But It’s Just a Little Bit of Money

Rep. Ben Cline (Va.-6th District)

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

Ben Cline, the Commonwealth’s Republican member of the U.S House of Representatives from the 6th District, is very upset about the level of federal spending and the state of the federal deficit.

Cline is chairman of the Republican Study Committee’s Budget and Spending Task Force.  In a press release last year, he lamented the trillions in new spending authorized by the Democrats in recent years and the $31.92 trillion in national debt. (He does not mention the trillions in debt rung up during the Trump years.)  The study committee has a proposal that would “balance the budget in just seven years, cut spending by $16.3 trillion over 10 years and reduce Americans’ taxes by $5.1 trillion over 10 years.”

As part of that overall plan, Cline’s task force produced an alternative budget for 2024.  I have to give Cline and the task force some credit.  Usually, when conservatives call for spending cuts, they refuse to say what specific items should be cut or eliminated.  That is not the case with this document.  It has over 120 pages listing specific programs for elimination or reduced funding.  After dealing with Social Security, Medicare, and defense, the budget has about 30 pages of specific mandatory and discretionary spending programs it recommends eliminating or reducing.

Most of the programs targeted for elimination or reduction are things Republicans tend not to like—such as anything to do with climate or “liberal woke ideology.”  Readers of this blog may be surprised that there are some recommendations in the alternative budget with which I agree.  These include eliminating the use of “taxpayer funds to bail out the creditors of large, ’systemically significant’ financial institutions.  Taxpayers should not be the emergency piggy bank for poor decision-making by financial institutions and corporations.”   Also, the calls to reform the commodity subsidy and crop insurance programs so that they do not disproportionately benefit wealthier farmers is a good recommendation.  Finally, there is a proposal to phase out the sugar program whose subsidies have resulted in sugar prices for Americans that are “more than 100 percent higher than world prices.”  Liberal groups have been calling for this action for many years.

With some more time, I am sure that I could find some other items in the list of eliminations or cuts with which I would agree.  However, in light of recent events, this proposal does give one pause:

“Reduce Funding for the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service – Certain functions of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) program should be carried out by the industries this service regulates. This budget would reduce funding commensurately.”

But I digress.

It turns out that Rep. Cline is not against all additional spending.  As reported by The Washington Post, the budget bills reported by the Appropriations Committee, of which Cline is a member, include an earmark of $42.1 million for widening portions of I-81 in western Virginia.  That funding was requested by Rep. Cline.  As the saying goes, the importance of a project is in the eyes of the beholder.