As Think Progress notes today, the $200 billion the federal government may need to pay for Hurricane Katrina could be covered entirely -- and then some -- by simply rolling back the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts for the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans.
As we reported yesterday, House Republicans have another way to come up with the money: They want to carve $500 billion in spending out of the federal budget. How would they do it? Their "Operation Offset" plan is available online now and it's full of brave talk about the "tough choices" that will be required in these "tough times." We'll acknowledge that some of the choices listed therein are, in fact, pretty tough: If you don't want to roll back tax cuts for millionaires, you're going to have to tell Republican Rep. Don Young why he can't have his $200 million bridge to nowhere and America's seniors why they need to wait an additional year for help with their prescriptions.
But somehow, we get the idea that the House Republicans' plan isn't quite as painful -- for them, at least -- as they'd like to make it out to be. Like the Heritage Foundation, the House Republicans apparently see in Katrina an opportunity to advance some of their favorite policy goals and make some cuts that won't exactly bring tears to the eyes of the religious right or the corporate interests who support them. Some examples:
The Republicans would freeze funding for the Peace Corps, the Global AIDS Initiative, U.N. peacekeeping operations and a wide variety of third-world development programs; eliminate the EnergyStar program, eliminate grants to states and local communities for energy conservation, reduce federal subsidies for Amtrak, eliminate funding for new light-rail programs and cancel the president's hydrogen fuel initiative; eliminate state grants for safe and drug-free schools because "studies show that schools are among the safest places in the country and relatively drug free"; and eliminate the teen funding portion of Title X, which provides "free and reduced-price contraceptives, including the IUD, the injection drug Depo-Provera, and the morning-after pill" to poor teenagers.
Along the way, they'd find a way to punish -- or simply eliminate -- some of their enemies, real and imagined. They'd cut funding for the District of Columbia, eliminate funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, eliminate subsidized student loans for graduate students, terminate the Legal Services Corporation, eliminate funding for the National Endowment for the Arts and kill the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Of course, you can't balance the budget on the backs of PBS viewers, grad students and other outside-the-mainstream liberals alone. So the Republican plan also calls for "rational reforms to Defense and Homeland Security." Does this mean cutting weapons systems at the expense of big defense corporations? Well, no. But it does mean closing schools for the children of soldiers, cutting grants for local responders and offering National Guard members the "option" to purchase a less comprehensive healthcare plan.
We've all got to do our part. Or at least 99 percent of us do.