What Cuts?

I’ve spend the last thirty years listening to conservative Republicans talking about the need to cut government spending. That’s been a pretty consistent component of conservative ideology at least since Reagan. But the odd thing is that in all of those thirty years I’ve not heard any specifics. I take that back, I have heard a few specifics. During one of the presidential debates, when questioned about specific government cuts he proposed or supported, Mitt Romney mentioned cutting government funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting: i.e. Big Bird. That’s it. Thirty years of talking about it and conservatives generally only specifically mention CPB.

There are a couple of reasons for this. The first is that most government programs have constituencies, and promoting specific cuts ends up creating specific enemies, and specific attack ads during a campaign. So if you suggest that, for example, food stamps should be cut, you risk having those cuts thrown in your face in a political attack ad.

The second reason is that mentioning specific cuts creates identifiable bench marks. If you say, for example, that we should cut subsidies to oil companies, and then those subsidies are never cut, you risk having that thrown in  your face as an example of your failure to live up to your promises.

The third reason, however, is probably the most important. If you describe government as this huge entity that needs to be cut you can always rally against “big government.” But if you break it down into specifics it reminds people that many of those government programs are actually beneficial, and then it becomes difficult to make specific cuts. (See point one.) It also allows opponents of the cuts (also known as supporters of the programs) to the describe the benefits of the programs. So mentioning specific cuts erodes their ability to complain about “big government” and “all that spending.”

But after thirty years it is high time that conservatives provide some specifics. It shouldn’t be too hard to do. Simply go through the various cabinet departments and list what you don’t like. Start at the beginning, The Department of Agriculture, and say what should be cut and should be kept. And work through to Treasury. Any politician who can’t do this probably doesn’t have a clear understanding of what the government does. So their protestations of “all the spending” is little more than a primal scream, and should not be taken very seriously.

Author: Mike

I am a patent attorney in Lexington, Kentucky. My law firm web site is http://www.coblenzlaw.com. I ran for State Representative in 2010 and lost in the primary. Many of these posts are based on writing that I did for that election. Rather than delete it all, I decided to dump it onto the internet.

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