Politically-motivated spending cuts?

POLITICALLY-MOTIVATED SPENDING CUTS?…. By now, the budget plan from congressional Republicans, at least for the remainder of this fiscal year, is pretty familiar. The GOP intends to slash $61 billion from non-defense discretionary spending, including deep cuts in areas such as education, medical research, infrastructure, job training, and national security, all of which is projected to cost the economy hundreds of thousands of jobs.

The notion of cuts motivated by politics hasn’t played much of a role in the debate. Maybe it should?

Spending programs favored by Democrats were targeted for cuts by the House GOP, a member of the House Appropriations Committee suggested Tuesday.

Rep. Steve LaTourette (R-Ohio), a member of the spending panel who’s close with House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), said that Democratic-backed spending faced heftier cuts at the hand of the GOP majority in the House.

“Clearly programs that were favored by Democrats received deeper cuts than programs that were favored by Republicans,” LaTourette said in a story Tuesday published by Bloomberg News.

DNC officials, not surprisingly, aren’t at all happy with this quote, and I don’t blame them. In fairness, though, I think there’s more than one way to look at LaTourette’s comment.

The first is to read this as a clear case of corruption. Instead of basing spending decisions on the merits, based solely on what best serves the public’s interests, Republicans are focused on cutting programs “favored by Democrats.” Such a policy clearly wouldn’t be acceptable, and Dems would be right to scream bloody murder.

The other interpretation is far more benign. Republicans are targeting domestic spending, which necessarily means the GOP is going after priorities that Democrats consider vitally important and Republicans don’t — student loans, environmental protections, domestic security and law enforcement, food safety, science, health care, transportation, preparing workers for new careers, etc. These are programs “favored by Democrats” because they’re key parts of Democrats’ governmental agenda.

In that sense, LaTourette wasn’t admitting to corruption, he was simply making an observation about party priorities. These domestic programs weren’t cut because they enjoy Democratic backing, it just worked out that way since most of the budget has been deemed off-limits to cuts.

Which is it? I suspect LaTourette meant the latter, if for no other reason because it’d be completely crazy to publicly admit to this kind of corruption on the record. Still, if the Ohio Republican wanted to clarify matters, it’d be helpful.