Mona Charen

"A government that robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend upon the support of Paul." -- George Bernard Shaw

To hear the Democrats and many members of the Fourth Estate tell it, the tax cuts signed by President Bush have proven to be utterly irresponsible in light of the expenses associated with rebuilding Iraq.

It's amazing, isn't it, that Democrats never worry about federal spending unless it is for defense. And when you politely mention that the federal budget is a giant sinkhole of waste, they ignore you completely and come up with seven new programs that need "full funding" in order for life to be decent in America.

The president has asked for $87 billion to rebuild and solidify Iraq and Afghanistan. That's a lot of money. But the federal government spends $65 billion annually on student loans to college students -- enduring about a 40 percent default rate. We spend billions on hot lunches and breakfasts for schoolchildren, though the greatest health threat to the poor in America these days is not hunger but obesity.

Besides, why can't poor children take their lunches to school in a brown bag, as my kids do? How much does a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, an apple and a yogurt cost? Maybe $1.50. For a family receiving food stamps, it's even less. So why subsidize the lunches for children whose families already receive food aid in the form of food stamps?

The answer is: A) the program makes its advocates feel virtuous, and B) the social workers who designed the program fear that poor parents are too incompetent to pack a proper lunch or serve a decent breakfast.

This may be true of a tiny number of poor parents. But should the sensible response be to provide intensive services to those families instead of saddling the whole country with an immensely wasteful and expensive program that isn't needed and primarily benefits farmers, who are not poor to begin with?

When it comes to spending, alas, the Republicans are hardly Eagle Scouts, either. The ideal of smaller government is in eclipse at the moment. The terror attacks have been seized as an opportunity to lard on new spending for favored constituencies. Citizens Against Government Waste estimates that the federal government will spend $22.5 billion on 9, 362 pork barrel projects in 2003.

Mona Charen

Mona Charen is a syndicated columnist, political analyst and author of Do-Gooders: How Liberals Hurt Those They Claim to Help .
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