The programs sound innocuous enough: One spends federal money to store cotton bales. Another offers scholars a chance to study Asian-American relations. Two others pay to market U.S. oranges in Asia and clean up abandoned coal mines.
But in Washington’s wonkier circles, these are the federal budget’s equivalent of Jason Voorhees, the hockey-masked movie villain who could take an ax in the skull and come back for the sequel.
They are the Line Items That Won’t Die.
In recent years, leaders in both parties — including, in some cases, presidents from both parties — have singled out these four programs, worth a total of about $337 million, to either be eliminated or lose millions in funding. But they have survived, again and again, thanks to powerful lobbies or high-placed patrons in Congress. Even this year, after Congress cut $38 billionfrom the budget, they live on.
Now, in the lull before the next budget battle, watchdog groups say these often-criticized programs show the difficulty of the task ahead.
“This is why Ronald Reagan said that a government program is the closest thing to eternal life that we’ve ever seen on Earth,” said Brian Riedl of the conservative Heritage Foundation. “If lawmakers can’t cut programs that cost a few million, how are they going to cut deficits that are going to be in the trillions?”
Read more: Washington Post