Leave the beancounters alone

Updated
 

Not all spending cuts are created equal. Congressional Republicans struggle with this, but there is such a thing as “penny wise, pound foolish.”

If we cut spending on volcano monitoring and tsunami warnings, for example, we save a little money on maintenance, but pay a lot of money on damage repairs after disaster strikes. If we cut spending on food safety, we save a little money on inspection, but pay a lot of money on health care costs when consumers get sick. For every dollar the IRS spends on audits, liens, and property seizures, the government brings in more than $10, so if we spend less on IRS enforcement, it doesn’t save money, it costs money.

And yet, GOP policymakers keep making this mistake. Brian Beutler reports that Republicans are now trying to slash the budget for the Office of Management and Budget. Why is this unwise? Because OMB houses “the executive branch’s leading budget-cutters.”

The House Appropriations Committee is advancing legislation that would gut key Obama administration priorities across the board, but the kicker is that they’re also seeking to slash OMB – the one agency that knows where all the fat is. It’s the one arm of the executive it makes sense to fully fund if the goal is to reduce government spending, and squeeze other cabinet level departments – particularly if you believe the country will be run by the GOP next year.

House Republicans are proposing to cut OMB funding by almost $9 million – nearly 10 percent below its fiscal year 2012 budget.

That would, according to the administration, require OMB to eliminate 90 full-time equivalent jobs – which would amount to a 17 percent staffing reduction. In other words, to save money, the House GOP would start by firing the beancounters.

It’s tempting to think House Republicans are just confused, or perhaps ignorant about federal policymaking, but by all appearances, that’s not really what’s going on here.

Rather, the House GOP is just being childish, targeting OMB, without regard for consequences, because they see political value in picking a pointless spat with the White House.

Two years ago, Norm Ornstein said Republican leaders in the House “are becoming the Bart Simpsons of Congress, gleeful at smarmy and adolescent tactics and unable and unwilling to get serious.” They’ve only gotten worse since.

Leave the beancounters alone

Updated