Did anyone else laugh when it became clear that President Bush’s new budget had a very simple philosophy behind it? Namely being, “If it’s a domestic program we should either kill it or slash it’s funding to the point that we may as well have killed it, but if it’s anything to do with the military or defense then toss more money at it.”
Reaction from lawmakers has been tepid at best, even from his fellow Republicans, and the word from several of them is that this budget is dead on arrival. Which isn’t to say aspects of it won’t be adopted anyway or that there aren’t some good ideas in it, but there’s going to be a lot of cussin’ and spittin’ at the Capitol and many of the bigger requests are unlikely to survive. Take the farm subsidies, for example, where the President is hoping for some $587 million in cuts to various programs. Personally, I can agree with Bush that there is a need to take a weed-whacker to some of the farm subsidies out there, but I doubt it’s going to happen as there are some powerful special interest groups that have been protecting those subsidies for decades and few senators from farming states are going to risk pissing off their constituents for a lame-duck President.
It probably doesn’t help things any that the budget doesn’t include the costs of the ongoing war in Iraq—Bush has already asked for an additional $80 billion in supplemental funding this year—or the costs involved in implementing Bush’s overhaul of Social Security that is estimated will run between $1 trillion and $2 trillion, assuming that Bush manages to convince Congress it’s a good idea. And if Bush’s tax cuts are made permanent—another of his goals—then there’s added losses of revenue there that should be taken into account, but aren’t, in this budget. Bush’s team doesn’t see those losses as having a real impact until around 2010 and, hell, he won’t be in office by then so what’s the problem? Given that there’s already so much grousing over the budget proposal from both sides it’s probably safe to assume that whatever does get passed won’t resemble this initial proposal all that much so it’s hard to say how much anxiety anyone should have about it. More worrisome is the penchant Bush has for spending money we don’t really have all the while calling for more tax cuts. We’re set to break new records with the deficit for the fourth year in a row and Bush’s only solution to that problem is to try and eliminate as many domestic programs as he can. Even if he did get everything he’s asking for in his budget most economists say it wouldn’t be enough to halve the deficit by 2009 as Bush likes to claim mainly due to open ended spending on the war that has no end in sight.
For those interested in hearing more about the proposed budget, NPR has been doing a great job of explaining the proposal and the reactions from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle that you might want to check out.