House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has unveiled "phase two" of his "YouCut" program that allows people to vote online on programs they think should be cut from the federal budget. I'm all for crowdsourcing and for using technology in innovative ways to make government more responsive, but the three programs that the phase two "YouCut" program allows visitors to vote on cutting — the "ambassador's fund for cultural preservation," the Asian Development Fund, and the U.N. Population Fund — strike me as disappointing choices, because they all involve overseas spending, and relatively small amounts of it (at least compared to the overall budget or even the deficit) at that — "$60 million over the next ten years," "$356 million over 10 years," and $47 million in 2012, respectively.
About the ambassador's fund, the YouCut site explains, "the program provided $6 million in grants during 2010, including $575,000 to preserve an 18th Century Mongolian monastery, $30,466 to document traditional Pygmy music in the Congo, $47,000 to preserve carpet weaving traditions in Kazakhstan, and $39,000 to restore 19th Century furniture at the Anton Chekhov House Museum in Ukraine."
It's not that I particularly object to these cuts, it's just that the presentation seems to promote the misconception that we could make significant inroads in balancing the budget if we just spent less on the Congo, Pakistan, and Mongolia. Conveniently enough, very few citizens of Congo, Pakistan, or Mongolia vote in American elections, and no representative of Congo, Mongolia, or Kazakhstan is part of the House Republican caucus, which may be part of the reason Mr. Cantor is leading with these choices rather than, say, farm subsidies, or Medicare spending. What's next? A Web site that asks American voters to vote on tax increases to balance the budget and asks them to choose whether those higher taxes should be paid for by Pygmies, Mongolians, or Ukrainians?