When the Cheering Died

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In addition, budget cutters led by Office of Management and Budget Director David Stockman went after a number of departments and programs previously untouched. They proposed a $287 million decrease in an Agriculture Department feeding program for indigent pregnant or nursing women, infants and children, and a $100 million reduction in federal loans that help farmers store wheat and corn while waiting for higher prices. The White House proposed to trim $691 million from the once sacrosanct Veterans Administration budget, primarily by delaying construction of new VA hospitals; to save $230 million by reducing Army Corps of Engineers spending on a long list of dam, canal and assorted pork-barrel projects; and to reduce much criticized shipbuilding subsidies by $40 million. Said Stockman: "The thundering herd of sacred cows has now been reduced to a handful."

Altogether, the two rounds of cuts are supposed to hold federal spending during the next fiscal year within Reagan's self-imposed limit of $695.3 billion, which is $48.6 billion less than the budget proposed by Carter just before he left office. Even so, the Government, by Reagan's own figures, will run a deficit of $45 billion-and that is before the huge increases in military spending that the Administration plans, and even before the threeyear, 30% phased cut in income tax rates that it proposes, take full effect. Indeed, the White House notes that Stockman and his aides will have to cut an additional $44.2 billion out of annual nondefense spending by fiscal 1984, from sources they cannot now identify, if Reagan is to fulfill his pledge to balance the budget by that year.

But the revised presidential budget for the next fiscal year is now complete-and by sending it to Congress, Reagan gave the signal for a long-delayed storm of protest to break. On the day the President signed his budget message, 8,000 jeering coal miners marched three blocks from their union headquarters to the White House to denounce a proposed $378 million cut in federal payments for victims of black-lung disease. United Mine Workers President Sam Church Jr. asserted that 4,000 miners a year die of black lung, and cried: "That translates to eleven people a day who, after agonizing years of gasping and wheezing, finally breathe their last." The Administration says that mining companies should pay for black-lung treatment but has not yet proposed a specific way to force them to do it.

The U.S. Conference of Mayors, in a report presented by Gary, Ind., Mayor Richard Hatcher, assailed the many proposed reductions in federal grants to municipalities as "disaster for the cities." At a House Education and Labor Subcommittee hearing, angry Democrats accused the Administration of "stupid, if not criminal, activity" in proposing deep cuts in nutrition programs such as food stamps and subsidized school lunches. During a Senate Budget Committee hearing, Ohio Democrat Howard Metzenbaum, after listening to much Republican praise of Stockman, coldly told the OEM boss: "I agree you've been brilliant. I also think you have been cruel, inhumane and unfair."

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