February 6, 2004

Bush's budget woes continue

On Tuesday, President Bush unloaded on the American people another budget filled with fuzzy math. Despite his claims during the 2000 presidential election to bring back fiscal restraint to Washington—I know, President Clinton really broke the bank balancing the budget and ushering in surpluses for the first time in 30 years—Bush has increased spending every year he has been in office, and this year is no exception.

When President Bush arrived in Washington, he was greeted with a $127 billion surplus, a relic of the "fiscally irresponsible" Clinton administration. During his second year in office, President Bush sent Congress a budget with a $158 billion deficit. This year, the surpluses left for President Bush by the Clinton administration has warped into a deficit of $521 billion, an all-time record. The projected $5.6 trillion surplus that was supposed to materialize over the next decade has also turned into a $1.1 trillion deficit, a decrease of $6.7 trillion in three years. Though these decreases can be partially blamed on the bursting of the telecom bubble and the ensuing recession, blame must be also placed on President Bush's tax policies. According to The New York Times, tax receipts equaled 21 percent of the GDP in 2000, but by 2003 the percentage had fallen to 15.7 percent, of which 45 percent can be blamed on President Bush's tax cuts.

President Bush's current budget makes no moves to curb the deficit and it is hard to see surpluses in the future through all that red ink. Joshua Bolton, the chief architect of the budget, claimed Tuesday that due to spending cuts in 128 government programs, mostly in the Department of Education, the government was well on its way to returning to surpluses. These cuts, however, are offset by the staggering increases in defense spending and the new price tag of $530 billion for the president's Medicare prescription drug plan, which was projected to cost "only" $400 billion just months ago.

As predicted, the budget is a grab bag for the military and special interests and indicative of the administration's lack of concern for the interests of Americans who are not in the top echelons of the tax system.

The Pentagon's budget this year will top $401.7 billion, a 7.1 percent increase since last year. This total, however, does not include the anticipated costs of continuing to stabilize Iraq and Afghanistan, operations that the White House has conceded could cost an addition $50 billion this year. These additional costs will be funded through a supplemental spending bill, like the one that Congress passed last year and pumped $87 billion into the same two nations. Regardless of how much the administration sends to the likes of Halliburton and other defense contractors later this year, it will also pump billions of dollars into other "worthwhile" programs, including the Strategic Defense Initiative, commonly known as Star Wars. Spending for Star Wars will increase by 13 percent this year to $10.2 billion, enabling the United States to shoot down intercontinental ballistic missiles from the USSR The budget also includes $305 million for three Boeing-built V-22 "Osprey" aircrafts, two of which crashed in 2000, leaving 23 Marines dead.

Aside from the drunken spending binge that the president has earmarked for the Pentagon, President Bush is also proposing billions of dollars to send Americans back to the Moon to establish a permanent colony there and to land a man on Mars by 2015. Congressional estimates cited by Senator John McCain (R-AZ) recently showed that the president's proposals would cost up to $600 billion. The White House disputed these claims, however, and said that they would cost "only" $400 to $500 billion. While space travel is important to our national identity and can serve to bring together Americans of all walks of life, the missions that the president has proposed serve no use other than to prove that the United States can land a person on Mars and build a permanent lunar colony before any other nation.

And as if the White House hadn't proposed squandering enough money, the president is also advocating making permanent the tax cuts passed by Congress in 2001, 2002, and 2003. After the release of his most recent budget, President Bush promised to reduce the size of the national deficit and to return the government to surpluses in the near future. Making permanent the Bush tax cuts, however, would only increase the national deficit by $1.7 trillion over 10 years. Regardless of the increased revenue that the government will likely collect when the economy picks up and tax returns rise, the amount of money that would be lost through the tax cuts would far outweigh these increases, only ensuring that the national deficit will remain looming over American life for the near future.

It is time for the American people, especially those of us who will not be retiring anytime soon, to wake up and realize how President Bush and his tax-cut-and-spend lap dogs in Congress are trying to spend this country out of existence. Important decisions must be made about the future of this country—decisions that George Bush and Dick Cheney do not have the guts or the integrity to make, lest they rile up their benefactors in corporate America.

The current administration is building up a pile of debt that will need to be paid off long after they are dead and buried. This burden, moreover, will not befall our parents—it will fall on our shoulders, as we will be reminded every time in the future that we attempt to obtain loans for our children's college educations or mortgages for our homes.

During the Vietnam War, President Lyndon Johnson—another Texan who had a vision of grandeur larger than the federal deficit—was often reminded that he couldn't have his cake and eat it, too. President Bush, like President Johnson before him, is trying to give us all that we want with no self-sacrifice or self-constraint. It took decades for the United States to begin to reemerge from Johnson's mountain of debt, but the American people may find out the true price of President Bush's debt long before they can hope to pay it off.