Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Budget Priorities

It's clear from his budget just where the Emperor's priorities lie. Tax cuts for the wealthy remain in place, defense monies increase, but smaller, more community based health initiatives are cut or even zeroed out. From yesterday's Washington Post:

President Bush has requested billions more to prepare for potential disasters such as a biological attack or an influenza epidemic, but his proposed budget for next year would zero out popular health projects that supporters say target more mundane, but more certain, killers.

If enacted, the 2007 budget would eliminate federal programs that support inner-city Indian health clinics, defibrillators in rural areas, an educational campaign about Alzheimer's disease, centers for traumatic brain injuries, and a nationwide registry for Lou Gehrig's disease. It would cut close to $1 billion in health care grants to states and would kill the entire budget of the Christopher and Dana Reeve Paralysis Resource Center.

...The spokesman for the American Heart Association said he cannot fathom why the administration has recommended eliminating a $1.5 million program that provides defibrillators to rural communities and trains local personnel on how to use the machines to restart hearts that go into cardiac arrest.

To meet his twin goals of taming a rising deficit and increasing spending on national security, Bush proposed $2.2 billion in cuts to discretionary programs elsewhere in the budget. The Department of Health and Human Services would absorb $1.5 billion of that total, in part to direct more money to mandatory programs such as Medicare.

Some of the proposed cuts are familiar Bush targets that in previous years were rescued by congressional backers. Others are new and could be harder to restore this year. Leavitt said his team slashed programs that were duplicative or underperforming. But in every case, physicians, patient advocates and policy analysts argue, it will cost taxpayers more in the long run.
[Emphasis added]

What is so outrageous about these cuts is that they all were pretty much small ticket items. In no way do these cuts even begin to offset the tax cuts: they are symbolic gestures, and cynical ones at that. Also included in programs reduced to the point of elimination are some connected with Alzheimer's, a disease which is predicted to increase to the point of an epidemic by 2050. Programs which provide law enforcement assistance for locating patients who have "wandered off" and which provide information on ways to stave off the horrors of the disease have been left in the dust. Neither program can honestly be described as inefficient or duplicative.

And the real stupidity of this kind of budgetary planning is that it brings home an old saying my grandmother was fond of: penny wise and pound foolish. The costs to Medicare and Medicaid will increase as people with cardiac and cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer's, and paralysis will enter the federal programs earlier and with more advanced illnesses than they otherwise might have.

How stupid and shortsighted is that?



Blogger Eli said...

What pisses me off is how they can cut hundreds of billions in taxes for the wealthy, and blithely approve God only knows how much pork, and then use a few billion in mean-spirited spending cuts to make it look like they're being real manly budget hardliners. Assholes.

4:57 PM  

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