If it’s budget time, it must be disinformation time. That’s how it goes in the Bush II era. George W. Bush released a budget today that he claims is responsible, honest, and designed to cut the $400 billion-plus deficit in half by 2009. Not so. By now, you probably have heard the obvious criticisms. The budget does not include the $80 billion Bush is asking for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. (And that probably won’t cover the full tab.) It doesn’t account for the $1 trillion to $2 trillion that Bush needs to pay for the private investment accounts he wants to carve out of Social Security. It also doesn’t recognize that several hundred billion dollars will disappear from the revenue stream when the government rejiggers the alternative minimum tax–which it must–to prevent this tax (written to apply to corporations that make creative use of loopholes) from hitting middle-class individual tax filers.
There are few secrets about Bush’s budgetary shenanigans. While the military gets a hefty boost, housing, education and environmental protection gets hammered. Every advocacy group concerned with federal spending was issuing press releases today. Folks on Capitol Hill were doing the same. Senator Jim Jeffords, the Republican-turned-independent from Vermont, put out a short list of the worst of Bush’s proposed cuts. Here it is:
* Environment. Cuts the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) budget by 5.6 percent from $8.02 billion to $7.57 billion, culminating in an almost 10 percent cut over two years. Most cuts come in efforts to maintain and improve the nation’s clean water infrastructure.
* Veterans. More than doubles the co-payment charged to many veterans for prescription drugs and would require some to pay a new fee of $250 a year for the privilege of using the Veterans health care system.
* Health Care. Cuts Medicaid funding by $45 billion over 10 years and eliminates 28 health programs, totaling $1.36 billion. These programs range from rural hospital grants (cuts $39.5 million) to emergency medical services for children (cuts $20 million).
* Job Training. Cuts federal spending on job training by a half-billion dollars. Federal job training programs, including dislocated-worker training, will be cut by $200 million. Federal aid to states for job training, including funding to train veterans, will be cut by $300 million.
* Amtrak. Eliminates all funding for Amtrak, calling bankruptcy proceedings as the solution for our nation’s rail system.
* Low Income Home Energy Assistance (LIHEAP). Cuts LIHEAP by over 8 percent, from $2.2 billion to $2 billion.
* Parks. Cuts the National Park Service by 3 percent from $2.31 billion to $2.24 billion.
The Bush White House defends its cuts, claiming it is targeting programs that don’t work. Could it be that the Bushies are right? That those darn bureaucrats running the clean water programs at the EPA are flushing taxpayer dollars down the drain? Perhaps. But here’s the thing: if Bush is not being honest about the macro dimensions of his budget–and he’s not–then how can he be trusted on the details? Short answer: he cannot. I am willing to believe waste and unnecessary spending can be found throughout government. Maybe even at the Pentagon. (Gosh, no!) But I am not willing to hand the scalpel to Bush and his lieutenants when they spin numbers and refuse to acknowledge the true budgetary problems that they have caused and overseen.