Budget Deal Reveals GOP's True Priorities: It's Not the Economy

What's sickening about Republican rhetoric is that although they love to blame President Obama for the mounting national debt, about one-quarter of it is due to George Bush's policies
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Details of last week's budget deal between GOPs in the House and the Capitulator-in-Chief, released Tuesday, confirm what intelligent and honest observers suspected during the debate:

This isn't about helping the economy, it's about enacting Republican political priorities, and it doesn't even make fiscal sense.

All the cuts I've detailed below are from programs that spend a little now so we don't have to pay a lot later. It should come as no surprise that many of them just happen to serve the poor, traditionally not a Republican constituency, while the party fights for tax cuts for the extremely rich.

Let's take a closer look at some of these cuts. You can view the details here.

$41 million from the Animal Plant and Health Inspection Service. These are the people who eradicate invasive pests and diseases from our agricultural products, which are a $50 billion-a-year-industry. If any disaster strikes as a result of this haircut (about 7.6% of APHIS's budget), it'll cost a lot more than $41 million to fix it and make up for the lost revenue.

$24 million from the rental assistance program, which prevents homelessness, which generates demand for additional government services, which cost money. This fits perfectly with Republican priorities, actually, since while poor people generally vote Democratic, homeless people don't vote.

$34 million from the renewable energy program. Economists agree that doing something about climate change will be way cheaper than not doing anything about it. We are already seeing the effects of global warming in the US. If the GOP thinks renewable energy is expensive, wait 'til it has to build a wall around Manhattan and relocate 10 million people from the Sun Belt because there isn't enough water.

$504 million from WIC, which provides nutritional aid to poor children under the age of 5. This is both revolting and stupid. Revolting because the tax cuts extended in December to those earning more than $200,000 will cost the government around $375 million. So in a stunning reverse-Robin Hood maneuver, we're effectively taking from the poor to give to the rich. Stupid because early childhood is the most important period in a person's life in terms of building potential. The neuronal connections being made in the brain during these years require significant nutritional support, and if they don't happen then they won't happen ever. (This is why people raised speaking one language have trouble making sounds in some other languages.) The less intelligent these poor children grow up as a result of the poor nutrition that stems from their poverty, the less they'll earn as adults and the less taxes they'll pay. Decades of studies show that spending on children is the best ROI you can find anywhere.

$231 million from the Fund for the Improvement of Education. Another relatively cheap investment in the nation's future: Wouldn't improving education create jobs and lead to more revenue for the government?

$250 million from youth literacy programs. Ditto.

$16 million from distance learning, telemedicine and rural broadband program. Extending health and entrepreneurial and educational opportunities to rural areas has obvious payoffs in the long-term.

$119 million from wetlands preservation. Remember Hurricane Katrina? The ocean swallowed a city in 2005, to a great extent because Louisiana wetlands, which absorb storm surges, had been ravaged over the past half-century (mainly to the benefit of the oil and gas industry, as it happens). 1,464 people died, and damage was in the billions.

$41 million from the fruit and vegetable program. Cheaper healthy foods means people eat more of it, meaning less obesity, meaning less health care costs borne by the government. Duh.

$9 million from Economic Development Assistance Programs. Wait: don't Republicans like economic development? Oh, right -- only for people who already have money. Sorry.

$32 million from the National Institutes of Science and Technology. Because we certainly don't want any science or technology in our future -- we might end up like Europe, where the phones work!

$148 million from juvenile justice programs, which intervene with troubled youth before they become hardened criminals. I'm sure it'll be much cheaper to lock these people up as adults.

$579 million from the Army Corps of Engineers. You know who also cut the budget of the Corps of Engineers? G. W. Bush. You know when? Right before Hurricane Katrina. That went really well.

$438 million from energy efficiency and renewable energy. This is really where the rubber hits the road in terms of revealing how full of shit the Republicans are. They say they want a budget that creates jobs, but slashing almost half a billion here proves otherwise. Here's why:
Energy efficiency means cheaper energy, which means people have more disposable income to spend elsewhere in the economy. Experts are already worried about what $4 gas will do to the economy; reducing the cost of electricity and gas frees up money to be spent elsewhere, creating jobs.

$834 million from environmental clean-up and and nuclear waste disposal. Because leaving dangerous chemicals and radioactive byproducts lying around couldn't possibly come back to bite us in the ass.

$92 million from the Small Business Administration. Don't we hear Republicans say every five minutes that small business creates two-thirds of all new jobs? This doesn't even make sense on the Republicans' own terms.

Another $175 from science and technology. See above.

$997 million from ensuring clean drinking water. I don't think a cholera outbreak would be very good for the investment environment, do you?

$49 million from efforts on climate change. See above.

$5.876 billion from Labor and Health and Human Services. Laborers and sick people don't need our help, especially not during a recession.

$379 million from the State Dept's economic support fund. This props up damaged economies in dangerous places. Since terrorism mostly originates from abysmally poor countries like Afghanistan, Somalia and Yemen, I think keeping them and other such places from the brink is probably not a bad investment.

$140 million from international clean tech and climate programs. I covered this point above.

$50 million from the energy innovation fund. It's not like every president since Nixon has spoken of the need to develop more and different forms of energy at home, or that the world's second-largest economy is kicking our butts in this area.

$605 million from public housing. People in public housing vote Democratic anyway (when the bus isn't late on Election Day, that is).

$4.3 billion from highways and airports. Another cut that reveals the GOP doesn't even know how to follow its own priorities, this is economic idiocy. The U.S. already has the worst infrastructure in the developed world. Poor infrastructure amounts to a cost to both producers and consumers and as such is a drag on economic activity. It's effectively a tax. Worse, because you can't put off infrastructure upgrades forever -- we are going to need to spend on highways and airports (as well as bridges and ports and the rest) eventually -- it's also a debt. And like a debt, the longer you wait to pay it off, the more expensive it becomes. So not spending this money now means we'll need to spend it and a lot more later.

$20 million from lead hazard reduction. Like the cut to WIC, this is both nasty and stupid. Lead primarily affects poor people, so it's nasty. Stupid because lead exposure makes you stupid, and stupid people earn less and therefore pay less taxes. So the less lead in the environment now, the more money in government coffers later.

Look, I'm not sanguine about the state of the budget or the national debt. But as I've shown previously, it's possible to balance the budget without doing it on the backs of the poor, and even the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff says we spend too much on defense. And while Republicans in Washington are suddenly religious about cutting spending, Wall St. still believes in Keynesianism.

What's especially sickening about Republican rhetoric is that although they love to blame Obama for the mounting national debt, about one-quarter of it is due to Bush's policies. Obama's share? Less than five percent, and much of that was stimulus spending to clean up the mess of his predecessor.

So along with stupid and cruel, you can add dishonest to the list of the GOPs least endearing traits.

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