Monday, Dec 05, 2016
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Poor priorities

A FUNNY thing happened on the way to President Bush's "ownership society." A lot of Americans got disowned.

Veterans. Students. Police. Sick people. Poor people. People trying to get off drugs. Americans trying to get training to become employed. These are the people who will bear the brunt of the spending cuts in Mr. Bush's $2.57 trillion budget proposal, a plan that banks on preserving tax cuts to the rich and spending more on the war in Iraq, while dismantling domestic programs to reduce the deficit. It's the kind of society the President wants you to visit, but would you really want to live there?

Trying to sell his plan as a model of fiscal responsibility, President Bush said, "It is a budget that sets priorities. It's a budget that reduces and eliminates redundancy."

While it would increase spending on the military and homeland security, the proposal would cut most discretionary spending by nearly 1 percent, eliminating or scaling back 150 programs. The Environmental Protection Agency would lose 5.6 percent of its budget, the Department of Transportation would be cut by 6.7 percent, and Housing and Urban Development would take a hit of 11.5 percent.

Mr. Bush neglected to say that this is also a budget that fails to include the extra $80 billion he wants to spend in Iraq and Afghanistan or the billions of dollars he'll need to restructure Social Security. Probably just an oversight.

Just when the nation is facing a record deficit of $427 billion this year, the President would give up revenue by making permanent his 2003 tax cut in dividend and capital gains, keep the repeal of the estate tax past 2010, and retain a $400 increase in the child credit. Cost of the dividend and capital gains tax cuts alone: $162 billion through 2015.

Are there any good things in the 2006 spending plan? Of course. A modest increase in Pell grants for low-income students to attend college. More support for community health clinics. An attempt to reduce wasteful farm price supports. But that's precious little compared to the damage that will be done across the landscape.

Fortunately, some members of Congress greeted the plan with the scorn that it deserves, and not all of them were Democrats. House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi called it "a hoax." Republican Sens. George Voinovich of Ohio and Susan Collins of Maine refused to endorse the package until they feel that spending is being kept in check.

That could take a while.

While the Bush Administration has spent freely on its foreign adventures, it has not asked Americans to bear the cost. In fact, it keeps cutting taxes while the federal balance sheet is in its third straight year of record deficit. So one way to restrain spending is to cut domestic programs, many of which serve the weak and the vulnerable.

What George Bush doesn't make up there can be billed to the next generation.

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