Unkindest cuts

AUSTIN--I could be wrong, but I think the Bob Packwood problem is actually simple. Suppose--just suppose--that Bob Packwood was a predatory homosexual. Normally a decent enough guy after having a few drinks, but suppose he was given to grabbing men a lot smaller than he is, kissing them and sticking his tongue down their throats.

Anyone--male constituents, male lobbyists, male reporters, male staffers--could be subject to this behavior. Do you think the Republicans in the Senate would have any trouble finding that conduct unacceptable?

Now, on to other ways in which Republicans have been busy improving the nation. Assistance to homeless people has been cut by 39 percent, but appropriations for the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization--aka Star Wars--the space shield that Ronald Reagan advocated back when there was a Soviet Union, have bubbled back up.

Congress forgot to drive a stake through its heart after the last vote to get rid of Star Wars, and as the Republicans keep reminding us, it is so hard to get rid of a program once it gets started.

Summer jobs for disadvantaged teenagers have been eliminated by the House. This will make our nation a better place in the summertime because instead of learning about work, disadvantaged teenagers will be roaming the streets learning all about private initiative and enterprise--probably by stealing purses. As you know, kids have lined up to apply for these jobs by the thousands every summer, often waiting on the sidewalks all night so as to have a better chance of being among the first applicants. I guess the Republicans wanted to eliminate this annual sight so they can keep saying, "Those people just don't want to work."

The Housing and Urban Development Department's budget was cut by 26 percent, so there will be no more money for all the hopeful new programs Henry Cisneros has started, such as tenant management, and money for the renovation of public housing has been cut by 32 percent, so there will be more homeless people, getting, as noted above, 39 percent less assistance. This will make the country a better place because, as you know, the aesthetic police often complain that the streets in America are too sterile, that we should have more street life, like Paris and Rome, with lots of stuff happening along the sidewalks. With lots more homeless people dotted about artistically, our sidewalks will be much more interesting.

The 150,000 people who will have their student loans cut off probably don't think this is a better nation for it, but we must all sacrifice to balance the budget--except for the corporations who are getting taxpayer money to subsidize advertising campaigns for their products overseas.

The Department of Labor took a crippling hit, especially money for job-training programs. This really will be a better country for having no job-training programs because people who are unemployed will then be forced to show initiative and enterprise the same way ghetto youths are being forced to. See the justice in it?

All told, the House wants to spend about $11 billion less on labor, health and education, and as the Pentagon will tell you, that's only chump change. As Ohio Republican John Kasich said about where to find money in the federal budget: Well, stealth bombers are supposed to be invisible, so why don't we just pretend we're building 30 more of them, and no one will ever know.

The trick to reading Republican budgets is to look on the bright side. We won't have to worry about the surgeon general nagging us not to smoke and to have safe sex so we won't get AIDS or even tacky hearings in which surgeon general nominees who have delivered thousands of babies and devoted their lives to helping inner-city kids get voted down because they have performed legal abortions. Because there will be no surgeon general. Solved that problem, haven't they?

Less money for rural health programs is a good idea because living in the country is so healthy that those people never get sick. Taking away 58 percent of the money spent on mental-health and substance-abuse programs is a great idea because this country needs more drunks and junkies and crazy people running around loose with no way to get help. You do see why it's a great idea, don't you?

Also, denying Medicaid payments for abortions in cases of rape and incest is a terrific idea because women wouldn't get raped in the first place if they would just stop wearing short skirts and going into the wrong part of town, right? And incest creates closer family ties, which we all want.

Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, chairman of the House Resources Committee, thinks our national parks would be better managed by private contractors, and Rep. John Doolittle, R-Calif, said, "We should vastly shrink the size of Redwood National Park, transfer some to the county and sell the rest of it." God, unfortunately, has gone out of the redwood-making business; seems a pity to sell off the remnants.

That matter of national parks and private contractors is rather a vexed one. The reason Republicans give for wanting to sell off national parks is because we don't have enough money to run them properly. But the scandalous sweetheart concessions awarded to companies that run the lodges, souvenir shops and other facilities in the parks are the problem. One example: In 1993, concession operators paid the government--us--only 2.8 percent of the $657 million in revenue they took in. We need competitive bidding on these concession contracts and a bigger cut of the proceeds for the U.S. Park Service. That and doubling the ridiculously low park entrance fee--up to, say, the price of a movie--would give the Park Service plenty of money to run the parks well.

Molly Ivins is a columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Copyright 1995 Creators Syndicate, Inc.

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Molly Ivins