What “Cut” Means When Government Growth Comes First


Observing any system for a while, one can begin to discern what its top priorities are.  For Rhode Island’s leadership class (not only those in government and around politics, but also in satellite organizations and the news media), the top priority is clearly the promotion and growth of government.  You can tell it by the language that they use and the way they present issues.

Today’s example comes from an article by Matt Sheley in the Newport Daily News, under the print headline, “School union head baffled by decision to cut budget,” which was front page, above the fold, in yesterday’s paper.  Followers of this sort of thing will immediately question the word, “cut.”  For most people, that means the organization, family, or whatever, has a set budget and is having to reduce it.

When it comes to talking about Rhode Island government, though, what it means is that the department asked for a particular budget and didn’t get it.  As the article goes on to explain, the Middletown Town Council gave the school department the current year’s budget plus one dollar, as required by state law.  That isn’t a “cut.”

The article does go on to note that the council approved a three-year contract with raises for teachers, last year.  That arguably creates an expectation for a higher budget from which one might plausibly decry a “cut.”  But then there’s this:

Among the cuts discussed were not filling an open dean position at Gaudet Middle School, continuing to go without junior varsity football and softball at Middletown High School, not hiring new teacher assistants, custodians and a district technology staff member, as well as paring courses with low enrollment and double checking the costs of the regional special-education program.

In other words, the hypothetical budget that the council (which sets the budget) is “cutting” included a bunch of new hires and some new activities.  A flat budget just means that the increases in the cost of teachers put a cap on the increases in services, which isn’t a “cut,” but a decision not to increase everything.  As for the other listed “cuts,” a position that can go without being filled is arguably not necessary, and courses that students don’t take should probably be discontinued without regard to the budget.

You know what you never see?  The news media describing increases in taxes as “cuts” to household budgets, and for those of us without raises promised by politicians whom we helped elect through the political action committees known as labor unions, increased taxes actually do require cuts to the rest of our families’ budgets.

Again, what should our priorities be?