February 03, 2004
Jesse Pounds Bush on Budget?

Budgets, as the president said in his Saturday radio address, are a matter of priorities, of making hard choices. The president's madcap tax-and-borrow policies have run up a staggering $500 billion deficit -- without creating the jobs needed to keep the economy going. Profits are up, but so is poverty. The Bush administration is building schools in Iraq, but not in the United States. How do we get out of this box?

The president's budget reveals his priorities, what he truly cares about. It is not a reassuring picture.

The president's first priority remains tax cuts, largely for the wealthy. Millionaires are pocketing $30,000 a year in tax breaks from this president. The president wants, first and foremost, to make his tax cuts permanent -- no matter what that means for the deficit, for investments in our future, for already obscene extremes of inequality in what once was a middle-class nation.

Tax cuts for the wealthy come first -- before jobs, before schools, before health care, before poverty, before the war on Iraq, before dealing with the deficits. Bush proposed these tax cuts when the economy was soaring and the budget was in surplus. He demanded them when the economy tanked and the budget went into deficit. He insisted on them even as he led the nation into wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. And now, with record deficits, a jobless recovery, costly and endless occupations, he wants only to make them permanent.

The president plans to run as a wartime president, so his second priority is the military. The total military budget will reach more than $500 billion next year. The $400 billion in the president's budget doesn't include most of our nuclear weapons programs, military aid or the actual costs of sustaining two occupations and nation building in Iraq and Afghanistan. The president will seek a ''supplemental'' of more than $50 billion for those two countries, but only after the election.

Homeland security spending will rise a symbolic 10 percent, to counter Democratic charges that the president hasn't done enough at home.

The president declares a war on ''waste,'' but the biggest source of waste in the federal budget is the Pentagon budget. Billions are squandered on Cold War weapons -- three short-range modern fighter planes at once, for example -- that respond to no threat and serve no need. Pentagon mismanagement is an open scandal.

That's why President Eisenhower, a conservative former general steeped in the ways of the military, put a lid on military spending at the height of the Cold War. He forced the Pentagon to make choices, to eliminate unnecessary bases and weapons systems, to tighten up its books. By continuing to throw money at the Pentagon -- its budget is up a staggering one-third since the president took office -- Bush ensures that billions of tax dollars will be squandered.

Those are the president's priorities; the rest is pain. With schools inundated with record numbers of students, Bush won't even keep his own promise to fund his education reforms. With university tuitions soaring and community colleges getting cut, he abandons his campaign pledge to increase Pell grants. His much-advertised community college budget doesn't even make up for what has been lost.

Bush devotes less than 3 percent of his budget for education. Educating the next generation is less important to the president than providing for the inheritances of the next generation of wealthiest Americans.

And the poor are to exist on faith and charity, for such programs as low-income housing, heating assistance, jobs and unemployment insurance are all starved. For the president, their desperation is of less priority than the comfort of the privileged few.

Where you put your money shows what you value. And beyond all the carefully crafted, poll-driven rhetoric, the president's budget reveals where his passion is. He stands tall for privilege at home and unending wars, occupation and nation-building abroad. And we will all pay the price for his priorities.

Posted by tstubbs at February 03, 2004 05:20 PM
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