Editorial: President Bush’s budget an unrealistic exercise in futility
One year and counting until the Bush administration rides into the sunset. But judging by its latest foray into surrealism, even that’s too long.
Bush and his advisers have just released a 2008-09 federal budget only Dr. Strangelove could admire.
The record $3.1 trillion package would produce monumental federal deficits at the same time it cuts Medicare and eliminates scores of popular domestic programs. Congress still must approve the budget, which many analysts say won’t happen.
At the end of a seven-year run that by any reasonable standards has been an abysmal failure, Bush throws out a lame-duck monstrosity that attempts to paint a rosy picture where there is none.
The administration has the gall to suggest its policies will result in a $48 billion surplus by 2012. To achieve this goal, Bush is relying heavily on spending cuts – some to transportation, Medicare, Medicaid and programs for the poor.
In the midst of this, the administration admits its budget will produce a huge jump in the deficit to $410 billion this year and $407 billion in 2009, just shy of the record $413 billion set four years ago.
According to The Associated Press, Bush’s budget includes these proposals:
— Defense spending in 2009 will be $588.3 billion compared with $670.5 billion this year. But it includes only $70 billion for war costs in Iraq and Afghanistan, $119.1 billion less than has been projected for this year.
That’s rosy thinking, indeed, even if Bush’s military surge ultimately is successful and troops start coming home. But in the past month or so, violence has again increased in the region, and political stability among the area’s tribal factions remains elusive.
— Medicare and Medicaid programs will be cut by about $200 billion over the next five years. Much of the savings would come from freezing reimbursement rates for most health-care providers for three years and from cutting payments to hospitals serving large numbers of uninsured poor.
— Health and Human Services Department funding would be cut by $2 billion. Funding for the National Institutes would be frozen, though the Food and Drug Administration would get a boost of $2.4 billion to increase food and drug safety efforts.
— Education programs would be frozen at $60 billion, with no increase for inflation. But, in Bush’s favor, he’s pushing to restore $600 million lawmakers cut from Reading First, which serves low-income children. Title I grants, which help fund programs for poor students, would rise about 3 percent, and special education would increase by $330 million.
These minuscule increases, though, are overshadowed by the $18 billion he proposes saving next year by cutting some 151 programs, many of the cuts Congress has rejected before.
They include eliminating community service grants to nonprofit groups that help the poor, a food program aimed at low-income seniors and grants to help states keep illegal immigrants convicted of felonies in jail. Bush also proposes to cut clean water grants, funding for local law enforcement and Homeland Security grants to states and local governments.
Bush also wants to cut veterans’ medical programs for four years in a row after granting them a small increase next year. That’s a heck of a thank you for their service.
All this, and still huge deficits.
And as if this weren’t enough, there’s one other tiny wrinkle: Bush insists on making his 2001 and 2003 tax cuts permanent. That adds up to more than $2 trillion over the next decade.
The Bush budget is hopelessly unrealistic. But with a year to go, why change philosophy now?
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Like many residents and visitors of Lake Tahoe, I have had the good fortune of running, hiking, swimming, skiing, dining, lodging and otherwise living in and around Lake Tahoe nearly all of my life. Tahoe…