Sunday, February 20, 2011

Budgets Are Moral Documents

Yes we hear that all the time. But what does it mean? It means, it’s the true reflection of your priorities. You can talk a good game all you want, but the proof is in the budget. How you spend your money speaks volumes about your character. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

So I wonder what it says about the Republicans and their new-found austerity that they are refusing to cut taxpayer funds to NASCAR? Minnesota Democrat Betty McCollum proposed axing the $7 million the Defense Department spends on sponsoring a car, as well as the $45 million tax earmark that was part of the newly-extended Bush tax cuts. Her bill did not pass.

For the record, most reports I’ve read omitted the tax earmark info, and only mentioned the $7 million in actual car sponsorship. Turns out it’s actually more like $52 million that taxpayers spend on NASCAR. That’s still insignificant when compared to our budget and the budget deficit, but the GOP’s default position has been “we all have to make sacrifices” and, “you have to start somewhere,” yada yada. So rather than quibble over an approach which Gail Collins rightly likened to “planning to lose 50 pounds by reducing your intake of kale,” let’s concede that point, just for the sake of argument.

Let’s just look at some programs the Republicans have cut from the budget so we can give taxpayer money to NASCAR:
• Maternal & Child Health Block Grant -- $50 million
• High School Graduation Initiative -- $50 million
• Child Care Development Block Grant – $39 million
• Green Jobs Innovation Fund -- $40 million

None of this even compares to the billions of dollars in worthy programs the GOP has on the chopping block -- Pell Grants, home heating assistance, Head Start, help for the elderly, environmental protection, food safety, etc. Or, for that matter, the money for war and tax breaks for insanely profitable oil companies the Republicans have kept. We all know the Republicans are being penny wise and pound foolish with these budget proposals. That’s not what this post is about.

This post is about looking at one thing, and seeing it as a window on the Republican soul. Money for NASCAR, but not to retrain workers for green jobs. Money for NASCAR but not prenatal care for poor pregnant women. $50 million for NASCAR but not to improve graduation rates at our schools.

Republicans are the ones who said this about cutting funds for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting:

“We've got to keep our priorities straight," said Representative Ralph Regula, an Ohio Republican who is chairman of the appropriations panel that approved the cut. “You're going to choose between giving a little more money to handicapped children versus providing appropriations for public broadcasting."

And this about the cuts in general:

Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said in a statement:
Lawmakers "have weeded out excessive, unnecessary, and wasteful spending, making tough choices to prioritize programs based on their effectiveness and benefit to the American people. My committee has taken a thoughtful look at each and every one of the programs we intend to cut, and have made determinations based on this careful analysis."

I’m going to call bullshit on your sanctimonious ass and tell you that quite a few of the programs you're cutting are waaaay more beneficial to the American people than NASCAR. So no I don't need a lecture on priorities from a group of people whose only priority is rewarding their political friends.

Oh, and as to the argument that NASCAR sponsorship is a military recruiting tool, the New York Times had this to say today

the Navy and the Marines Corps have pulled out of the Nascar sponsorship business — precisely because they could not gauge the effectiveness of their campaigns on recruiting.

It’s almost funny to me that Republicans want to spend money on NASCAR, which is a dying sport. But it’s their dying sport, and by God they’re going to hang onto it with all they’ve got. Democrats want to spend money on prenatal care for poor pregnant women, job training, education, and the like. Republicans want to throw money at a dying sport which is the last refuge of their aging, dying base. That's worse than sad, it's pathetic.

So, these are the fiscal phonies you voted for, America (or rather, didn't vote for when you were too busy or disillusioned or not-paying-enough-attention or whatever the fuck reason you gave for not showing up to vote last November, which is how these idiots took charge of the House to begin with. Republicans didn't win, Democrats gave it away. But I digress.)

And here we have a perfect example of what is meant when people say budgets are moral documents. This is, indeed, a clear window onto the Republican soul. These are their priorities. This money isn't coming back when we're flush again: it's gone for good. This is the Republican Agenda, in black and white: cut aid to poor women and children, cut education and healthcare, cut consumer protections. Keep our fanboy projects and our wars and giveaways to outrageously wealthy corporations.

Budgets are moral documents. This one says it all.