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Let’s Get Specific on Spending Cuts

Riddle: When is profligate government spending not a crime against the American public?

Answer: When it’s done in a GOP freshman’s district.

Ron Nixon of The New York Times catches some alleged spending-hawks in a fine bit of hypocrisy, trying to funnel money to projects in their district, even as they decry wasteful government:

They have pushed for dozens of projects in their districts, including military programs opposed by the president, replenishing beach sand lost to erosion, a $700 million bridge in Minnesota and a harbor dredging project in Charleston, S.C. Some of their projects were once earmarks, political shorthand for pet projects penciled into spending bills, which Republicans banned when they took over the House.

An examination of spending bills, news releases and communications with federal agencies obtained under the Freedom of Information Act shows that nearly two dozen freshmen have sought money for projects that could ultimately cost billions of dollars, while calling for less spending and banning pork projects.

It’s tempting to use this example to rail against the hypocrisy of the politicians involved, and please, go ahead. But I think there’s actually an important point buried in here: if you want to cut spending, you need to be against it in the specific, rather than just the aggregate.

Lots of folks want to cut spending, and when it’s pointed out that this would be painful, they retort that there’s plenty of money for debt service, military payrolls, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, and that therefore, people like me are just scaremongering about the consequences of refusal to raise the ceiling.

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