Wednesday, September 28, 2005

How do we pay for Katrina?

The final cost of Hurricane Katrina has yet to be tallied, but so far Congress has approved over 62 billion dollars to be spent in helping deal with the event and its aftermath. This cost on top of an ongoing war in Iraq and during a time of budget deficits leads many to wonder who's going to pay for it and how. Fortunately, the Republican Study Committee, a group of about 100 Republican congressmen and women has a plan. They call it Operation Offset, and you can read about it here (Word document). Go ahead and give it a glance.

I'll summarize some of the salient points for you here. The RSC has decided that leveling spending on or cutting funding to these programs are the way to help the federal government pay for Katrina:
  • Medicaid
  • Subsidized loans for graduate students
  • UN peacekeeping operations
  • Funding to the Global AIDS Initiative
  • The Peace Corps
  • National Science Foundation's Math and Science Program
  • NASA's moon and Mars initiatives
  • State and community grants to reduce energy consumption
  • The Energy Star program
  • The Minority Business Development Agency
The list goes on from here. Some of the programs mentioned will only have spending leveled; others will have funding cut. Some will be eliminated altogether. It also proposes to get rid of the Presidential Election Campaign fund, which many Presidential candidates - not just Democrats and Republicans - use to get the funding they need to hold their own primaries and get their messages out. The National Endowment for the Humanities would be eliminated outright; the National Endowment for the Arts would have all federal funding removed. The Hydrogen Fuel Initiative would be axed as well. Piously, these congresspeople also recommended that they delay (not eliminate) their automatic pay increases for a short period.

Bold cuts. And not one cut would be made for the war in Iraq, which has already cost the nation close to $200 billion and which does not appear to be going away any time soon. This despite a recent poll by NBC and the Wall Street Journal showing that 45 percent of Americans think funding for the Iraq war should be cut to pay for Katrina; 27 percent want to repeal the tax cuts that President Bush fought hard for early in his presidency. In essence, these fine congresspeople are suggesting that we should cut education, health benefits for the elderly, and measures to reduce the toll we take on our environment rather than halt a destructive and controversial war on the other side of the ocean.

It might be worth mentioning that this document is merely a collection of proposals and is not yet a bill in Congress. Still, we would do well to be wary of any such proposals. Operation Offset's supporters like to tout the plan as a series of measures to cut federal pork barrel spending, but it is much, much more than that.

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