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The Lord of the Flies

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The esteemed executive director of the Council for a Livable World, John Isaacs, has penned a piece noting the similarities between the Republican production of a fiscal year 2011 (FY11) continuing resolution (CR) and the William Golding novel The Lord of the Flies. In the novel, a group of British school boys are stranded without adult supervision and their attempts to govern themselves deteriorate into anarchy and tragedy. The comparison to the production of the FY11 CR seems appropriate.

The orderly production of the FY11 CR by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) resulted in a not unreasonable level of cuts ($38 billion) to the FY11 budget for non-security discretionary spending. Then the adolescent tantrums of the freshmen GOP members began.

The result was a total mishmash of $61 billion in program cuts for the remaining seven months of the current fiscal year. And it was incoherent where the objective seemed to be a number and what was cut to get there was irrelevant.

The party that claims the mantel of national security cut Department of Energy funding to address the gravest threat to our nation, proliferation of nuclear weapons, then cut Homeland Security funding to screen containers entering the country, then cut the domestic nuclear detection office and, finally cut funding for the weapons of mass destruction responder training center. Greater threat, less capability to detect or deal with it. And for good measure, funds to modernize the nation's nuclear weapons complex, funds that GOP senators insisted be added to the budget in order to approve the New START agreement with Russia, were also reduced..

The party shouting "support the troops" cut needed armor vehicles for Afghanistan, funding needed for civilian support of counterinsurgency operations and, for good measure, eliminated a voucher program for homeless veterans. The Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA), a Reagan-era law designed to help low-income veterans and others battle Washington by making it easier for them to afford an attorney had all funding eliminated for the rest of FY11.

In an Orwellian move, enforcement funding for the Internal Revenue Service was reduced, thereby ensuring lower tax collections, a GOP Holy Grail, but a larger deficit as a result of this "deficit reduction" bill.

To be fair, some of the cuts were purely political and ideological: severe reductions at the National Labor Relations Board, de-funding the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, cutting or eliminating funding for implementation of Health Care, financial reform or food safety regulations as well as meat ax cuts to the Department of Education and the Environmental Protection Agency. Cuts in foreign aid, even for President George Bush's signal accomplishment, the efforts in Africa against AIDS and malaria were severe.

Of course, low and moderate-income families were targeted. Early childhood development and childcare programs were severely cut as were child nutrition programs. Planned Parenthood funding was zeroed and family planning funding reduced. The cutters contend that they do not want to leave the deficit to our children. Instead, they appear willing to leave them a legacy of poor health, poor nutrition and poor education.

And, not being satisfied with budget guidance the CR would direct the EPA to not control certain greenhouse gases nor even collect data on where they came from. This know- nothing approach seems to be the signature of the GOP House freshmen.

What do the 87 new GOP House members -- precisely 20% of the House voting membership -- expect to happen next?

Do they expect the Senate to be as cowed as the GOP House leadership? Do they expect the Senate to accept their cuts to key Democratic programs?

Do they expect President Obama to abandon the signal accomplishments of his first two years, including health care, financial and food safety reform? Do they expect him to discard his recent State of the Union priorities including education and the environment?

Whether or not there will be a government shutdown on March 18 depends on the answers to these questions. Unfortunately the two-week extension of the FY11CR gives no clues to the answers.

But most of all, it depends on whether this drama ends as the Lord of the Flies did, with the return of adult leadership to save these unruly schoolboys from themselves. At the end, the main character mourned the loss of innocence. The GOP freshmen may have to do the same.

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