoolchildren from all across the country as they witnessed the majesty of our White House for the first time, an experience sidelined for the sake of ‘Downtown (sic) Abbey’ political insiders and multi-millionaire celebrities.

I’m sure spellcheck nailed him on that last sentence, but the point remains.

I thought this was a nice quote from Dan, but it didn’t seem like enough to carry a post well – that is until I read Byron York’s piece on Townhall.com and knew I had the required yang to the yin. The money passage is as follows:

All those Obama administration officials complaining about across-the-board cuts dictated by sequestration could come up with plans to make the same amount of cuts in ways that would create fewer problems for federal workers and services. Then they could ask Congress for permission to do so. Lawmakers would say yes, and things would be fine.

But it’s not happening. And the fault is not with Congress.

In recent weeks, House Republicans have been virtually begging administration officials to ask for permission to move money around. If one program could be more easily cut than others, those Republicans say, just ask us, and we’ll let you do it.

“We sent out on Feb. 28 a letter to every Cabinet officer asking them what changes they’d like to have — pluses, subtractions and so on — to give them an opportunity to show us at least one program they would like to have cut, which would then save on sequestration,” Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said in an interview recently. “We did not receive a single answer.”

It all became clear with that revelation. If you really want to address the spending problem, you go to Congress  and say, “look, we hate to do this, but we think we can do with less and here’s how.” But if you want to play ‘naked, petty politics’ you come in with the attitude that we are going to make the cuts as painful and public as possible. No White House tours for you!

This reminded me of my Ohio days. In the Buckeye state, school districts aren’t generally countywide but normally serve a municipality, township, or group of townships – the school district I graduated from was once five smaller township-based districts which merged in the mid-1960s into one of the geographically larger districts in the state. They also have taxing authority, and money not supplied by the state or federal government comes in the form of a property tax levy, which normally has to be renewed or replaced with one at a higher rate at regular intervals of three to five years. The same is true for income tax levies, which some districts (including my home district, which has both income and property tax levies) have resorted to.

If a levy failed, which it often did, the scare tactics would begin with the second or third attempt to pass. Never did they say that they would cut administrators; instead the ominously promised cuts began with non-required bus service – not that it affected many children in our far-flung school district – then progressed to teacher layoffs, and if those didn’t work athletics were placed on the chopping block. Usually that was enough blackmail to get a levy to pass.

I’ll grant this is an imperfect and somewhat anecdotal example, but the prevailing attitude of government is rarely one of learning to do with less. With the prospect of budget cuts, agencies and departments think more about preserving turf than being public servants and stewards of taxpayer money. In this case of the federal government, we are talking about a budgetary rounding error of less than 2 percent of spending; insofar as state government goes, our governor disingenuously brags about making “cuts” on every budget yet spending somehow increases each and every year.

With all the caterwauling about a 1.5% federal budget cut in the news lately, you would think that Warren Harding had returned from the grave! But if we cut the present federal budget proportionally to what Harding did over the two years he was President before his death (granted, we were coming out of World War I so the military absorbed a significant share of these cuts) we would balance the budget without raising taxes; in fact, we could return to the Bush tax rates and still be in surplus. I think we could even get the White House tours back.

Of course, I’m certainly aware that we now have an entitlement system which was still in the dreams of progressives when Harding and his successor, Calvin Coolidge, were in office during the Roaring Twenties. That’s not only created a huge obstacle to necessary budget cuts but also given birth to an entitlement mentality among many millions – you would think they were bureaucrats who are owed a living.

But the road to sanity has to begin someplace, and the sooner we embark onto it the less painful it will be in the end.

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