Monday, February 07, 2005

Bush's Answer to the Deficit: Cut Social Programs

The size of government has actually been remarkably stable over the last fifty years. It is a misconception that Democrats tax and spend and Republicans slash government and lower taxes. In the end, at the federal level, government spending never substantially drops. The difference instead is between where the government money is spent. One of the most important responsibilities of the President is to introduce the national budget. Thus, the President has a large say over where that government money goes and must set priorities.

George W. Bush introduced his budget today and he has set some priorities of his own. Bush inherited a budget surplus but is now running deficits of over $400 billion a year. Under pressure to balance the budget, he has chosen to reduce government spending on many programs. Balancing the budget requires the President to find the programs that are not benefiting the nation. In essence, the goal is to cut the fat out of the budget and leave the effective programs well funded. Bush claims that this was his motivation in cutting programs in his latest budget proposal. I'll let you be the judge of whether he made the right decisions.

Bush decided that providing health care to the poorest of the poor was not worth the tax payer's money. He chose to cut the Medicaid budget by $45 billion dollars. This includes a program to train doctors for children's hospitals that would be cut by a third. Similarly, a program that helps many of these same poor Americans pay heating bills would be cut by more than 8%. Bush's proposals to Congress also includes cuts in public housing subsidies and in food stamps.

It is not just the poor that bare the brunt of the proposed cuts. Farmers and veterans will also experience the pinch. The budget would cut farm subsidies by $587million. A reduction in those subsidies will be welcomed by developing countries but would severely limit the ability for American farmers to compete.

Furthermore, while Bush claims to support the troops, his latest budget would make it harder for them to receive basic health care services after they return home from duty. It would more than double the co-payment on prescription drug purchases and would require some to pay a new annual fee to receive basic government health care benefits. In addition to these cuts, the budget also includes deep slashes in spending on environmental protection and education. Evidentally, these programs have no place in the national vision of this administration.

Even with all of these cuts to important social services, Bush's budget does contain some new spending. The Pentagon's budget is expected to increase by about $20 billion and the Homeland Security Department would get an extra $2 billion. After these increases in defense spending, the cuts in social programs becomes a wash. It is increasingly clear that this new budget is not about addressing defecit spending, but about shifting resources from social programs to the military industrial complex.

This budget does not even include expenses on the war in Iraq and reconstruction in Afghanistan, for which the administration in expected to seek an extra $80 billion out of budget. Also not included in the budget is the proposed cost of funding the administration's overhaul of Social Security. While there is a good chance the provision will never pass, if it did, it would require borrowing an estimated $4.5 trillion over a twenty year period.

The President's priorities are clear; cut social programs and fund defense, military ventures, tax cuts for the wealthy and reforms that benefit multinational corporations. Bush claims that his cuts will largely be administrative and improve the efficiency of the targeted programs. It is revealing, however, that the most visibly inefficient bureaucracies actually receive hikes in funding. The intelligence community and the military seem to require more streamlining than successful programs to provide basic health care to the poor and veterans, among others. We can not afford a tax cut, a war, and our social programs. Unfortunately, the social programs, which benefit the most helpless and vulnerable Americans, are the first to get the axe. For the Bush administration, the "war on poverty" has been replaced by the "war of terror".



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12 Comments:

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i voted for Bush but I didn't vote for this! Cutting medicade i could understand but why is he cutting money for farmers!

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