Surplus is down because spending is up

My turn

Posted: Thursday, July 19, 2001

Why is the government's surplus not as large as originally forecast?

Democrats say it's because of President Bush's "obscenely large" (actually paltry) tax cut and his commitment to a missile defense system. Republicans say it's because Democrats spend too much.

The Republicans are right about spending but wrong in accusing the Democrats of being the only guilty party. Republicans know how to spend as well as Democrats. Their problem is hypocrisy because the GOP is supposed to be the party of fiscal restraint and smaller government.

Examples are numerous, but perhaps the most ludicrous of all is an expenditure unearthed by the CATO Institute. The Fair Taxes for All Coalition, which has opposed the administration's tax cut, has received $618 million in taxpayer money to help with its campaign. What is more preposterous than subsidizing an advocacy group that opposes giving taxpayers their money back?

Do you like paying $150 million to have professional athletes mentor our youth? Rep. Tom Osborne (R-Neb.) sponsored the funding amendment to the education bill for the program. It's apparently patterned after TeamMates, a Nebraska mentoring program Osborne founded using $1 million in tax money. Columnist Debbie Schlussel writes on that Osborne, who once coached the University of Nebraska football team, used players to mentor at-risk youth. Trouble is, notes Schlussel, Osborne "allowed criminal after criminal to play on his team - rarely disciplining them and constantly coming to their defense - in his win-at-all-costs mentality." Osborne's players included sex offenders, women batterers and other assorted thugs. Should our tax money pay for another such program?

From the outrageous to the ridiculous: Two years ago, $14,000 of our money went to convert a charcoal grill to natural gas at the U.S. Air Force Academy. Did it not occur to anyone that a few hundred bucks would have bought a gas grill at the local hardware store? Another $40,000 was designated to move a bathroom wall in the Commandant of Cadets residence so an adjoining bedroom interior could be widened by one foot. The money came from an account that's supposed to support troop readiness, according to the Air Force Auditing Agency.

We're spending $150 million to relieve apple growers who reported loss of markets for their 2000 crop. Another $5 million went to the Lincoln Library in Illinois, as did $2 million for something called the Vulcan Monument. According to Citizens Against Government Waste, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) tried to kill funding for the Vulcan Monument but got only 10 votes. Members of Congress love their pork and are equal opportunity spending pigs.

As space allows (and I'd need the entire paper for all of them), here are some more spending proposals for 2002: $5,773,000 for wood utilization research; $1 million for Satsuma orange research; $499,000 for swine waste management research; $198,000 for tropical aquaculture.

The sugar industry receives billions of dollars more in price supports than its sugar is worth, according to the General Accounting Office. ...

Stuff like this continues because lobbyists grease the palms of politicians with contributions.

Stories of lost money at the Department of Education have been widely reported. At the Labor Department, the Employment and Training Administration (ETA) had been receiving, as recently as two years ago, about $9 billion a year, more than three-fourths of total discretionary Labor Department funds. But when asked to account for the ETA grants, the agency said the information was not available in a "single volume" or "in detail." In addition, the Department said producing the data on a fiscal year basis was too time consuming, cumbersome and difficult.

Government never believes it spends too much, only that the workers are taxed too little and that taxpayers are greedy if they want some of their money back. With such irresponsible spending, taxpayers should keep more of their money and government should get less.

(C) 2001 Tribune Media Services.

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