THE ECONOMY: Cut that Budget!

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Cut that Budget

"I have received personal letters about the budget from nearly every state in the union," said Missouri's Clarence Cannon to his colleagues in the House, "and every one of them urges a reduction." Oldtimer Cannon, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, has seen 34 federal budgets come and go over the years, but he cannot recall anything like the current public outcry against President Eisenhower's $71.8 billion fiscal-1958 budget, biggest in the nation's peacetime history.

A lot of Washington lawmakers and officials report an extraordinary tide of budget-criticizing mail. Treasury Secretary George Humphrey still gets sackfuls of letters applauding his furor-stirring prediction that continued high taxes would eventually bring on a hair-curling depression (TIME, Feb. 18 et seq.). New Hampshire's Republican Senator Styles Bridges has been getting 50 cut-that-budget letters a day—"a surprising volume," he says. Observed a Bridges aide after studying the boss's mail: "The public complacency of recent years about Government spending has definitely worn off."

"Extravagant & Inflationary." Worn off too by the new budget was the first bloom of enthusiasm for Eisenhower's "Modern Republicanism." Newspapers long friendly to Ike rumbled that Modern Republicanism looked a lot like the big-spending New and Fair Deals. "Good Republicans," mourned a California G.O.P. county chairman, "are worried about it and complaining about it—the budget, the New Deal approach." Growled Iowa's Republican Congressman Harold Royce Gross: "I'm afraid I'm not a Modern Republican—not if it means a $72 billion budget."

Programs for lopping big chunks off that $72 billion are piling up. New Hampshire's Bridges suggests nicks and slashes adding up to a hefty $3.3 billion. Virginia's Senator Harry Byrd, working on his yearly clipped-wing "Byrd budget," promises that he will show Congress how to save at least $5 billion, but has yet to produce the details. The National Association of Manufacturers, whose President Ernest G. Swigert last week damned Ike's budget as "extravagant and inflationary," proposes a massive whack of $6.5 billion. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce calls for cuts totaling $4.2 billion, and is still looking for soft spots. Chamber President John S. Coleman contends that a slash of at least $5 billion is "absolutely essential."

With interest payments and veterans' benefits uncuttable, many of the big and little cuts proposed fall into four main sectors:

FOREIGN AID ($4.4 billion). Bridges suggests saving $950 million by taking the average percentage slice that Congress has knifed out of presidential aid requests over the past four years: 21.6%. Atop that, he wants to eliminate programs totaling $225 million which he considers not in keeping with "the declared and enacted policy of Congress." e.g., aid to Communist Yugoslavia. The N.A.M. calls for an aid slash of $2.2 billion, or 50%, the Chamber of Commerce for a somewhat less drastic $1.5 billion.

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