We Need To Make Cuts, But Not MY Stuff …

Whether it’s NPR, education for the deaf, public libraries, high-school hockey, whatever. The formula is the same.

The column below absolutely nails it. Every special interest group agrees that cuts need to be made, but just not to their project. You see, their project/interest/pet concern is special, different, and more important than the others.

And public pleas for their project to be spared invariably use the same formula.

Michael Kinsley: You can’t cut that:
Whether it’s an op-ed piece, a speech or an open letter to the president, there are certain familiar elements to the budget season’s special pleadings.
Zinni’s article [on why it’s absolutely necessary to keep government funding of the U.S. Institute of Peace] is a good example of a genre of literature we’ll be seeing a lot of as the president and Congress grapple with the federal deficit (and each other): the special pleading. Whether it takes the form of an op-ed piece, a speech, a press release or an open letter to the president, there are certain familiar elements. Among them:

1. Expression of general support for deficit reduction. Reference to easy answers (there are none). Reference to burden (all must share).

2. Reference to babies and bathwater. Former should not be discarded with latter.

3. This program/agency/tax break is different. A bargain for the taxpayers. Pays for itself many times over. To eliminate or cut would be bad for children/our troops.

4. Cost is small (a) as percentage of total budget; (b) compared with budget of Pentagon; (c) compared with projected cost of healthcare.

5. Optional comparisons to cost of just one jet fighter or 3.7 minutes of war on terror.

6. Names of famous people who support this program or tax cut, especially Colin Powell. Other good names: Madeleine Albright, Natalie Portman, George H.W. Bush (not W), Warren Buffett.

7. This is not about fair, responsible, across-the-board budget cutting. This is about the other side irresponsibly pursuing its ideological agenda, penalizing programs it doesn’t like.

This last complaint, usually heard from Democrats about the budget that has passed the Republican-controlled House, is an odd one. If you’re looking for places to save money, why wouldn’t you concentrate on programs you don’t approve of? Equal across-the-board cuts, of good programs and bad programs alike, are the opposite of responsible budgeting.

  • DragonFlyEye

    A couple things about this: one, you and your linked-to comment are 100% spot-on. I've been looking at poll after poll that says Americans are also OK with cutting teacher benefits, state worker benefits, laying off state workers…. because they're not state workers. People are for anything, anything, anything other than what is required, which is to either accept that you can't afford things or else pay for them.

    But on the issue of special interests: that's a buzzword and we're all special interests on some level. Moreover, its unreasonable to think that organizations dedicated to fighting for Cause X would suddenly decide that they're only reason for existence isn't that important. Advocates will fight for every last inch, which is precisely what aught to happen in a democracy or a market-based economy. Otherwise, what's left but the Wesley Mouches of the world?

  • Ike

    So… when exactly did Michael Kinsley suddenly start agreeing with me?