Our Views: Two categories of conservative

The difference between a skinflint and a conservative is pointed out by The Weekly Standard, a journal that usually is on the side of cutting government expenditure.

The Standard’s opinion of a bill by U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, is that a skinflint cutback urged by Cassidy is not particularly conservative.

Cassidy’s bill would ban oil paintings paid for by public funds for departing members of the president’s Cabinet. It’s called the EGO Act, for Eliminating Government-funded Oil-paintings. Catchy, no?

As the Standard noted, this is parsimony that might appeal to voters angry both at budget deficits and the pretentious bureaucrats who run government agencies. But there are historic examples of great paintings, such as Gilbert Stuart’s George Washington, or Sargent’s Theodore Roosevelt.

The bill is “shortsighted” and confuses a Jimmy Carter-like thirst for small efficiencies with another ethic of conservative thought, the preservation of traditions, the Standard said.

Tradition is important.

Although we understand the concern of the Standard’s editors, we wonder if Cassidy’s headline-hunting bill does not serve a useful purpose.

An official photograph will do fine for most secretaries of this or that. But if a head of a government department provides truly distinguished service — say, a secretary of the Treasury who manages to balance the budget — then the private sector is probably likely to raise the money to commission a painting to add to the halls of government. That would be a secretary who will be remembered, after all, beyond the dusty covers of dry official histories.

Maybe it’s a skinflint bill, but there’s an old English saying: If you take care of the pennies, the pounds will take care of themselves.