I'm usually the first to roll my eyes when either bureaucrats or the recipients of government services say it's important to cut the fat out of government programs — but to leave the one they benefit from alone.
But then, not all government expenditures are equal, which means not all cuts should be applied equally.
Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., pictured above on the left, next to House Speaker John Boehner, is defending Republican plans to cut foreign aid budgets by about 8.7 percent. The reasoning is that, as a nation, we just can't continue to spend money we don't have. (Read the story here.)
Of course, if that were a blanket argument, never subject to qualification, we would stop paying the salaries of members of Congress, as well.
With Japan undergoing its biggest struggle since World War II, this isn't the time to cut back on aid to our allies. Even beyond natural disasters, however, the United states has much to gain by investing more in foreign assistance.
As this column from the Kalamazoo Gazette notes, foreign assistance makes up only 1 percent of the federal budget. A recent poll found most Americans thought it was 25 percent, and that they thought the nation ought to be spending 10 percent.
Cantor and other Republicans also support cuts to the National Weather Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, two agencies that track storms and warn about tsunamis, among other things. I'm not as concerned about this because it's not clear they couldn't do a good job with less – their budgets have grown considerably over the last few years.
But spreading a little more goodwill around the world – judiciously and intelligently, of course – seems like a strategy with a potential for good payoffs.
Meanwhile, Congress needs to tackle entitlements and military spending if it wants to get serious about cutting deficits, not strain at budget items that won't make a dent in the bottom line.