March 15, 1963
and Spending III
I was just going to press with my third report in this series -- a proposal for specific 1964 spending reductions -- when the House debated and voted on the 88th Congress' first big money bill. I'm deferring the report in order to say something which badly needs to be said: "Conservatives", if they could elect a President and majorities in Congress, would not spend less, but would in fact spend more.
I concede that these leaders would reduce spending in many federal activities, but based on their own statements, the net result would be more federal spending.
WHAT 'CONSERVATIVES' ARE WE TALKING ABOUT?
In making this blunt statement I'm not talking about the irresponsible radicals who dominate the John Birch Society, people who would repeal the income tax and dismantle the federal government. I'm talking about patriotic, sincere, generally responsible Americans like Senators Byrd, Thurmond, Goldwater and Tower; Representatives like Les Arends (the No. 2 Republican in the House, mentioned below), Bruce Alger, Bob Wilson and Donald Bruce; men like former Agriculture Secretary Ezra Benson.
To be sure, these are strong-minded individuals who do not agree among themselves on everything. However, they all label themselves "conservative", and I think their speeches and writings reveal a general "consensus" about what is wrong with our government and the policies needed to correct it.
THE PROMISE OF 'FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY'
In recent weeks these men, and others, have made the welkin ring with discussions of "fiscal responsibility." It has been said that the 1964 budget should be vigorously slashed, and some of them have mentioned total cuts of $10 - 15 billion. These speeches hit a responsive note with taxpayers.
But when the time arrived for action -- not words --, when the first big money bill came to a vote March 13, most of the "fiscal conservatives" in the House of Representatives voted, not for cuts, but for more federal spending.
In the first big test a Kennedy spending bill asking for $15.4 billion was increased by "conservative" votes to $15.9 billion. I voted against the "add on" amendments.
The leader in the fight for these "add ons" was Rep. Arends of Illinois, who is also ranking Republican on the Armed Services Committee. He has started a running feud with Secretary McNamara on all sorts of weapons and systems he thinks we ought to add to our arsenal at a time when military spending is already up from $46.4 billion in 1959 to $55.1 billion proposed by President Kennedy for this year.
On this occasion Arends and his supporters demanded increases of nearly half a billion dollars in the 1964 Defense Department authorization bill. The big items in the increase are for more killer submarines ($104 million) and more RS-70 airplanes ($364 million) -- items the Defense Department says we don't need and it doesn't want. If we start construction of these additional projects, we have to finish the job -- with additional billions later on.
If this is "fiscal responsibility" or "conservatism", I'm using the wrong dictionary.
I should add that this is not a pure Republican-Democrat conflict; if it were, the increase would have been voted down. The fact is there were many Democrats as well as Republicans on the winning side. But the main driving force for this increase came from the men who regularly rank at the top of the famed "ACA Index," published by Americans for Constitutional Action -- probably the most ultra-conservative of the groups which regularly "rate" congressmen.
ACTION VERSUS WORDS
This curious turn of events prompts me to do a new appraisal of the federal budget in relation to the stated views of the "conservatives" who tell us they favor reductions in federal spending. My analysis appears below.
For purposes of this study, let's make two big
Now, at long last, the "real conservatives" will be in the saddle; we will have an uncompromising "conservative" President! He will hand-pick his cabinet, ignoring the Dewey-Eisenhower-Nixon-Rockefeller Republicans who might want another big-spending "me-too" administration. The House and Senate will be organized by "conservative" Republicans, who will choose a Speaker and majority leaders of proven "conservative" principles. When the leaders are chosen, ACA will report that every one of them rates 90% or better on its "index."
WORDS INTO ACTION -- A 'CONSERVATIVE' BUDGET FOR 1966
What could we reasonably expect to happen if all
this comes to pass? Well, first of all, I would be out of a job -- and
other, even more drastic, events would occur. But specifically, how
many billions would be cut from the budget? How big a tax reduction would
you get? Let's go back to the 10 categories of the federal budget covered
in my last report, let's analyze the public statements of these "fiscal
conservatives" and let's see how the budget for fiscal 1966 (the first
budget of the new Administration) might compare with the $98.8 billion
budget now before Congress.
Space (1964 budget: $4.2 billion)
The leaders under discussion are seriously concerned over potential Russian dominance in outer space. Since they don't have to make up a budget, they talk sometimes of cutting back Space expenditures. However, it's significant that when the votes were counted last year, the $11.6 billion bill including the Space budget passed the House 369-12 and the Senate 65-5. Regardless of who is in power, the people of the United States won't permit us to come up "second best" to the Soviet Union in space,
THE 'CONSERVATIVE' BUDGET IN SUMMARY
Let's see how the 1966 "conservative" budget works
out, if my analysis is correct:
AN EYE-OPENING RESULT
"Conservatives" now have the luxury of being out of power. When they talk generally, they're for economy. When they talk specifically, they're for spending more. And no one bothers to add up the specifics. 'Me specifics, in this instance, seem to add up to $2.5 billion more than the "extravagant" Kennedy budget of $98.8 billion for fiscal 1964.
If my balance sheet on the so-called "conservative" position is correct, the result is an eye-opener: so-called "conservatives" are potentially the biggest spenders of all! I suggest that the next time a self-labeled "conservative" tells you how much he would cut spending, you ask him for two things: 1) a specific, detailed list of programs he would cut, and 2) a list of the new National Security programs he would add.
Washington newspapermen and close observers of the Congress are aware of the blunt facts I have recited here, but I think too many citizens have been misled. David Brinkley, the noted television newsman, spoke the truth when he told a Tucson audience recently: "It is simply a myth to believe that if we could only elect a conservative President, he could cut government spending substantially."
This is an unpleasant fact, but it is a fact just the same. As the respected business publication, the Kiplinger Washington Letter, noted this week, "Republican talk of cutting the budget 10 to 15 billions is bunk, and they know it. . . . "
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