President Bush appears to be planning to run for re-election as a tax cutter without discussing what federal programs will be sacrificed to make up for the lost revenue. That can’t be allowed to happen. Voters have the right to see the whole picture, including the downside. Chances are they won’t like the view.
While Mr. Bush has been out crowing about spending increases in some popular programs, his Office of Management and Budget was instructing federal departments to prepare to pare them down. In a May 19 memo that was first reported in The Washington Post, departments were told to trim domestic discretionary spending in 2006, the first complete fiscal year after the November election. And the administration recently submitted legislation to impose caps that would result in further reductions in every year after that through 2009.
According to estimates by the nonpartisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the Office of Management and Budget guidelines translate into inflation-adjusted reductions in 2006 alone of about $925 million for Head Start and childhood education. That would come at a time when schools are already struggling to meet the demands of Mr. Bush’s No Child Left Behind initiative without adequate resources. College financial aid, mainly Pell Grants, would take a $550 million hit — at a time when lower-income students are dropping out of school because they cannot meet rapidly rising costs.
The same projections show that veterans’ medical care would be cut by $1.5 billion (after a planned $380 million cut in 2005). All told, under the proposed cuts, total funds for these and other affected programs — like environmental protection, housing programs and nutrition aid for poor pregnant women and children — would be $21 billion less in 2006 than today. By 2009, domestic discretionary spending, not counting homeland security, would be $45 billion below its current level and would be a smaller portion of the economy than it has been at any time since 1963.
The budget-cutting exercise is undoubtedly inspired, at least in part, by complaints from conservatives about the enormous deficits being created by the White House’s fiscal recklessness. They like the tax cuts, but want to match them with spending reductions. They have been demanding that the president start paring the budget, or at least demonstrate that he will be ready to do so after November.
It’s hard to imagine any realistic approach that would have the nation achieve fiscal responsibility with the tax cuts in place. First of all, even all of the proposed cuts in the memo would barely begin to make a dent in the annual deficits, which are likely to range from $300 billion to $400 billion for the rest of the decade. Second, although the fate of specific programs has not been decided, there is no way the administration can take a multibillion-dollar whack out of the relatively small budget for domestic discretionary programs — a mere one-sixth of federal spending — without hurting services that are both popular and desperately needed.
Some of the staunchest tax-cut supporters in Congress are perfectly aware that the math doesn’t work. They hope the accumulating pressure of the deficits will eventually force the federal government to go further and cut entitlement programs like Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare. Very few of them, however, are prepared to run for re-election on that plan.
Currently, tax cuts since 2001 account for 17 times as much of the swing from surplus to deficit as do increases in domestic discretionary spending. No one who refuses to face up to the root cause of our fiscal problems should be permitted to seek public office without saying where the money will come from. Candidates who insist on keeping the Bush tax cuts — whether they’re running for Congress or the presidency itself — have to show us the math.
Once again, Republicans are trying to pay for their tax cuts to the rich by dumping the shortfall on the backs of the poor. ‘That can’t be allowed to happen.’ Not again.
# The ‘education president’ cuts HeadStart and Pell Grants
# The ‘war president’ cuts the veteran’s budget, forcing VA hospitals to close
# The ‘compassionate conservative’ cuts Section 8 funding, WIC funding, and heating subsidies for the poor he is claiming in campaign speeches to care so much about
# Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare will be on the block as soon as the election is over
This president couldn’t tell the truth if you put a gun to his head–because he doesn’t know what it is.