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January 30, 2004


Cecil Turner

This year's budget is $2.294 trillion. If you add 1.5 billion in marriage counseling, and double the NEA's 122.5 million total budget, it almost gets up to $2.296 trillion. Those programs are insignificant.

Social programs are 1.2 trillion this year alone, and increasing faster than GDP growth by every projection. The only chance at managing the deficit is through economic growth and social security reform.

Politicians' fear of the "third rail" has stymied any rational discussion of the issue for decades. The carping about a couple billion dollars here and there, while ignoring the real problem, is silly.


I'll agree that the NEA budget especially is symbolic, but symbols do matter. If a Republican Administration working with a Republican Congress in a period of deficts can not cut these programs, who can?

That said, my new NEA theory is that the proposed increase is a stalking goat, designed to create heroes later when the NEA budget is SLASHED back to roughly where it is now.

Cecil Turner


Concur that symbols matter. But it's important to recognize the $18 million increase in NEA budget has no impact on the bottom line out to 5 significant figures. And the newly popular pastime of pulling a random piece of the budget out for microscopic scrutiny obscures the larger picture.

There's a similar argument to be made on things like the Mars proposal. The $120 billion, ten-year price tag represents less than 1% of social spending. If it has a significant positive effect on the "brain drain," generates 1% improved economic efficiency in spinoffs, or even inspires a significant number of schoolkids, it's worth it.

Neglecting interest payments, social programs represent 58% of this year's budget. In ten years that proportion rises to 65%. Personally, I'd like to see the NEA zeroed out. But the fact is, anyone who holds up .005% of the budget as an indicator, but is too gutless to look at ways to control the 50+% that's spiraling out of control, isn't being serious . . . or honest.

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