Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

The Myth of the Centrist

The political spectrum in this country is usually divided into 3 broad groups: Left, Center, Right. This is a very simplified description. Because of that simplicity, the media loves to break the country down into those three groups.

While I disagree with this simplistic approach, my main disagreement is what the media claims constitutes the center.

The recent cuts in the Senate to the House version of the stimulus bill have been hailed as an effort lead by centrists to hold the line on pork and spending. That’s the media’s interpretation of events. In reality, these cuts look like a wish list from the Right.

Most of the cuts can be categorized in five main groups: education, science, health care, the environment, and law enforcement. All of these, except for law enforcement, are areas that the conservative right has fought against. Even law enforcement is starting to get short shrift from the Right. They prefer privatized prisons, so prison funding had to go.

Photo courtesy of CuriousGeorge81

Some of the other cuts are completely nonsensical.

Full list after the break.

One of the hardest hit parts of our economy can be found in the construction industry, yet several of the items are targeted specifically to give a boost to construction.

Why would centrists block funding for construction projects? They wouldn’t, but conservatives would.

A recent email I received from a conservative mailing list spelled out exactly why construction funding is on the conservative radar. The email explained that a percentage of construction workers are actually illegal aliens. “Oh, Noes! The wetbacks will get all our tax dollars!” God forbid we spend money on jumpstarting a vital part of our economy because a small portion of that money might end up being earned by illegal aliens.

That fear of brown-skinned aliens also reared its head when it came to state aid. The same conservative email lamented the fact that some of the money intended to help state governments deal with the financial crisis might go to help illegal aliens.

It’s true that illegal aliens make up to 10% of the population. That means that at least 90% of the funds would go to help legal citizens. But that’s not good enough for the crazies on the right. Better to watch fellow Americans suffer than to help even one illegal alien.

Some of the other items will require some research before commenting. For instance, what would the GSA do with the $4.5 billion intended for their use? The same goes for the $100 million for Farm Service Agency modernization. I suspect it is to modernize and improve services, but without a full explanation it is difficult to tell.

A case could be made in support of almost any one of the items that have been cut. Yet the representatives who put those in there in the first place have been suprisingly quiet. Or is it that the media is just not reporting that side of this issue?

One of the most talked about cuts was of monies intended to be spent to remove barriers to fish migration in rivers. This is a dearly beloved project among sportsmen, state natural resource commissions, bioligists, and others interested in preserving our bio-diversity and in promoting fish stocks. However, this effort has been held up to ridicule by so-called centrists.

Why has no one come out in support of spending like the one mentioned above? It would create jobs – someone would have to be paid to remove those barriers – it would improve the environment, improve fish stocks and therefore sportfishing, it would even improve and protect bio-diversity according to wildlife biologists. What’s not to like?

I call bullshit on the centrist claim. This is not a centrist effort. This is an obvious conservative agenda pushed by two supposedly moderate Republicans, as if there is any such animal, Lieberman, and a conservative Democrat in Ben Nelson.

Enough of this centrist crap. It’s time to fight back.

The list as provided here comes from CNN. (My emphasis)

Partially cut:

$3.5 billion for energy-efficient federal buildings (original bill $7 billion)

$75 million from Smithsonian (original bill $150 million)

$200 million from Environmental Protection Agency Superfund (original bill $800 million)

$100 million from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (original bill $427 million)

$100 million from law enforcement wireless (original bill $200 million)

$300 million from federal fleet of hybrid vehicles (original bill $600 million)

$100 million from FBI construction (original bill $400 million)

Fully eliminated

$55 million for historic preservation

$122 million for Coast Guard polar icebreaker/cutters

$100 million for Farm Service Agency modernization

$50 million for Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service

$65 million for watershed rehabilitation

$100 million for distance learning

$98 million for school nutrition

$50 million for aquaculture

$2 billion for broadband

$100 million for National Institute of Standards and Technology

$50 million for detention trustee

$25 million for Marshalls Construction

$300 million for federal prisons

$300 million for BYRNE Formula grant program

$140 million for BYRNE Competitive grant program

$10 million state and local law enforcement

$50 million for NASA

$50 million for aeronautics

$50 million for exploration

$50 million for Cross Agency Support

$200 million for National Science Foundation

$100 million for science

$1 billion for Energy Loan Guarantees

$4.5 billion for General Services Administration

$89 million General Services Administration operations

$50 million from Department of Homeland Security

$200 million Transportation Security Administration

$122 million for Coast Guard Cutters, modifies use

$25 million for Fish and Wildlife

$55 million for historic preservation

$20 million for working capital fund

$165 million for Forest Service capital improvement

$90 million for State and Private Wildlife Fire Management

$1 billion for Head Start/Early Start

$5.8 billion for Health Prevention Activity

$2 billion for Health Information Technology Grants

$600 million for Title I (No Child Left Behind)

$16 billion for school construction

$3.5 billion for higher education construction

$1.25 billion for project based rental

$2.25 billion for Neighborhood Stabilization

$40 billion for state fiscal stabilization (includes $7.5 billion of state incentive grants)


  1. – republicans too embarrassed or dishonest to come right out and say so.

    – democrats that are too afraid of ridicule for being overt democrats, maybe some self-loathing mixed in there from listening to (and believing) GOP spin about ‘real Americans’.

    – suckers and the countless horde of gullible dopes that believe whatever they hear on abc/cbs/nbc/cnn.

    – traditional patriarchs that believe anything told to them by an angry white man in a suit.

    but, hey what do I know?


  2. rfahey22

    They see one group pushing one way, another group pushing the other way, and “centrists” trying to split the difference.  It’s a lazy description of what’s happening.  

  3. I was going to comment specifically along these lines regarding Krugman’s recent article using the word.  

    There is nothing Centrist about the “negotiations” going on at all, and I find the use of the word downright offensive.  There is, in fact, very little that is ideological at all about the GOP resistance to the stimulus package, it is a purely political effort to:

    a/  have the country fail while under Democratic control, and

    b/  end up with the overall impression that the GOP was against government spending all along (reversing the Bush legacy)

    “a” is the most offensive.  As summed up by Mush Limpraw, it is deemed better by the Far Right that the country should collapse entirely while under Democratic rule than that it should be seen to be possible that anything other than Far Right ideologies could succeed.  A more traitorous, anti-American attitude has not been demonstrated by Al Qaeda, and everyone who agrees with Benedict Limbaugh should be run out of the country on a splintery rail.

    “b” would be arguable if not for the implicit disrespect for the welfare of the country that comes with the political exercise being acted out at this time (see “a”).  Perhaps a sane gov’t that had limited spending and exercised the management of financial markets competently could demonstrate the value of low taxation, but not following a gov’t that had done neither and left a massively challenged economy as we have now.

    So please, Mr. Krugman, don’t stain political moderateness with the sins of GOP political maneuvering.  Call this what this is: wreckless disregard for the welfare of the country for Republican political purposes.

  4. …swinging between cries of ‘nationalise it all’ on the left, and ‘tax cuts and bust’ on the right, being a centrist in this situation is not a myth: it smacks of sanity to me.  

  5. atdleft

    Aren’t really “centrists” as much as they’re radical right Bush appeasers. And now that Bush is gone, they’re busy appeasing Rush Limbaugh’s biotchez Mitch McConnell & John Boehner. They say they’re against “pork”, but all they’re cutting is real aid that real people need.

    Why don’t they want me to finish school? Why don’t they want my unemployed friend to have a lifeline while he’s finding another job? Why don’t they want my cousin’s kids to have health care?

    We need to reframe the debate in this way. The radical right GOP has framed the stimulus debate around “pork” and “wasteful spending”, but we need to show that there’s no “waste” in providing real help for real people.

  6. Jjc2008

    some of what you said.  

    And when it comes to this bill, I really believe and hope the president will restore much of the education funding.

    I like Paul Krugman.  I think the man is brilliant.

    I think part of the problem is this: many people are quite liberal/progressive on domestic issues, but more centrist on foreign policy.  Or perhaps vice versa!

    I truly believe in the adage of “It takes a village….” thus for me, government has an important role, a big role in education, health care, the commons (police, safety, infrasctructure).  I believe public availability of things from public schools to public libraries and even publicly financed philharmonics, art museums…..enhance and improve the lives of all.  Government, for me, can and should be the great equalizer.  Just because some are “to the manor born” does not make it right they get to see and experience the arts, the wonders of nature while the poor are shut out.

    Again, for me, only, foreign policy is much harder to be taking sides in some arenas.  Some things were easy.  The Reagan administration’s support of Pinochet and other despots was pretty clearly WRONG.  American imperialism (the using of the resources of other countries, propping up despots to make sure we get what we want from oil to bananas) is wrong.

    But I am not as sure as some here about the middle east, Israel vs Palestine…I believe in the two state solution, always have, but over my lifetime understand how complicated it can get.   I was against the invasion of Iraq but was never under the spell that Hussein or the Bathists were some innocent players…. but again some of the Shia in control could push for theocracy….something I think makes the situation worse.   I resent our willingness to close our eyes to the Taliban for most of the 80s….and only taking a stand when profit or political opportunities (to make things hard for the USSR) was involved.   I believe Americans need to understand we have over consumed and that the resources of earth are limited.  We have no more right to a decent level of living (food, shelter, safety) than the Chinese, the Indians, anyone in the world.  

    I do not believe the “world trade” genie will ever go back in the bottle.  It is here and we need to deal with it…, I have no idea.  

    I just have gotten to an age where I passionately understand that there are no absolutes.  I am totally, totally against violence, but if I saw an adult harming a child, or even a small animal, or even a smaller adult, I would feel compelled to physically stop them.

    Anyway, I am liking the president in this press conference. I think he is showing some force with words and telling it like it is.  AND A HUGE KUDOS TO HIS RESPECT TOWARD HELEN THOMAS.

  7. Michelle

    I call bullshit on the centrist claim.

    Oh, and I really love gummy bears, but that clear, yellowish colored one in the center is GACK.

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