Republicans in Congress talk big about cutting spending. They rail against the ridiculous pork that they’re going to cut from the budget. But when it’s time to put their words into action, these budget hawks become gentle as doves. The spending never stops.
It happened again Tuesday. Republicans in the U.S. Senate had a chance to show they were serious about cutting spending — in at least a small way. Tad DeHaven of the Cato Institute points out that 32 Republican senators voted against cutting $1 billion in rural development subsidies. (If you’re in the United States, check here to see how your senators voted. Both of the chicken hawks from my state voted against the cuts.)
So if Republicans won’t even cut some money out of the budget that includes the National Sheep Industry Improvement Center, what cuts are they willing to make? It’s time to be painfully blunt. Republicans are only willing to cut things that don’t touch most of their constituents. Democrats are only willing to cut things that don’t touch most of their constituents. In other words, everybody is interested in keeping interest groups happy. Hardly anybody really cares about fixing the budget and the debt.
(If you’d like to know what those rural development subsides are used for, Cato had a great paper a couple of years ago that explains it nicely.)
This is another of the reasons that I don’t expect any Congress and any president to ever cut spending in a meaningful way. In fact, when politicians talk about cutting spending, what they really mean is cutting the rate at which spending is growing. (Most people don’t realize it, but if spending were held constant for a federal program, that’s considered a cut, which is insane.)
When it’s time to run for re-election, these Republican senators are going to tell their conservative voters that they’ve spent the previous six years fighting to reduce government spending. They’re doing to tell other people (those in the more rural parts of their states) that they fought to protect their interests in Congress. Almost nobody is going to notice the contradiction. Almost all the voters will vote to re-elect these hypocrites.
As long as voters keep rewarding politicians for acting this way, they’re going to go right on acting this way. So whose fault is it that spending isn’t reduced? Is it the politicians or the people who put them there?