Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Choosing Not to Lead by Example

February 7, 2011

The disconnect between congressional Republicans' rhetoric and the policies they impose on themselves is often hard to overlook. They like to complain, for example, about the size of the federal workforce and partisan perceptions about soaring public-sector wages, while at the same time, boosting the payroll of their own aides.

A similar problem is unfolding when it comes to spending on government agencies -- GOP officials want to slash budgets across the public sector, while choosing not to make big cuts to Congress' budget.

Republicans now running the House are barely touching Congress' own generous budget even as they take a cleaver to many domestic agencies.

A new GOP proposal would reduce domestic agencies' spending by 9 percent on average through September, when the current budget year ends.

If that plan becomes law, it could lead to layoffs of tens of thousands of federal employees, big cuts to heating and housing subsidies for the poor, reduced grants to schools and law enforcement agencies, and a major hit to the Internal Revenue Service's budget.

Congress, on the other hand, would get nicked by only 2 percent, or $94 million.

Under the plan shaped by House Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers (R-Ky.) and Speaker John Boehner's (R-Ohio) office, agencies across the government would face steep cuts, but would largely leave Congress unscathed.

"Charity begins at home, and Congress should lead the way with cuts to their own budget," said Steve Ellis of Taxpayers for Common Sense, a Washington-based watchdog group. "Instead they're protecting their bottom line while slashing everyone else's."

The cut to Congress gets a little deeper, to 3.5 percent, if it were imposed for a full calendar year instead of the seven months that will remain in the current budget year. But so, too, would the cuts to other agencies -- growing to 16 percent.

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