Tuesday, February 08, 2005

The Devil is in the Details: Bush and the Budget

Yesterday, I touched on my annoyance with the President's 2005 budget proposal to Congress. Over the last day, I have been trying to get as much information as possible about the President's proposal and what its effects will be. A great overview and analysis of the President's budget proposal can be read here or, if you want it from the horse's mouth here. Many members of Congress, both Democrats and Republicans, have voiced numerous concerns about the proposed budget. To make things simple, here are my Top 10 Problems with Bush's Budget Proposal:

10) The President's Budget Proposal is a Lie Wow! Strong words. Let me make my case. It seems that we're all in agreement that in order to lie, the President would have to willingfully deceive us into thinking something was true when it is not. Now that we've set the criteria, let's look at some details. The President and his spokespeople have made it pretty clear that the reason for cutting back spending on Medicaid, Environmental Protection, Education and the Centers for Disease Control is to reduce the contribution of this administration to the budget deficit. The problem, as cited in the NY Times article above, is that the President's budget isn't real. It doesn't include spending on the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan or his Social Security Plan. Leaving out expenses from your budget to make it look better is lying.

9) George W. Bush, Champion of Education - If you read through OMB Director Josh Bolton's statement (here), you can get an idea about what is happening to Education Funding. Not only does the the President's proposed budget reduce funding for student loans, but eliminates 49 "non-military discretionary spending" programs from the Department of Education. Combine this with Bush's quest to allow school funding to follow students out of underperforming school districts, and you have the basis for what will be an educational crisis.

8) Permanent Tax Cuts - After not vetoing a single spending bill during his first term, the President has figured out that the deficit is out of control and is going to balance the budget the republican way. For those of you who weren't around during the Reagan years, here is how it's done: cut spending on social programs like health care and education, disease prevention and assistance for the poor, and give your rich friends lots of tax cuts. But wait! How can doing that balance the budget? That's not how Clinton did it! And you would be right. That sort of thing will not bring us anywhere close to a balanced budget, and the President, according to his own spokesperson will likely seek to make his corporate welfare program permanent. It doesn't add up, and I would love to hear someone try to explain how making the Alternative Minimum Tax rates permanent will balance the budget, but it's like saying you're going to promote sexual abstinence by screwing your local high school's girls volleyball team.

7) Not Budget Cuts, Ryan, REFORMS If you listen to those in the Bush Administration talk about the plans to reduce funding for everything under the sun, except funds for killing people that don't buy into our foreign policy agenda, they make it sound like the system is just wasting money. And while I won't deny that money gets wasted at the federal level in all sorts of programs, the Administration uses this idea to make it seem like public schools, for example, are just using $20 bills to wipe people's asses.

6) Increased Military Spending If times were really tough, and Bush were committed to deficit reduction, you'd think that he would make an attempt to reign in spending across the board, and not just for social programs. After all, if the Department of Education can function with reduced discretionary spending, why can't the Department of Defense? I know we're fighting a war in two foreign countries right now, but the increased military spending in the budget doesn't even include ad hoc packages for Iraq and Afghanistan, so don't give me that support the troops bullshit. We're already supporting the troops to the tune of about $5 billion a month.

5) Environmental Protections As if Bush's budget weren't harmful enough, it guts funding for the US Forestry Service and Environmental Protection Agency, including huge cuts in the Clean Water Act and enforcement. If the terrorists don't get us, the water supply just might do us in.

4) Tax Cuts Create Economic Growth The President uses the idea that tax cuts help the economy to back up the idea of making his tax cuts permanent, during a period of gigantic deficit growth. Here is a quote to that affect from Director Bolton's press conference:
"I think most economists will agree on at this point, is that the reason we have growth back in the economy, or the kind of growth that we've seen in the last couple of years and project in the months going forward, is because the tax cuts are in place. They have contributed substantially to that restored growth."
This is called Supply Side economics. You can find an excellent discussion of its drawbacks here. If you want an empirical example of failed Supply Side economics, look no further than the 1980s and the Reagan Administration. It's crap, and it's been empirically denied.

3) Medicaid According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, about 45 million Americans are without health insurance. If you click on that link, you can also read that lack of insurance and under-insurance, which affects a significantly larger portion of the US population, is hardly a trivial issue. It increases health care costs for all of us, puts more strain on programs like Medicaid, and can actually result in people not receiving care. The President's solution: cut Medicaid funding significantly. Like Deja Vu, I'm reminded of the screwing for abstinence campaign.

2) Bush's Budget Defies Logic The President's plan makes no sense from an accounting standpoint - decrease taxes, increase military spending, and hope that the economy improves people's incomes enough to generate more revenue? Not if you're cutting the taxes of the people who benefit most from economic prosperity.

1) The Budget Reveals Bush's True Priorities - During the election, the President made all sorts of statements about his commitments to Education, Health Care, Disease Prevention, and even though it often resulted in rolling eyes from most people, the Environment. If you're like me, you didn't believe a word of it, because the President's actions have shown that he cares about two things 1) Money and 2) War. This budget proves that the President cares more about corporate profits and killing evildoers than people's health and well being. By cutting funding for Medicaid, the CDC, the EPA, and the Department of Education, the President has just contradicted his own "strong moral character." His priorities disgust me, and unless you own WalMart or manufacture cruise missiles for a living, I'm sure the budget made you realize things about the President as well. I wish I had something funny to say about it, but really, it's just sad.

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