Is Cutting Spending un-American?
Tom O’Mara

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has proposed cutting state spending 10 percent across the board as a solution to the state’s budget woes, and you’d think he called for lacing the water supply with a combination of salt and LSD.

Defenders of spending are cropping up all over with comments like, “It’s not happening on my watch,” or the ever-popular “dead on arrival.”

What is it about this idea of cutting spending that makes it sound so far-fetched, and causes it to be dismissed out of hand? Since the state’s predicament is mirrored at the local and national levels, maybe we should look at this.

When this option has come up in the past, well-meaning spending defenders dig deep and come out with an all-star team of sacred cows. In no particular order, these may include babies, the elderly and disabled, the armed forces, the poor and education.

This is by no means an all-inclusive list, and anyone who has ever launched a government program knows that at the start they are all set up to do good things. Indeed, all of the groups mentioned above (and more) are in need of special consideration, and receive it. Whether it is enough may be the rub.

At the individual or family level, when an income crisis like losing a job comes along, we seem to have a pretty good idea what we have to do. The vacation is out, we’re not getting the new car, probably eating out less, and maybe time to re-think job/career. In some cases, harder choices come up, like which bill to pay among rent/mortgage, food or medical care. If we have savings, we’ll be tapping into them, and if not, we’ll get in line for some government or church assistance.

It’s not a fun drill, but after we get over the shock, we figure out a way to manage on what we have. In time, we grow, get back on our feet, and hopefully move on to something better. Maybe it is because this experience is so painful that we don’t want anyone (especially the groups above) to have to go through it. The example above magnifies and distorts the problem beyond what the Governor is proposing, in that losing a job is a 100-percent loss, whereas he is proposing a 10-percent cut.

Yet, we’re all suspicious when we see this, afraid that it’s my program (my job) that’s going to be cut. If we had trust that the cuts would indeed be even across the board, and ask our managers to allocate the remaining 90 percent in humane fashion, we could all probably survive without too much fuss. Even the mammoth federal deficit could be brought back to balance with across-the- board cuts of 4 percent a year for four years in a row. What is the cost of not facing up to this? The state’s bonded indebtedness has increased dramatically in the Schwarzenegger years, and as a result, the California Legislative Analyst’s Office predicts state interest spending will increase three times more than that for K-14 education over the next five years. At the federal level, continued operations at are greatly dependent on the largess of China, Saudi Arabia and South Korea.As stewards of government, we have resolved to evade the issue. It all seems to keep rolling along, but whether the ship of state is headed for Fantasyland, Tomorrowland or is the Titanic headed for the iceberg, is never quite clear.Cutting spending indeed appears to be un-American, at least in America 2008, but to continue as we have is an immoral restriction on the fiscal and political choices of our children, and will soon start to cramp options for those of us planning to live more than a few years into the future.

Tom O'Mara
Tom O’Mara is a volunteer Civil Rights Advocate for the Redding Police Department.
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3 Responses

  1. Avatar Sandy T. says:

    Tom –I totally agree with you. There are times when everyone needs to cut back, but our country seems to have a hard time with this concept. Just glad to see that somebody else also feels the same. Want to run for governor?

  2. Avatar Celeste White says:

    Tom would get my vote, that's for sure! I do understand the reasons and incentives behind individuals and individual groups not wanting to let go of their entitlements, etc., but at some point, we really do all need to work together and make some sacrifices for the good of the whole that we, as individuals, are all a part of. Otherwise, at some point, we all end up on the losing end. This situation with the budget makes me think about something I was told about elk and deer–when they overpopulate, they decimate their food supply to the point that not just a few individuals die, but the entire herd can starve to death. Maybe a hunter or wildlife biologist can set me straight if that's not correct. But you get the idea.

  3. Avatar Tom O'Mara says:

    Thanks for your support, Sandy and Celeste. I think there are some legitimate questions about equality and fairness when this idea of across the board cuts is mentioned, but I wish the concept could at least be agreed upon.

    There is a book called The Hidden Dimension by Edward Hall, with the hidden dimension being space (as in crowding). It's a good book for a lot of reasons, but in part documents a deer herd die-off on (i believe) Jamestown Island in Chesapeake Bay. Deer were introduced to this island about 1955, and had no natural predators there. Their population doubled for several years, and then the scientists went back in the spring a few years later and found about 2/3 of the herd had died off. They did autopsies and found that all the dead deer had full stomachs, but adrenal glands were swollen to about twice their size. They surmised the deer died from the stress of overcrowding. Not exactly the point you were making, but hopefully an intereting story!