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January 15, 2004


Congressional pork is one thing. It is genuinely good for the Congressman's district (though bad for the country as a whole) and we hire people to represent one district. But Bush is supposed to be President of the whole country.

Yeah, but Congressional pork is constituent-targeted pork, and so is this marriage proposal; Bush is just targeting a very narrow set of constituents. What really annoys me is that once the camel's nose gets under the tent on a pro-marriage subsidy, the program won't stop -- it'll be like frickin' ethanol subsidies, a third rail for both parties.

"(though bad for the country as a whole)"

Really? Always? Might some pork that is good for a particular district also be good for the country as a whole?

Spending could be good for a district and good for the whole country, sure, but then we don't generally call it "pork." It's a pejorative term.

A Congressmen helping his district is helping a relatively large % of his constituents, though a small % of the country. A President pushing a program like this targetting a very small % of his constitutents.

If I live in Mass., I expect that South Dakota Congressmen won't care so much about me, but I have my own Congressman. But if President Bush feels free to ignore, say, the states of Massachusetts, California, and New York because he doesn't need them to be re-elected and that's the overriding concern driving his spending decisions--well, there's only one President. I could be kind of screwed.

From the NYT article:

Under the president's proposal, federal money could be used for specific activities like advertising campaigns to publicize the value of marriage, instruction in marriage skills and mentoring programs that use married couples as role models.

Federal officials said they favored premarital education programs that focus on high school students; young adults interested in marriage; engaged couples; and unmarried couples at the moment of a child's birth, when the parents are thought to have the greatest commitment to each other.

I have no problem agreeing that such a proposal is a bad idea because it is neither a proper nor constitutional function of the federal government. But neither is spending federal tax dollars on “violence prevention programs,” AIDS awareness campaigns, Americorps, the President’s Council on Physical Fitness, the Office of the Surgeon General, or numerous other “promotional” and “awareness” programs.

I assume of course that the same people snickering at a proposal to promote marriage, would also favor the wholesale elimination of taxpayer support for these other programs as well.


It's the price tag that got my attention, and the fact that this is being proposed by a party that until recently was running on the issue of fiscal restraint. Forgive my ignorance, but are the programs you mentioned getting the same amount as the marriage business?

In addition, we are not balancing our books right now. Any additions to the balance sheet at the moment seem unwise, whether they come from the right or left (and this coming from someone who is currently uninsured).

Sorry, this administration gives the impression of having little interest in what I would consider one of the nobler planks traditionally associated with the conservative platform, a cautious attitude toward money.

So MattK/D1, I assume then that you agree that the other aforementioned programs should be eliminated as well?

I think it's reasonable to assess the value of programs and restructure or amend before killing a program, but if a high level of expenditures are being used with little or no effect, and there seems to be no hope of improving performance, then, yes, in all aspects of life, there is such a thing as throwing good money after bad.

There is no doubt in my mind that the issues these programs were created to address are real and serious, and I include Americans' difficulty forming lasting relationships in there. Where we differ, I think, is that you are probably convinced any such programs are by their nature doomed to failure, while I feel it is possible that some good can come from one, if it beats the odds against it. So, sorry, no blanket condemnation of government programs today from this lefty. As for the merits of the specific prorgams you mentioned, I confess I simply don't know enough about what is being spent and how to offer any opinion at all. I'll try to look into it, though, so I can have a more informed discussion with you should the subject roll around again in the future.

Again, even Dems proposing new programs of $1.5 billion dollars would raise some concern for me right now.

Oh, as an afterthought... from my point of view, there's a big difference between "cutting existing programs" and "not adding new programs." Wild axe-swinging is no better than wild spending in my book.

[copied from the "hasty" thread":]

You assume incorrectly, Thorley (what a neat name, btw. Really, no sarcasm intended.) I can think of lots of reasons the gov't should spend money on AIDS prevention, fitness, the Surgeon General, etc., because these are squarely aimed at the public good and contain pretty low levels of moral judgement. But this proposal stinks of the religious right trying to cram their ideas down the public's throat.

I don't have any trouble seeing my tax dollars going to programs that are in place because only the gov't can coordinate such tasks (interstates, space exploration, trade treaties, you know). But when the gov't tries to tell me what to think and how to conduct my private life (that is, that part of my life that doesn't impinge upon anybody else), it's gone too far.

I have a question. I helped vote Bush in mainly because I'm a fiscal conservative and I was under the impression that the Republicans were about tight, responsible purse strings. Now I look back at the Clinton years, and comparing to the current budgetary issues seemingly everywhere (I live in CA), I have to wonder how much of the Clinton-era and current fiscal situations are due to gov't policy vs. the general economic environment. I know, gov't fiscal policy can influence the economy, but I really believe business is more in control of the economy than the gov't is. Maybe I'm wrong.

Anyway, my question is: does anybody know to what degree Clinton's fiscal policies vs. the business environment contributed to the general welfare back then vs. now? I kinda want to know if I can blame the gov't, or is this just a part of the boom/bust cycle of economics? Was Clinton that good? Is Bush that bad? Or are each a victim/benefactor of timing?

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