- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 1, 2003

A comment of mine from May was grossly misconstrued in an article published in The Washington Times (“Wasting an opportunity,” Commentary, Sept. 23), and your subscribers deserve the benefit of reading my entire statement and understanding the context in which it was made.

As James G. Lakely accurately reported May 16 (“Democrats wary of plan to cut 1 percent of budget fat,” Nation), I said: “Arbitrarily cutting federal programs that are important to people is a senseless, irresponsible Republican way of avoiding making the tough decisions and governing. It’s the Congress’ responsibility to determine the value of federal programs, and rather than simply cutting all programs, we should evaluate each program on its merits.”

The topic of Mr. Lakely’s story was an effort by House Republican leaders to instruct all committee chairmen to “find enough instances of waste, fraud and abuse to reduce by 1 percent those programs that have levels of funding set by law rather than the annual budget process.”

First of all, let me say that I unequivocally stand by my statement above. Arbitrarily cutting mandatory spending programs such as Medicare and veterans’ benefits under the pretense that such cuts will then be offset by rooting out waste, fraud and abuse is a substitute for actually and honestly identifying the waste, fraud and abuse — and eliminating it.

In this instance, it gave Republicans an opportunity to claim that their budget numbers actually added up — a fraud of enormous proportions. It also allowed them to level the demagogic charge that those who opposed this sham were somehow unconcerned about “waste, fraud and abuse” in government. That, of course, is a lie, but repeated ad nauseam may be believed by the gullible or partisan.

This, unfortunately, is exactly what Brian Riedl of the Heritage Foundation tried to assert in his article Sept. 23. He extracts two words from my statement in May — “senseless, irresponsible” — and uses them to imply that this is how I characterized a request to search the federal budget for waste, fraud and abuse. In fact, I believe Congress has a responsibility to root out all three. Cutting all programs by an arbitrary percentage is a charlatan’s pretense of fiscal oversight without having to actually take responsibility for cutting any particular item. There is neither political courage nor fiscal prudence in such action, which is why large numbers of members of both parties oppose such proposals.

It may come as a shock to some of your readers, but I know of no member of Congress on either side of the aisle who takes claims of government waste, fraud and abuse lightly. Statements to the contrary are wrong.

Of course, it is ironic that the loudest proponents of fiscal discipline have been responsible for the most fiscally irresponsible policies in our history, resulting in gargantuan deficits that will confront our country and our children with deep debt in their future.


House minority whip


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