Opinion

Where do we draw the line on cuts?

We’re in the middle of a debt crisis, and the Tampa Bay Times is complaining that we’re not running up enough debt.

Times staff writer Curtis Krueger wrote an Aug. 21 article criticizing the Florida Legislature for turning down $4.9 million in federal health care funds. The piece began, as all such articles do, with a heartwarming story of someone, in this case a young mother, who was helped by a program that is now in danger of losing its funding because the state refused to accept federal financing. The reason for the rejection? The funds are tied to the controversial Affordable Care Act.

The agency in jeopardy is Healthy Start. I won’t question either its mission or its efficacy – at least not at this time. In the example cited by the Times, it apparently helped get the young mother off drugs and prevented her children from being sent to foster care.

I have several issues with the story’s point. First, how many other agencies exist, at all government levels, that perform the exact same task?

In March 2011, the Government Accountability Office issued a report to Congress titled, “Opportunities to Reduce Potential Duplication in Government Programs, Save Tax Dollars, and Enhance Revenue.”

The report lists 44 overlapping job-training programs, 80 separate programs for the “transportation disadvantaged” and 82 federal programs designed to improve teacher quality. Just how well have those teacher-quality programs been doing, hmm?

Second, given that our nation is $16 trillion in debt and the Congressional Budget Office told Congress this week that we’re on the edge of a financial precipice, we have to learn to tighten our belt and say no.

Third, if the funds are tied to the Affordable Care Act in any way, they should be rejected as a matter of principle. As I argued in a recent column, entitlement programs account for the lion’s share of the red ink in our federal budget. To even consider taking on another entitlement program at this time is madness.

Although I sympathize with the young woman written about in the Times, we just can’t afford to take care of everyone from cradle to grave. We’re in the middle of a debt crisis, and it’s time we acted like it.

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