Ben Jones sent this in Monday, May 6 — the same day that the supervisors voted at their afternoon meeting to reduce the proposed $440,000 increase in the school division’s budget by about $140,000.
My friend Jim Miller is a gentleman and a scholar. I don’t take personally the fact that we disagree on a lot of things. He understands the importance of “comity,” a rarely used word that generally means “getting along with one another.” As opposed to political “comedy,” political “comity” has become as rare as rhinoceroses in Rappahannock.
So I’m hoping that Jim won’t mind if I respond to his quoted remarks in the Rappahannock News about the last Rappahannock County school budget hearing. The story read, “ ‘Proponents of this budget say any reduction to it is apocalyptic – this is rubbish,’ said Washington resident Jim Miller, in one of the most strongly worded comments of the night. “Every budget can be cut,” said Miller, who is among the county’s better known fiscal conservatives, and who directed the U.S. Office of Management and Budget under President Reagan. ‘You [the supervisors] don’t often hear from the people who pay the bills . . . I urge you to say no to this budget, or they [your constituents] will say “no” to you.’ ”
Yep, Big Jim was President Reagan’s second budget director after his predecessor, David Stockman, was guilty of heresy for saying publicly that if the Gipper cut taxes without cutting spending there would be Hell to pay. Stockman was, of course, right.
Perhaps you know the maxim: “If one were to lay all the economists in the world end to end, they would never reach a conclusion.” That Jim Miller is an economist should not be held against him. It was apparently a youthful indiscretion that led him into that infected field, and now it is too late for him to see the error of his ways. He is more to be pitied than censured.
It is ironic that the Keynesian economists who so opposed Reaganomics now claim that any success it had was due to its deficit spending, which is supposedly anathema to supply-siders. (It is my belief that a gifted economist can take a heap of numbers and make any case necessary out of them. They can “argue it flat” or “argue it round.”)
But let me go back to the quote from the school budget hearing. No one was heard saying that “any reduction” to that budget “would be apocalyptic.” But opposing further cuts is not rubbish. Opposing further cuts would be a common sense position as it stands now. This budget was cut down before it was presented. And to say that “every budget can be cut” misses a grand point. The question is not whether or not a budget “can” be cut, but whether or not a budget “should” be cut. And this one should not be touched any further.
And Jim, the supervisors do hear often from their constituents. In a small county like ours, they hear from their constituents all the time, practically every day. That is the nature of local government.
And the threat of being voted out for supporting this common sense budget is no better than the argument that they will be voted out for opposing the budget. I would like to think that these supervisors have more courage and integrity than to make a decision based on bullying.
Our school system is the county’s largest and most important employer. Such an enterprise obviously has a “domino” effect on our local economy. After shorting our school system during the difficult economic times of the recent recession, I think it is past time that we made this prudent investment into our school system. This should have nothing to do with how Rappahannock compares with other school districts. The standard should be one that we set for ourselves. Our administrators, our teachers, our school staffs and above all our students deserve the very best we can provide. This budget is a modest step in that direction.