April 12, 1963
and Spending IV
The big new indoor game on the banks of the Potomac this season is "budget-cutting". Any number can play. Contestants come in various species. Best known are the "lump sum" players whom I criticized in the last report for refusing to designate specific cuts while they fill the air with phrases like "fiscal responsibility" and "trimming unnecessary fat" and "10 to 15 billion dollars can easily be cut". They talk a mighty good game. But at times like this we have a committee chairman who generally responds, "OK, now give us some 'fer instances"."
This is the rub, for "fer instances" don't come easy. One might think that the role of the budget cutter would be politically popular back home, if not in Washington. Sadly, I must report this is not the case. In my last campaign, I was roundly condemned and effectively opposed by World War I veterans who resented my refusal to support a new pension. When I voted to hold the line on appropriations for medical research, I heard roundabout that a powerful congressman had marked some Arizona projects for further scrutiny. When I introduced a bill last year to phase-out farm price supports, I quickly heard from many alarmed friends and constituents.
The road to a reduced federal budget is rocky, steep and painful. There is no easy meat-axe approach if we are going to be both "fiscal" and "responsible". The savings which can be achieved come only from detailed, painstaking analysis of thousands of authorized expenditures, evaluating each item against the job that has to be done to keep our nation strong, both militarily and economically. Anyone who talks of budget-cutting without making such an analysis is like a surgeon who operates without examining the patient.
WHY CUT THE BUDGET?
Budget-cutting is a popular tribal ritual in any year, but it goes in cycles too. The last time we observed anything like the current wave of alarm over "big spending" was in the second Eisenhower term, starting in 1957. In what history will surely record as one of the strangest performances of any Administration, we saw Secretary of the Treasury Humphrey attack President Eisenhower's own budget on the day it was presented to Congress -- and President Eisenhower agreed with him! Subsequently, asked why he didn't support his own budget recommendations, the President insisted he stood behind every one. Asked if he disagreed with his Secretary of the Treasury, he said, no, he agreed with him too. It was a great year.
Out of that episode came some budget reductions, not all of them responsible, and Secretary Humphrey was able to take credit for "saving" the taxpayers money. The next year our economy went into its most serious post-war recession. Democrats claimed a cause-and-effect relationship, though they couldn't precisely prove it.
Thus, there is nothing new or startling about the current concern for budget reduction. This time, however, I hope to see more use of the scalpel, and less of the meat-axe, for our economy can't afford another setback. Unemployment is already our most serious domestic problem.
Nevertheless, I believe federal spending should
be cut -- not out of obedience to a tribal ritual -- but because:
For some reason we are not keeping pace with our population growth; we are not creating jobs for new workers coming of age. A tax cut could stimulate our economy, create more demand for goods, and make more jobs. For such a purpose as this I believe some reduction of our federal budget is warranted, and the difficult task should be undertaken.
I now propose to give my list of "fer instances", and I predict prompt and vigorous criticism both here and in Arizona -- for "fer instances" tread on sensitive toes.
SPENDING CUTS LISTED
If I had the power, I would make these reductions
in the 1964 federal budget:
ADDITIONS TO THE BUDGET
In fairness to the reader, however, I must state
that, had I the power, I would make some additions to the President's budget.
(This is the side of the story most "budget-cutters" never give you.) Following
are the additions I would make:
'UDALL BUDGET' SUMMARY
Reviewing my list of cuts and additions, we find:
This compares with the budget of the "fiscal conservatives", outlined in my last newsletter, calling for a net increase of $2.5 billion.
COST OF NEW KENNEDY PROPOSALS
Many letters urge me to save "billions" by defeating all the President's new proposals. The truth is that, of the $98.8 billion in the 1964 budget, only 4/10 of 1% represents new programs like the Youth Conservation Corps, aid for medical training or urban mass transportation. The great increases in spending come from the additional cost of existing programs.
The cold fact is that if every new Kennedy program (other examples are aid-to-education, hospital insurance for the aged, and maternal and child health services) were defeated, the 1964 budget would be decreased less that $400 million. I'm well aware that new programs soon become "old" ones, and that costs can rise in subsequent years. I'm for some new programs and against others, but I believe each is entitled to be judged on its own merits and importance, not cast off just because it is "new".
THE OUTLOOK FOR SPENDING CUTS
Usually, Congress increases, rather than decreases, amounts budgeted by a President. Thus, one can't look at history and be very optimistic about large cuts this year. I have one vote and will do what I can, but 534 other members of Congress have their own ideas too. And here we encounter one of the great dilemmas of democracy.
A conscientious legislator should look to the welfare of the country first and his Congressional District second. But this kind of statesmanship is rarely achieved by those who must seek reelection every two years. Unfortunately, there is an increasing tendency for the candidate to advertise that he can "do more for Massachusetts", etc. The people of a democracy generally get no better government than their own attitudes deserve. We need more mature citizens who will respect, and not penalize, the conscientious representative who refuses to seek unwarranted favors or expenditures for his state.
An illustration of the conflicting forces working on congressmen is a set of memorials received in my office this spring from the Arizona Legislature. Whereas House Memorial No. 2 urges economy to guarantee "economic freedom" for our citizens, House Memorial No. 4 calls upon Congress to establish a new National Cemetery for Arizona at unspecified cost. Pressures for more spending are powerful and pervasive -- and many of them come from groups who talk the most about economy!
Arizonans favor more for reclamation and less for urban renewal and mass transportation, while New Yorkers reverse these priorities. Military contractors would increase Defense Spending and cut farm price supports. I ask more for Fort Huachuca and less for Fort Monmouth. One can always find dire consequences to national security if a local air base or a subsidy for a local industry is to be terminated. The net result is that dozens of groups and sectional pressures are usually far more powerful than the general citizenry of the nation as a whole.
Of course, this is not a new story; it is as old
as the republic. William Jennings Bryan used to illustrate this basic political
paradox with an anecdote:
I hope I'm wrong, but this parable seems still valid in 1963.
Congressman's Report Main Page