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BRASS TACKS

Balcony Quarterbacks

By William M. Simmons

This man Roosevelt has a miraculous talent for pushing Southern Senators to the verge of frustration. Ever since Jeanette Rankin did her one-woman stand in the House on that day, a little cabal of Congressmen and Senators has been sharpening its collective fangs in anticipation of the next wartime budget. They swore to high heaven that the "boondoggling peacetime agencies" would be slashed to the bone when the new estimates came up for approval, and chortled with glee when they thought of how a perfectly just demand for economy could be used to asphyxiate the New Deal and all its works.

Now those economy-minded legislators are left hanging on the end of a long and lonesome limb. The new budget contains the smallest requests for ordinary peacetime funds of any one since Herbert Hoover was peeping cautiously around corners. Of the 109 billions asked by the President, only four and a half are to go for regular expenses; every other nickel will go into the maw of Mars. Except for statutory outlays, such as debt retirement and social security payments, every civil agency except agriculture has been cut to the bone. The case of agriculture is simply explained, for Congress itself, frightened silly by the farm bloc, passed legislation raising the parity payments.

Harry Byrd and the economy boys will be hard put to it to slash much more from these figures. The WPA and the CCC, the Rural Electrification Commission and the National Youth Administration, are all officially dead. Finding other sources for governmental economy would be a tedious task of investigating each of the Departments and Agencies in order to see whether they could save a couple of bucks by rebending unbent paper clips. Such an investigation would probably cost as much as could be saved, and would absorb valuable time and effort in charge and counter-charge inside the sweltering committee rooms.

None of the penny-pinchers has yet been definite on the subject of where he expects the economics to be made. Dozens of Administration critics have agreed that Federal employees in general should be fired in droves, but nobody ever points to a specific group of workers in a particular agency and says: "You can make a ten percent cut there." The President has reduced peacetime, "normal" expenditures as far as they can be cut, without crippling essential government activities. Let's drop the matter there.

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