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Bare bones


GLENN GOLDENHORN, who heads up Bare Bones for America, a conservative think tank, has been busily at work finding ways to cut the budget that were overlooked by Newt Gingrich's Contract with America.

He was elated when I saw him because his organization had just come up with something that even the cost-cutters in Washington had not thought of.

"We believe that we could save a bundle by cutting down the cherry trees around the Tidal Basin."

"Of course, you could," I told Glenn. "Why didn't the Republicans think of it before?"

"They were too busy cutting school lunches and Head Start. The cherry tree cuts completely slipped their minds. Frankly, I hadn't even thought of it until I drove by the Jefferson Memorial the other day and realized what a waste of taxpayers' money the blossoms were."

"George Washington was the first president who had contempt for cherry trees."

"We have nothing personal against the trees," Glenn explained, "but if we have a choice between keeping them and a tax cut, we'll take the cut."

"The Japanese people gave us those cherry trees. Don't you think that they might be a little upset if we cut them down to save money?"

"I don't think so. Once we show them all the things that we have sacrificed in our lives to balance the budget they'll understand. The cherry trees have been a federal giveaway for a long time in this city, and it costs too much to maintain the trees when they bloom only for a few weeks. Every community would love to have cherry blossoms, but the states should pay for such a luxury and not the federal government."

"You're absolutely right. There is no reason to have flowers if you eliminate public television," I said. "They are both a drain on the taxpayer."

Glenn added, "Also how can we justify eliminating a nuclear submarine and still allow 1,000 flowers to bloom?"

"How much money do you expect to save?"

"Between $30 billion and $40 billion. We're not just discussing the trees around the Tidal Basin -- we're also including those in the National Arboretum. Fair is fair."

"Do you plan to cut down the cherry trees as a line item or all at once?"

"This is an important environmental issue, and since it affects so many people, we believe that we should cut them down all at once -- preferably at night."

"Does your think tank consider this an agonizing decision or not?"

"Every budget cut is agonizing, but we're not just hitting the poor. The rich will suffer just as much because they stop and smell the flowers, too."

Art Buchwald is a syndicated columnist.

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