Lawmakers wanted federal funding cuts, so why aren’t they cheering?

Feb 3 2013 - 11:17am

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Utah's lawmakers have the amazing ability to completely forget their own positions on major issues, to the point that they can contradict themselves without cracking a smile.

It's very "Alice in Wonderland." The White Queen, who in "Through the Looking Glass" said she could believe six impossible things before breakfast, couldn't hold a candle to these guys.

In this case, Utah's Legislature is dealing with its annual budget issues. Federal money is going to be short this year, and we ran a story Wednesday quoting the lawmakers saying they "worry" about that.

Which is odd. If history is any judge, the lawmakers should be cheering.

I recall just a year ago those guys ranting about the evils of federal funds. They said federal funding was reducing proud Utahns to the level of dependent serfs.

They even tried, unsuccessfully, to turn down $100 million in federal education funds. The lawmakers were willing to let scores of Utah school teachers lose their jobs, and other scores of teacher slots go unfilled, to prove their point.

And now? A funny thing happened. Federal spending is being cut.

Federal agencies are preparing for sequestration required by a law both parties in Congress hate, but now seem willing to let go through.

Plus, past cuts are hitting. Remember the evil earmarks? Our congressional delegation brought hundreds of millions a year to Utah with those.

All gone. We get to build it ourselves, now.

Sen. Allen Christensen, R-North Ogden, did have the decency to recognize his role in this idiocy.

"We find ourselves in the unenviable position of hoping the feds cut their budget and (hoping) they don't," he said. "It's very NIMBY. We absolutely want the federal government to cut spending, just not cut our budget."

I would love Senator Christensen to tell me just who is supposed to lose money when the feds cut back. NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) is weasel speak for "someone else losing money is a sacrifice I'm willing to make."

Hypocrites. No other word for it. They scream about the need for federal cuts to get votes, then try to dodge the blame when those cuts hurt the voters.

Sequestration will hurt everyone. Utah Transit Authority and Utah Department of Transportation depend heavily on federal funding. In Wednesday's story, John Talcott, a director in Workforce Services, said child care and refugee programs could be cut. Robert Ralphs, deputy director of the Department of Health, worried about cancer screening and epidemiology programs.

And you are thinking, "But at least if the feds cut spending, it should also cut my taxes."

Wrong.

The federal cuts are to reduce federal borrowing. Your federal income taxes must stay the same to pay for what's left. To make up what Utah loses, your state taxes might have to go up.

Politicians like Senator Christensen spent the last five years making a royal stink about the federal deficit, which was caused by tax cuts, two unfunded wars and a massive financial meltdown.

They conveniently forgot that those deficits -- which are shrinking as the economy improves -- kept Utah, and the other 49 states, from sinking into another Great Depression.

Thousands of Utahns at ATK, Hill Air Force Base, the IRS and companies that do business with the folks who work at those places have jobs because of those deficits.

If lawmakers were honest, they'd admit that and accept the deficit as the inevitable, and temporary, cost of surviving an economic crisis.

Instead, they scream that deficits are horrible and awful and demand cuts. When those cuts happen, they whine because the cuts hurt them.

There's just no pleasing some people.

Wasatch Rambler is the opinion of Charles Trentelman. You can contact him at 801-625-4232 or email him at ctrentelman@standard.net. He also blogs at www.standard.net.

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