More Tricky Budgeting

Posted by Admin

It's an election year, so Bush is traveling the country touting various funding increases he's made for Homeland Security, education, home ownership programs, job training, science programs, veterans' benefits, etc.

But the Washington Post reports that two internal White House documents, including a memo sent to all agencies, are warning of significant cuts to many of the same programs Bush has highlighted in his re-election tour:

The Department of Veterans Affairs is scheduled to get a $519 million spending increase in 2005, to $29.7 billion, and a $910 million cut in 2006 that would bring its budget below the 2004 level.

The $78 million funding increase that Bush has touted for a homeownership program in 2005 would be nearly reversed in 2006 with a $53 million cut. National Institutes of Health spending would be cut 2.1 percent in 2006, to $28 billion, after a $764 million increase for 2005 that brought the NIH budget to $28.6 billion.

Those are just two examples. In other words, convince people you're compassionate and they should vote for you by funding programs they care about and once you get in office, roll back the funding.

The ultra-conservatve tax-hating Heritage Foundation makes this ludicrous statement on the matter:

But with the budget deficit exceeding $400 billion this year, tough and painful cuts are unavoidable, said Brian M. Riedl, a budget analyst at the conservative Heritage Foundation.

Federal agencies' discretionary spending has risen 39 percent in the past three years. "I think the public is ready for spending cuts," Riedl said. "Not only does the public understand there's a lot of waste in the federal budget, but the public is ready to make sacrifices during the war on terror."

Riedl is wrong if he imagines Americans believe the "sacrifice" should come at the expense of our veterans, the poor, the environment, and our children. The Bush tax cuts were unpopular among most Americans, and they would much rather see those cuts repealed or allowed to lapse than see such programs cut:

The poll found 76 percent of those surveyed would have preferred the government devote resources to job creation rather than the tax cut and even 54 percent of Republicans would have chosen jobs over tax cuts. Democrats, at 89 percent, and independents at 83 percent were overwhelmingly in favor of jobs programs rather than tax cuts.

A plurality of Americans also would have preferred deficit reduction over the tax cut, with 49 percent choosing deficit reduction and only 42 percent picking the cut. While a majority of Republicans would have chosen tax cuts over deficit reduction [emphasis added], Democrats picked deficit reduction by a two-to-one margin, while 49 percent of independents would have preferred reducing the federal deficit.

This is slightly off-topic, but the republican party should forever give up the claim that it is the party of fiscal responsibility. When most republicans believe we should borrow to fund tax cuts while democrats and independents prefer paying our existing bills to running up the charge cards, it's easy to see who is more fiscally responsible.

An April 2003 Quinnipiac poll, conducted before Bush passed a whole slew of tax cuts favoring the wealthiest Americans, showed that even a majority of republicans favored increases in social programs over cutting taxes:

46 percent of voters would rather reduce the deficit, while 47 percent would rather cut taxes; 68 percent would rather spend more on domestic programs such as education and health care, while 27 percent would rather cut taxes; 51 percent say the U.S. can't afford a tax cut because of the cost of the war in Iraq, while 41 percent say a tax cut is needed to stimulate the economy.

The fact that 68% favored increasing spending on domestic programs over tax cuts shows any plan to cut spending without repealing the tax cuts will hurt republicans with voters.

While there was a statistical tie between those wanting a tax cut and those wanting to reduce the deficit, new polls show those numbers have changed, with majorities (of democrats and independents, anyway) now preferring to pay down the deficit. We should pay down the deficit, but we should repeal the tax cuts before we look to reducing spending on important items like veterans' benefits, reducing infant mortality, education, job training, science, and environmental policies. Other countries are going to race ahead of us in making progress on these issues as long as those in power perceive a CEO's need to buy another BMW or his wife to afford a face lift and liposocution as more important.