Bowing to election-year realities, a key House panel dropped President Bush's proposed budget cuts for hospitals and other Medicare providers yesterday but preserved his plan to trim spending by most Cabinet agencies.
...The GOP plan -- written by committee Chairman Jim Nussle (R-Iowa) for fiscal 2007, which will begin on Oct. 1 -- adopts Bush's $873 billion cap on agency budgets that are renewed by Congress each year. But it also assumes just $50 billion for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, less than half of the expected spending for military operations in those countries this year.
...The plan endorses Bush's call for a 7 percent increase in next year's core defense budget, which does not cover the costs of the war in Iraq. That increase would come at the expense of domestic programs such as education, health research and grants to local governments and relief agencies.
...Republicans blocked attempts by Democrats to increase funding for port security, education, health programs, food stamps and homeland security. [Emphasis added]
The trick, of course, is to make it look like the budget is being trimmed of all the wasteful spending so that the programs popular with the voters can be left untouched. Cutting Medicare benefits simply won't do. It's hard to justify ripping off the elderly, especially since there are more and more of them, and they tend to vote with great regularity. So, as in this case, you simply misunderestimate the cost of some of the big ticket items, like the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and everything looks great.
Some of the smaller, less sexy programs, like food stamps for the poor and actual port security, didn't fair as well as Medicare. Cuts have to be made somewhere, I guess, especially since someone has to pay for those whopping tax cuts for the wealthy, right? Besides, the poor don't vote much.
Silly season, indeed.