Spendthrift GOP? Blame Them - and the Media
by L. Brent Bozell III
November 26, 1997
Stephen Moore of the Cato Institute shouldn't expect too
many invitations to congressional receptions. Moore, one of those invaluable
wonks who devotes his life to actually burrowing through the hundreds of pages
of one the nation's least-read books - "Budget of the United States
Government" - has taken on the Republican Congress with an uncomfortable
statistic: "In their first three budgets (FY 96-98), the Republicans have
increased domestic spending by $183 billion compared to a $155 billion
increase in the three years prior to control of Congress."
House Appropriations Chairman Bob Livingston cried foul in a
letter to Republican colleagues, claiming Moore "makes selective use of
facts in order to support the premise that the Republican budget revolution
failed." But in response to that letter, Moore includes a long list of
backsliding GOP failures: Americorps spending up, public broadcasting up, fuel
assistance up, World Bank funding up, Legal Services Corporation up, EPA up,
Education Department up, Commerce Department up, even, despite hearings on
abuse of taxpayers, IRS spending, up.
There is no revolution, never has been. Livingston kept most
of his committee's Democratic staff, and his subcommittee chairmen never seem
to investigate wastrels like public broadcasting. They just increase their
budgets without any significant oversight. Livingston claimed there's only so
much Republicans can do with Clinton in the White House. "This is
absolutely untrue," Moore responded. "Domestic discretionary
spending is the one thing Bill Clinton has absolutely no control over. It is
Congress that has the power of the purse. This is, after all, the line that
Republicans made throughout the Reagan years when Democrats appropriated huge
increases in federal spending....it is not that Republicans cannot cut the
budget, it is that they will not."
The truth hurts, but unfortunately, the truth is hardly the
crucial issue in budget politics. Moore's vigilant calculations will hold sway
with conservative gearheads from coast to coast, but what about the majority
of Americans who speedily walk away from discussions of the differences
between authorizations and expenditures? The national media's budget storyline
doesn't fuss over the budget like accountants . Have you ever seen a newscast
announce the overall size of this year's federal budget versus last year's?
No. Instead, the budget is merely a canvas for impressionistic portraits of
the cruelty of conservative plans for spending "cuts" that never
seem to materialize. Some examples of the media's tub-thumping for spending
* After Congress passed a law limiting food stamp
eligibility for immigrants, CBS devoted an "Evening News" story to
the new imported GOP victims. Reporter Sharyl Attkisson focused her story on
Russian immigrant Moises Sapiro, who doesn't work and can't speak English and
relies on $15 a month of food stamps "to help him survive in
America." After a perfunctory GOP rebuttal, Attkisson visited a church
deacon who fretted over his ability to feed the expected onslaught of hungry
immigrants: "It's too soon to know how many will be looking for new help.
But food banks across the country run by charities are already strained...for
those who are seeing their grocery money slashed, there's a real anxiety about
where they'll get their next meal."
* CBS reporter Martha Teichner warned of the Hun invasion of
the National Endowment of the Arts: "What we've seen so far this year has
been the roughest bout yet in what has become an annual congressional blood
sport." (As opposed to body-piercing and blood-letting at the Walker Art
Gallery in Minneapolis, your tax dollars at work.) After noting
"conservative House Republicans" voted to defund the NEA, but the
Senate would "save" it, she noted "when the House and Senate
finally hammer out a compromise, conservatives will likely try to take another
whack at NEA funding."
This summer, Los Angeles Times reporter Melissa Healy strove
to inform readers that state-run workfare programs are completely inhumane.
Out of her 41-paragraph article, she allowed conservative Republicans merely
four paragraphs, with only one quote defending the program. Healy devoted the
remaining space to the complaints of workfare participants and welfare
statists that workfare is "slavery" or "indentured
servitude." The solution, suggested Healy? Paying minimum wage to
workfare recipients isn't enough - let's get them unionized and really bust
As long as there are conservatives in Washington even
half-heartedly threatening to brake the never-ending federal spending
juggernaut, the national media's parade of pathetic potential victims will
continue. Some in the Republican Party seem happy to go along with the
charade. And documenting the reality that follows - ever-increasing billions
of budget backsliding that make a joke of obsolescent "Republican
revolution" rhetoric - will continue to be the depressing,
underpublicized work of economists like Stephen Moore.
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