HERBLOCK has it just right today. No one seems to know everything that's in the two huge budget bills now headed for Senate-House conference. However, there are, at this point, some known survivors among the program-wreckage and some known dead.
First a bulletin: You will be relieved to hear that the owners of private yachts and jets did quite well.They had been briefly worried when the administration proposed some modest fees to cover part of the benefits they now draw from the taxpayer. But it turned out they had nothing to fear.
Now for other business. Veterans, with a last-minute further assist from the White House, protected their $25 billion programs from all but a few minor nicks. Business -- apart from some newcomers, the synfuels and other alternative energy source developers -- is in fine shape with the prospect of generous tax breaks on the horizon. Export-Import bank beneficiaries, primarily seven large corporations, staved off much of their potential loss. Also unharmed was the nuclear lobby. It protected its only threatened property, the Clinch River fast breeder reactor, alas, from congressional assault. Things are also okay down on the farm. The dairy farmers got their friends to keep them from any real harm, and last-minute deals sweetened things up for the sugar industry. The upper reaches of the middle class did take some blows: parents of the relatively well-off, for instance, have lost their chance for bargain-rate college loans for their children.
The elderly and disabled did reasonably well -- unless they happen to have had the terrible judgment to be poor. In this case they will probably lose medical help in states unable or unwilling to absorb the loss of some federal Medicaid money. Some 2 million recipients of Social Security minimum benefits are in for a shock, too. They'll share a $1 billion cut in their current incomes.
The poor in need of legal help will still apparently get some. The legal aid program survived but with its resources and authority much curtailed. Food stamp recipients face an average 15 percent loss of benefits. That will be tough for many to take -- but since food programs were a major target of the cuts, we suppose it could have been worse -- it nearly was.
Many working welfare mothers will now be without medical benefits and worse off in terms of income than they would be if they were to quit their jobs -- how's that for an incentive? The working poor, in fact, those people trying to earn their way out of dependency and off welfare, generally have been hit from all sides in this legislation by higher rents for public housing, less food assistance, less day care and other help. Poor and handicapped children may get much less special help in school, but the programs will still be there.
Some programs won't be missed -- all the little special purpose programs that made miserable the lives of state and local administrators. But some, like the CETA job programs, will be sorely missed by both the people who participated and the communities that were served.
Still to be accounted for are all the users of health and other community service programs -- everything from family planning to child-abuse prevention. How they fare will now depend primarily on the prorities and resources of the states in which they live