Last week, the House passed a homeland security appropriations bill slashing funding for grants to state and localities. The New York Times has now noticed and unleashed an indignant editorial:
House Republicans talk tough on terrorism. So we can find no explanation—other than irresponsibility—for their vote to slash financing for eight antiterrorist programs. Unless the Senate repairs the damage, New York City and other high-risk localities will find it far harder to protect mass transit, ports and other potential targets.
The programs received $2.5 billion last year in separate allocations. The House has cut that back to a single block grant of $752 million, an extraordinary two-thirds reduction. The results for high-risk areas would be so damaging—with port and mass transit security financing likely cut by more than half—that the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Peter King of New York, voted against the bill as “an invitation to an attack.”
Only a few months ago Times editorials accused King of trying to “hype” and “stoke” fear of homegrown Muslim terrorism. It’s sort of touching to see them get behind his fearmongering when the beneficiaries are local firefighters, police, and other local interests.
But the editorial has trouble worse than hypocrisy. For starters, it’s light on facts. Its accounting seems to omit over $320 million in funds for local firefighters that a floor amendment put in the bill. The article also fails to mention that that the bill eliminates a formula that ensures that homeland security funds are distributed to every state. Because it means that counterterrorism spending is highest per capita in rural areas where threat is lowest, homeland-security watchers have long attacked that minimum-funding provision. So while this bill would indeed cut homeland security funds going to New York, it would also mean that New York gets more of the remaining funds.
More importantly, the Times evidently did not try too hard to find an explanation for the cuts once they settled on irresponsibility, given that Republican appropriators readily offered one: the funds are wasteful. Rather than explain why they think the money is well spent (my definition of responsibility), the editorial conflates spending on security with security itself. It says the cuts will be “damaging” but cite only damage to the budgets of recipient agencies, not their purpose.