Geez, they just never learn do they? When it comes time to vote in November, will we?

Budget Daze in Congress

Amid all the other Washington dysfunction, who might notice a bit of meanness in which cultural programs for the deaf suddenly had their federal grants cut off? For starters, the first lady, Laura Bush, might. Mrs. Bush lavished praise on one of the beneficiaries of the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act the Deaf West Theater Company when she saw its much-praised Broadway production of the musical "Big River." Yet somehow in December 2004 the $2 million in annual grants for the theater and a half dozen other time-proven programs for the deaf were struck from appropriations in the lunchmeat-making process Congress calls budgeting. The result is that for the past 16 months the National Theater of the Deaf has been scrapping productions and cutting jobs and salaries to survive. No one has yet been able to identify the Congressional malefactor who thought the cut was necessary.

The fiscal cruelty might be written off as a minuscule mistake. But the Republican leadership has shown a zealous attention to detail when it comes to its own priorities. Special tax breaks for favorite contributors get carefully tucked into safe spots in the budget like tiny sweet pea seeds planted in the garden. Meanwhile, big new breaks for the affluent play the part of the earthmoving equipment, carrying off trillions in future government revenues and leaving nothing but a big hole behind.

The defunding of the culture programs for the deaf is not only woeful but also stands as a warning about the latest Congressional ineptitude failure to meet the April 15 deadline for approving a new budget. House Republicans have been fighting over how deeply to slice away at cultural grants and other programs, while daring to contemplate still more tax cuts.

This late-blooming "budget hawk" debate is rooted in the majority's shallow political need to appear fiscally responsible after five straight years of running up the national debt.This charade has been interrupted as lawmakers take another two-week recess from seeing to the people's business. But beware: Congress and its mysterious budgeteers will soon be back.