Balancing the Federal Checkbook: Planes, yes; Plans, no.

There was a great chart in Sunday’s New York Times that listed the problems facing various Pentagon building projects: boats with aluminum superstructures that will burn like kleenex if they’re bombed; big ships that would be sitting ducks to flying attacks; the list goes on and on.  And the price tags? On this chart, which is far from exhaustive, the lowest price tag is $30 billion dollars. Billion, not million. (Notice me not saying anything about how most of these egregiously over-budget and under-thought projects were initiated during Dubya’s tenure. See? Not saying it.)

Should we even think–even dabble our toes for a minute in the water of “what if”–about what thirty billion dollars could do to the federal budget? The budget for the Head Start program, for example, is 8 billion dollars. And the Republicans want to trim $2 billion from that amount. One of the budget-cutting champions is Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, a state that’s really against federal funding, most of the time (but that’s a bridge we’ll cross later). Alaska’s Head Start program praised Murkowski a while back as a long-time supporter of Head Start. I guess Murkowski has changed her definition of “support” to mean something closer to “gut.”

And then today, in a report about the approaching budget stand-off in Congress, Representative Jim Jordon, a whippersnapper from Ohio who is going to snap that budget into shape yessiree, is quoted as saying that “we need to stop sending taxpayer dollars to Planned Parenthood and we need to defund Obamacare.”

Hmm. Planned Parenthood gets about $75 million from the federal government. In Pentagon terms, $75 million is not quite enough to buy a windshield for one airplane.

I’m not the first one to make this point, god knows, but it seems like a point worth repeating: why is it that the budget needs to be “balanced” on the backs of the poor? Eric Cantor, House Majority Leader, and one of the leaders in the “take no prisoners” school of budget cuts, makes an estimated salary of almost $200,000. In New York City, that’s almost four teacher salaries.

Now, it’s true, I’m an English professor by training and math is not my forte, god knows.  But even I know that if we’re dealing with a budget deficit of $1.4 trillion, trimming $75 million ain’t gonna get you much. A proverbial drop in the proverbial leaky bucket, dear Liza, dear Liza.  But what would cutting the Ballistic Missile Defense program get you?

$135 billion dollars. That, my friends, is some coin.

Congress just approved a three-week spending stopgap measure that sidesteps a government shutdown, but one of those Hard Right newbies in Congress, who congratulates himself on being “independent minded,” says that he can’t in good conscience approve a budget with monies in it for Planned Parenthood. He says his job is to “vote for America’s best interest” and “to protect America from bankruptcy.”

$75 million will bankrupt a budget but $135 billion won’t?

That’s the kind of addition that earned me a D in high school math.

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