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George W. Bush's 'Homeland Insecurity' | The Nation

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John Nichols

John Nichols

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George W. Bush's 'Homeland Insecurity'

George W. Bush wants to drain the Social Security trust fund, with a proposal to divert more than $2 trillion in Social Security and Medicaresurpluses over the next ten years.

George W. Bush wants to cut 30 percent of the funding from the federal program that trains doctors at children's hospitals.

George W. Bush wants to cut Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Programs that help Americans heat their homes in winter by 15 percent.

George W. Bush wants to cut 15 percent of the budget for repairing dilapidated public housing units.

George W. Bush to cut 13 percent of the funding for Corps of Engineers public works programs designed to prevent flooding of communities, homes and farms.

George W. Bush wants to cut 10 percent of the funding for the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health's efforts to reduce job-related deaths, injuries and ailments.

He also proposes, in the budget plan he has sent to Congress, to cutfederal funding for environmental protection programs, transportationimprovements and aid to farm families that are being driven off the land bythe thousands each year.

Yet, with all these diversions and cuts, most analysts of the Bushbudget argue that it will return America to the patterns of deficitspending that were the legacy of President Ronald Reagan's wild spending ofthe 1980s. Indeed, Bush Administration calculations suggest that, if theBush plan is enacted, the government will run "on budget" deficits throughat least 2012, and that the federal debt will balloon by the end of thedecade to as much as $2.6 trillion.

The combination of increased economic insecurity and decreasedfederal services adds up to a lot of pain for working Americans. Indeed, asSenate Majority Leader Tom Daschle argued upon reviewing the Bush budget,the Administration has produced precisely the wrong prescription for mostAmericans. "We need a plan that will keep our commitments to Social Securityand Medicare without making deep cuts in benefits, shortchanging ournational priorities or running deficits. Unfortunately, the budget theAdministration submitted (Feb. 4) is not that plan.

So what is the Bush plan?

The President says he needs to threaten Social Security, sock thenation with staggering levels of debt and cut needed programs in order tokeep Americans safe. He is seeking authorization to increase Pentagonspending by as much as $48 billion -- A 13.7 percent hike. Retired generalsand admirals with the Center for Defense Information in Washington have longargued, however, that Department of Defense budgets are already so dramatically bloated that simply maintaining existing spending would -- if the spending was redirected to address real needs, as opposed to the demands of defense contractors -- provide the United States with more than sufficient security.

Bush also wants to direct $18 billion into new "homeland security" spending -- some of which may well be needed. Yet, how secure will Americans really feel if the Social Security and Medicare programs are rendered fiscally unstable, if families are denied funds to heat their homes, if job safety is compromised, if the federal government lacks the resources to protect the environment and help farmers stay on the land?

So what is this budget really about? Check the fine print: The part that includes a plan to accelerate tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans -- to the tune of $175 billion over the next three years. And that is just the beginning. The Bush budget calls for $600 billion in new tax cuts over the next decade.

With the ink barely dry on last year's $1.3 trillion tax cut, with its disproportional benefits for the top 1 percent of Americans, comes a Bush budget that would provide billionaires and the corporations they own with huge additional benefits. Thus, the new budget plan comes as welcome news for former Enron chief Ken Lay and other top contributors to Bush's campaigns. Once again, the Bush Administration has found a way to redistribute income -- upward.

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