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House Republicans Eating America’s Seed Corn

By Matthew Yglesias on February 10, 2011 at 9:28 am

"House Republicans Eating America’s Seed Corn"

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Here’s an excellent lead from Lori Montgomery and Shailagh Murray, detailing House Republicans’ FY 2011 appropriations vision:

House Republicans sketched their vision for a smaller federal government Wednesday, proposing sharp spending cuts that would wipe out family planning programs, take 4,500 cops off the street and slice 10 percent from a food program that aids pregnant women and their babies.

If it’s been said once, it’s been said a million times, a social conservative is someone who believes life begins at conception and ends at birth. But let’s talk about crime.

Is putting cops on the street an example of public sector waste? Not according to libertarian economist Alex Tabarrok whose research shows that morepolice means less crime. Here’s a “>good article in The Weekly Standard about how “federal budget dollars to pay for more cops on high-crime city streets” is an “uncommonly good spending idea.” Megan McArdle was writing back in 2007 about how cutting the ranks of police officers will lead to higher crime.

Back to malnourished children. Earlier in the month I was having a bit of a dispute with Ross Douthat about whether it’s a good idea to be focused on the budget deficit in 2011 when the 2011 budget deficit isn’t actually the source of any economic problems. These kind of ideas are exactly what I’m worried about. There is a real deficit problem in 2015 and a bigger problem in 2020 and in 2025. Cutting spending on child nutrition, prenatal health, and police officers in 2011 and 2012 doesn’t reduce the 2020 budget deficit. What it does is reduce the quantity and productivity of the workforce that will be available to meet our financial obligations to the retirees of the future.

Here’s a very strange boast:

Make no mistake, these cuts are not low-hanging fruit,” Representative Hal Rogers, Republican of Kentucky and chairman of the Appropriations Committee, said. “These cuts are real and will impact every district across the country — including my own.”

What on earth is wrong with this guy? Any year is a great year in which to cut low-hanging fruit. By why cut the non-low hanging portion of the budget? There could be good reasons. Maybe we need to sacrifice in order to build more tanks to beat the Nazis. But that’s not happening. Or maybe high interest rates are crowding out private sector investment. But that’s not happening. Or maybe monetary actions necessary to keep interest rates low are leading to ruinous inflation. But that’s not happening either. So why make program cuts that have real negative impact in every district across the country? Shooting ourselves in the foot in 2011 doesn’t make it easier to afford Medicare in 2020, it means we’ll have more injured feet.

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