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Cost of Change
Monday, March 20, 2017
"Deconstruction of the administrative state" is apparently the philosophy behind President Trumps "Blueprint Budget to Make America Great Again" released last week.

It's been nicknamed the "skinny budget" but not because of the significant cuts to departments this administration considers a colossal waste of money. It's "skinny" because it only addresses discretionary spending - one-third of the total budget.

Mr. Trump's budget director Mick Mulavney says a more comprehensive budget will be released in May. But the third addressed by the "skinny budget" is one of the most sensitive. Discretionary spending is the pork in the pork barrel legislators so freely dole out to their pet projects and core constituencies.

The "skinny budget" is being called an "America first" budget by the administration. They say it reflects the views of a candidate who said he would change Washington and run it like a business. If that sounds a lot like Ronald Reagan, it's no accident. President Trump's proposals are the most significant changes since the first Reagan budget.

This budget isn't just roiling the departments who face slashed budgets, it's causing heartburn in many of the very constituencies who helped elect the upstart candidate who promised to run government like business, eliminate waste and "drain the swamp."

Unfortunately, it's not an unexpected response because in Washington, noble talk is cheap. It's not until cuts begin to impact you that see who's really in favor of fiscal responsibility.

Judging from the responses of many outdoor groups who queued up to criticize the budget, all western civilization is in peril.

Advocacy groups say the estimated $54 billion in discretionary budgetary realignment will "sacrifice our public lands" and lead to the "extinction of dozens of endangered species" - and those endangered apparently include everything from snail darters and songbirds to legions of lobbyists and staffers.

Had this new budget even hinted at balancing the budget, there would likely be outright revolution in Washington. There's no mention of that, because rhetoric aside, there's simply no way to balance a budget that's predicated on buying constituencies.

Many Congressmen are pronouncing this budget dead on arrival, saying there's no way they'll permit proposed cuts to everything from PBS to AFDC to survive. Forget that many are the same experts who repeatedly proclaimed there was no way candidate Trump would ever become President Trump, because Congress plays by a different set of rules than the rest of us.

Outdoor enthusiasts definitely helped elect Mr. Trump, and now many leaders of outdoor organizations are howling- primarily because the "big changes" promised by the candidate suddenly have the potential to impact them .

Cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency were fine. Ditto, State, Labor, Education, Housing and Urban Development. And the idea of zeroing out the National Endowment for the Arts, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (PBS and NPR) were fine, but the suggestion of a 21 percent cut in discretionary spending for the Agriculture Department was beyond the pale.

Sure, this budget's going to change, but the initial responses suggest many of the people who complain the most about governmental meddling may be posturing for their constituents, not advocating for change.

There are costs associated with a reduced role of government in everyday American life. And that entitlement mentality we so readily criticize in others might be more deeply entrenched in everyday American life than any of us realize- or would be willing to admit.

-- Jim Shepherd

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