Email #84, Subject: “fiscal sanity”?

You recently applauded the appointment of Mick Mulvaney as the President’s Budget Director, saying he would bring “fiscal sanity” to Washington. Mr. Mulvaney recently released a list of proposed funding cuts that include the top programs for the arts, humanities, and public broadcasting. These are the same programs that you have been voting against since you took office in 1993. The argument hasn’t changed either. You and your GOP colleagues say we can’t afford them.

So let’s look at their annual budgets:

National Endowment for the Arts                           $148 million

National Endowment for the Humanities               $148 million

Corporation for Public Broadcasting                        $445 million

Together they total $741 million. While that is only a tiny fragment of the government’s $4 trillion annual budget, it is not illogical to argue that we need to trim pennies wherever we can.  But now look at the annual costs required by two of the President’s recent executive orders:

5,000 new Border Patrol agents                               $900 million

10,000 new immigration officers                             $3.9 billion

The first alone exceeds the proposed cuts by $159 million, which is more than either the NEA or NEH receives individually. The second costs more than five times the combined cuts, and yet you and your fellow GOP deficit hawks have endorsed this new spending. You have also agreed to move forward with construction of the “Great Wall” at a cost of $15-25 billion. Estimates for the President’s proposed transportation infrastructure spending range from $500 billion to $1 trillion, and his tax cuts will cost another estimated $1 trillion in annual revenue losses.

Check my math, but I believe that totals between $1.5 and 2.1 trillion. And that’s before the increase in military spending the President has also signaled. These figures are so high, cutting $741 million from the NEA, NEH, and CPB has no effect. Even rounding up to an even $1 billion (which in itself is more money than either the NEA or NEH receives individually), the cuts would offset the President’s increased spending by only $.001 trillion.

You told me in a letter last month: “Families all across our nation understand what it means to make tough decisions each day about what they can and cannot afford and government officials should be required to exercise similar restraint when spending the hard-earned dollars of our nation’s citizens.”

So where is your “restraint”?

What “tough decisions” are you making about what you “can and cannot afford”?

In what possible sense is this “fiscal sanity”?

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Author: Chris Gavaler

Chris Gavaler is an assistant professor of English at Washington and Lee University where he teaches creative writing, contemporary fiction, and comics. He has published two novels, Pretend I'm Not Here (HarperCollins 2002) and School For Tricksters (Southern Methodist University 2011), and two nonfictions, On the Origin of Superheroes (Iowa University 2015) and Superhero Comics (Bloomsbury forthcoming 2017).

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