Friday, May 18, 2012


I suppose the process of defunding has been around Washington for a long time.  The public is just now learning about it and how it works.  It has many uses.

First of all, the House handles appropriations based on the president’s budget proposal each year.  And what is in it after they edit it reflects the wishes of the House.  As the largest governing body the intent was to fund those things that are most important for the majority of Americans.

Checks and balances are such that the Senate can either approve the budget or send it back to the House, thus making the necessary adjustments before passage.  And the last step is when the President signs it.

Defunding that occurs early in the process is typically the House taking a stand on an issue.  As they are preparing their version of the budget they debate and decide, for example, that NPR should be defunded because of its left-leaning programming and mismanaged fundraising.  Or, an organization like Planned Parenthood or ACORN is defunded for political reasons.

The idea is that significant numbers of Americans find the functions of certain institutions repulsive and their congressmen react by withholding grant money from said institutions.

Another defunding strategy is an effort by the House to reign in power grabbed by the White House.  For example, Obamacare.  It was rammed through a democrat congress and when the power shifted the House moved to cut off funds for implementation.

In a similar move, the House is defunding efforts by Attorney General Holder to sue the states for their immigration statutes.  The amendment simply states that he is not allowed to spend money on these lawsuits.

And the simple Washington solution is for the Senate to stall any budget at all…for three years!  It’s like you and your spouse disagreeing on how much your entertainment budget should be, so you don’t talk about household spending at all.  That makes sense.  NOT!

But there is another defunding trick to watch for.  This one is calculated to deceive the voters.  A prime example is the border fence.  Back in 2006 Bush was unable to get enough votes for his legalization/amnesty program.  People were asking the obvious question: Why do we want to do another amnesty program like 1986 when you haven’t done your job?  It is the lack of enforcement over the years that has created this problem in the first place.

And everyone seemed to agree that the first step was to stop the flow of illegal aliens.  Then they would later talk about what to do with the ones already here.  (It was, of course, delaying the hard questions.)  It’s shameful what passes for “consensus” these days.  No one even thinks about how this common ground will help solve the real problem.

So, Bush and the democrat congress got together and signed a bill to build 700 miles of fence.  And from the headlines the voters believed they were actually going to do it.

But the strategy didn’t really help.  They still couldn’t get an amnesty bill pushed through.  Some astute congressmen were smart enough to say, “Show me first.”  And they weren’t willing to allow Bush to decide by himself when enough fence had been built to satisfy the law.

So at the end of that year they defunded the fence-building before approving the budget.  But we didn’t really get any press coverage about the defunding.  The voters were still thinking we were getting 700 miles of fence, but Bush and the Senate had taken away the money.

House members were silent because they wanted to continue to tell their constituents that they voted for the fence.

In the end, the voters lost.  The 700 miles of fence took four years to build and every Homeland Security Secretary wrote annual reports telling us what great progress they were making on this urgent program.

Every one of the reports claimed that we are better protected than ever.  What none of them tells us is that by stalling the funding and playing political games that level of protection was delayed by three years.

Hence, the worst kind of defunding happens behind closed doors.  There is no debate, just a few people deciding to quietly draw a line through a project.  It’s the ones we never hear about that bother me the most.

And with all the red ink in Washington it is easy to simply say, “We don’t have the money for it.”  Finally, a little truth oozes out of the Beltway.  But it begs the question, Why do they keep talking about plans and programs when we don’t have any money in the first place?  You would think that after a few years they’d get the idea.

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