ONE CONCERN about President Carter's proposed budget cuts is that their effect on inflation won't be felt until next year. Another is that they will come in the wrong places, eliminating essential spending instead of waste. I have a solution to both problems.
Carter should require that government expenditures in the last quarter of this fiscal year not exceed the average of those in the three preceding quarters. The impact would be almost immediate instead of beingn delayed until next year. And the cuts would be likely to come in the right places, because, as government insiders know, the greatest waste occurs during the last quarter, when bureaucrats desperately shovel out this year's appropriation to justify their budget request for next year. The potential saving is illustrated by HUD, which last year spent 47.2 percent of its annual budget in the last two months of the fiscal year.
Last month Pakistan rejected our offer of $400 million in military aid. Pakistan is obviously angling for a better deal, but my advice to the administration is take the rejection and run.
Aid to Pakistan might help Russia rathan than deter it, for Pakistan would probably use its increased military strength, as it has so often in the past, against India, or, even worse, against the Baluchi and Pushtun tribesmen whose help we need in Afghanistan. This is the kind of on-the-ground reality that the global thinkers back in Washington almost always miss. If they've ever been to Pakistan, it was to only two or three cities, where they never came near the tribesmen who straddle the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. Aid to Pakistan would make sense only if we could make sure the Pakistans would pass along at least half the arms we send them to these tribesmen and to those who are doing the actual fighting in Afghanistan.
Recently, a California contractor was fined because his employes were not required to wear lifejackets while working on a bridge, even though he pointed out that the bridge crossed a dry riverbed. Perhaps the inspector reasoned that lifejackets would cushion the fall. The other side of the worker safety story comes from suburban Virginia, where they now have been 14 worker deaths in the construction industry in the last two years. During that time safety inspectors have visited only 2 percent of the area's construction sites. The answer to idiotic inspectors, then, is not the no-inspectors that industry lobbyists want but intelligent inspectors in adequate numbers.
If you find yourself vaguely troubled by those special courses on improving scholastic aptitude scores, you may have similar feelings about an organization called The Grantsmanship Center. It publishes a four-color magazine that promises to tell "how the country's most successful grant seekers got that way," and "how to write better proposals" and "how funding sources review proposals and make grants."
In case your problem isn't getting a grant but keeping that the government is threatening to cut off, there is another source of help. The District of Columbia Bar is sponsoring a conference on "Federal Grant Litigation," candidly subtitled, "Biting the Hand That Feeds You." It promises "a step-by-step guide to fighting grant termination or cutback" and offers to explain the developing field of "the grantee's right to a hearing before a federal agency." "Rights" always sound good, but think for a moment about what this one means. If the government is making a grant for you -- giving you something not yours by legal right -- why shouldn't it be able to stop without having to go through a costly legal hearing, further enriching the members of the D.C. Bar?
Among the fascinating facts uncovered by Michael R. Beschloss, 23-year-old author of "Kennedy and Roosevelt," is that during the 1920s, while Joseph Kennedy Sr. was making his millions, FDR was also trying his hand in the business world -- and displaying a flair for the flaky that was to remain unequaled until his son James launched his own career in commerce. But whether FDR was trying to corner the lobster market or Kennedy was manipulating RKO and Pathe, neither manifested zealous solicitude for the rights of the average investor. Who knows -- it may have been guilt that led to the SEC, their one great joint venture.
If Kennedy was the better businessman, Roosevelt was clearly the better politican. He used Kennedy much more than Kennedy used him, shamelessly manipulating the Boston Irishman's desire for social respectability with empty honors like a largely ceremonial ambassadorship to the Court of St. James. It was an appointment that ended Kennedy's own political life, and made it necessary for him to live through his sons -- for, by opposing aid to Britain in 1940, he earned the right to oblivion that belongs to those who are dead wrong at crucial moments in history.
Several months ago, when I boldly launched my campaign to bring back the dirigibles, my friends said (among other things): "But no one will want to spend 36 hours getting to London." Well, the trip costs them nearly 36 hours out of their lives the way they travel now. They leave Washington at 7:30 p.m., arrive in London at 7:30 a.m. (London time), get into their hotel around 10:30, collapse immediately from jet lag and sleep until around 5 p.m., wake up, eat, fall back into bed, wake up again at 2 a.m. and kick the sheets around until 7:30, when they can begin a reasonably normal day. This is what passes for modern, convenient travel. Why not spend those 36 hours aloft in the spacious, quiet, comfortable cabin of a dirigible, gradually adjusting to the time change?
When Barbara Bacock recently resigned after two and a half years as assistant attorney general in charge of the civil division at Justice, she was asked what she thought had been her major accomplishment. Reorganizing the division she said -- from 14 small sections into three large sections.
New administrations come and go, and nothing changes but the charts. The reason is that that's the way the bureaucrats want it. Reorganization gives their bosses like Babcock something to do -- redrawing diagrams, knocking down office walls, something to point to with pride when they leave. But it rarely threatens the staff with excessive work, and nothing outside the agency, such as poverty or hunger or disease, is affected in the slightest. What does happen is that new jobs are created, almost always with higher grade classifications, which of course mean higher salaries for the bureaucrats.
The reason bureaucrats like internal reorganization better than external action is easy to understand. Suppose you work in an antipoverty agency and you do your job so well that poverty is eradicated. What will happen to you? The bureaucrat can figure that one out.