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Government: Favoring cops over fighter planes and rocket ships

BoehnerThe House debate over HR 1 -- the continuing resolution that would fund the government through Sept. 30 -- has been full of surprises, some of them good ones. Take, for instance, the vote Wednesday to eliminate the back-up engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Having rejected four proposed cuts of varying sizes to the defense budget, the House turned around and killed a project championed by Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio). The proposal came from second-term Republican Rep. Tom Rooney of Florida, and it passed with broad bipartisan support -- 110 Republicans and 123 Democrats supported it, with 120 Republicans and 68 Democrats opposed.

Defenders of the second engine project argued that the competitive pressure it provided would save billions of dollars in the long run. But that's a loser argument these days, at least in the House, which is focused on savings now

But it's hard to extrapolate from the actions Wednesday to a coherent vision of smaller government. The vote that really confounds me is the one in favor of a proposal by Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) to restore $298 million for COPS, a neighborhood policing program. The money is to come out of NASA's budget, shrinking that agency's funds by an additional 1.6%.

I wouldn't argue that hiring cops is more or less important than conducting space missions. But hiring cops is clearly a local responsibility, and NASA is clearly a federal responsibility. If you're going to shrink the federal government, the starting point should be eliminating its involvement in what are purely local affairs. You can't get more local than neighborhood policing.

But that's not the logic typically employed by members of Congress. In their calculus, anything that promotes law enforcement is A Good Thing. And until NASA has a mission as sexy as winning the race to the moon, it will never be able to compete with programs like COPS.

-- Jon Healey

Photo: House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). Credit: Alex Wong / Getty Images

 

Comments () | Archives (4)

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Jackson Br0wn

I completely agree with the author of this opinion editorial. Hiring cops is NOT and should NOT be the responsibility of the federal government. The government's responsibility is creating jobs. Hiring cops is not going to boost the economy or create high-paying jobs such as those produced by defense and NASA manufacturing projects. I would argue that we may actually need fewer not more cops. If the cops we have would focus on real crimes and not on parking, speeding, and dui, , there would not be a need for more cops.

Mitchell Young

A rare occasion for agreement -- now if we can get the LA Times to come around to abolishing the federal Department of Education.

Jon Healey

@Mitchell -- I'm in. Good luck with the rest of the editorial board, though. :-)

@Jackson -- I'd argue that the government isn't responsible for creating jobs, either, except (and here comes the discredited Keynesian in me) when the economy is in extreme distress.

One of the memes that Democrats are advancing during the debate over HR 1 is that Congress can't cut spending because that would kill jobs. Republicans have pretty much ignored them, but I wish they wouldn't. Everyone acknowledges that the debt it growing too rapidly; the only debate is when is the right time to turn down the federal dollar spigot. Is the private sector ready to take up the slack, to find work for all those people whose jobs have been sustained by federal dollars? We haven't had that discussion yet, even though it's the most important question out there, IMHO.

Aardvark

Dumping the politically motivated JSF second engine was great.

But disinvesting in NASA is one of the stupidest things this nation can do. Every dollar of investment in NASA research is repaid more than 10 times over in scientific advances that are applicable to industry, technology, medical science, and consumer products (thank NASA for the technology that made your iPhone possible, basically). Also NASA is one of the few brain trusts left in the Federal government, where we as a nation develop some really really smart people.

Taking away NASA's money to put a few more meathead cops on the streets will do nothing to reduce crime, overall, and will hurt our future as a nation.


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The Opinion L.A. blog is the work of Los Angeles Times Editorial Board membersNicholas Goldberg, Robert Greene, Carla Hall, Jon Healey, Sandra Hernandez, Karin Klein, Michael McGough, Jim Newton and Dan Turner. Columnists Patt Morrison and Doyle McManus also write for the blog, as do Letters editor Paul Thornton, copy chief Paul Whitefield and senior web producer Alexandra Le Tellier.



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