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Monday, September 26, 2011

Funny how those spending cuts are supposed to come from blue turf

by John Macbeath Watkins

Looks like we've once again dodged a government shutdown, but just a quick note before we forget what it's about.

The House Republicans passed a bill that would have removed funding for development of hybrid vehicles, which would have been spent in places like Michigan, which tend to vote Democratic, in order to finance disaster aid to places that have had disasters like the Texas wildfires and hurricane Irene.

In the past, emergency funding for disaster aid has never required cuts in other parts of the budget. The government steps up. Although this particular move was unprecedented, it is part of a larger game Republican congressmen have been playing very skillfully since about 1980. They declare that government waste must be cut, and invariably find it being spent in areas that tend to vote for Democrats. Meanwhile, Democrats take the view that government should be financed to do what it needs to do, so while they are defending their spending projects, they are not attacking projects in areas that vote for Republicans.

Years of fighting budget battles from a defensive crouch has affected the spines of Democrats, and the distribution of spoils in the budget.

This is a map of which states contribute more in federal taxes than the government spends in them (blue) and which states pay less in taxes than is spent in them (red):

And below is a map of which states voted for Democrat Barak Obama (blue) and which voted for John McCain (red.)

No, it's not the same map. You can tell by looking at Texas.

Clearly, Democrats are going to have to learn to play this game if they are going to get a better deal for their constituents.

But I must say, few of the stories about the resolution to this latest standoff put the issue of where the cuts were aimed in perspective. Most of the stories just said the Republicans wanted offsetting cuts, without mentioning that this had never been required before for disaster funding, nor taking note of the partisan nature of the cuts proposed.

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