Tuesday, February 07, 2006

An Election Year Budget

As much as I'd like to say the Resident is balancing the budget on the backs of the poor, I can't, primarily because the budget presented to Congress doesn't balance the budget even if the poor and vulnerable of this country do take some sizeable whacks. Even the NY Times noted the irony of a "compassionate conservative" proposing this budget in an analysis piece today.

George W. Bush ran for office as a "compassionate conservative," arguing that Americans did not have to choose between huge tax cuts and a government that would do its part to address social needs like education and health care.

Now into his sixth year in the White House, Mr. Bush offered a budget on Monday that showed more clearly than ever the inexorable limits of that political promise.

Mr. Bush is asking Congress, first and foremost, to make his tax cuts permanent and to increase spending on national security, while looking for savings in popular domestic programs like Medicare and vocational education. The tradeoffs, to his critics, are achingly clear, and unfair.

Mr. Bush's budget began an ideologically charged debate in a midterm election year, with his party's control of Congress at stake. Democrats said Mr. Bush was proposing spending reductions that went well beyond fat to preserve his tax cuts for the affluent.

...Mr. Bush proposed an array of savings in domestic programs, including big reductions or cuts in 141 programs. Critics asserted those reductions would do little to ease the deficit even as they imposed real hardship on some people, constituting pain for little gain. Gene B. Sperling, a former economic adviser to President Bill Clinton, compared it to a man who leases three fully loaded Hummers, finds it stretches his family's budget to the breaking point, and decides his family has to start buying cheaper peanut butter.

"They're trying to create a framework where it seems the government can't do anything dramatic on child poverty or helping people between jobs because there's too much discretionary spending," Mr. Sperling said. "And their own numbers show that's flat out wrong."
[Emphasis added]

Among the largest beneficiaries of the new budget are the security forces (which still hasn't gotten around to adequately armoring military vehicles and bodies in Iraq) and the wealthiest of Americans (who get to keep their tax cuts). The biggest losers are Medicaid recipients (who now have co-payments and other limitations) and students (who will find it harder to get financial aid). And the budget still runs a huge deficit because of the "long war" in Iraq and the burgeoning costs of "homeland security".

Mr. Bush touts the tax cuts as a way to 'grow the economy,' yet major corporations continue to cut jobs and to outsource. Because of high energy costs, inflation is beginning to creep upward while wages stagnate or even drop. More people are sliding downward, yet don't have the promised safety net to cushion and sustain them. The middle and lower classes have to bear the brunt of these 'savings.' Compassionate? Hardly.

Under George Bush the federal government has grown in size and scope as "security" issues loom the largest. Federal agencies vie for the opportunity to engage in intelligence gathering here on US soil, for example, to the point that even the Pentagon has a unit dedicated to that purpose. Conservative? Not at all.

With this budget most Americans find themselves in a Victorian nightmare: it is the worst of times and the worst of times.

Way to go, George.


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