America’s budget is more than a blizzard of incomprehensible numbers. Our values are reflected in its priorities: It is a statement of what kind of nation we are and what we hope to be. By that standard, George W. Bush’s budget is a shamefully indecent proposal. It violates common morality and common sense. It mortgages our future while burdening the vulnerable and protecting the privileged. It should be discarded with the contempt it deserves.
Bush presents the budget and its sacrifices as vital “fiscal discipline” to begin closing the yawning deficits. But where did those deficits come from, and who will pay the cost?
America now spends almost as much as the rest of the world combined on its military; the Pentagon’s budget is larger than the entire economy of Russia. It is also the largest source of waste, fraud and mismanagement in the federal government. But Bush demands that military spending continue to go up.
America suffers from an inequality not seen in the past century, with CEOs making 500 times more than the average worker. Bush has insisted on past tax cuts that benefit mainly the rich, while working families are losing ground. Yet Bush demands in this new budget that the wealthy pay even less in taxes, adding new tax breaks and making the old ones permanent. Corporate taxes are lower as a percentage of revenue than at almost any time since we began keeping records, in the 1930s. Yet Bush demands that corporations pay even less in taxes and that their dodges and loopholes remain protected.
Who will pay the bill? The weakest and most vulnerable–the elderly in nursing homes, poor children with working parents, kids who need help learning to read, veterans who are sick, poor families in need of housing, workers whose rights are trampled, those who rely on mass transit, students whose parents can’t afford to send them to college.
Bush would slash support for Medicaid, the vital safety net of healthcare programs. He would break his promise to fund schools. He would make college less affordable. He would throw kids out of Head Start, childcare, after-school and literacy programs. He would leave streets more dangerous and the environment less safe. He would set the poor and elderly up for even deeper cuts in the future, while increased military spending and the new tax cuts for the wealthy would leave the nation even further in debt.
The immorality of this budget is matched only by the dishonesty of its presentation. It budgets nothing for the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It does not account for the $4.5 trillion the President proposes to borrow over twenty years to privatize Social Security. It excludes the cost of revising the alternative minimum tax (originally intended to insure that upper-income taxpayers paid at least some tax, but increasingly affecting the middle class), which the President will insist on. For the first time in decades, it refuses to reveal the cuts in services the Administration projects over the next five years.
Hypocrisy, wrote La Rochefoucauld, is the tribute that vice pays to virtue. The White House has now rolled out a campaign to describe this budget as fair and balanced, one that does not “suddenly [turn] our backs on the most needy people in our society.” The hypocrisy adds insult to injury. Call on your legislators now. Demand that they ignore this indecent proposal and start over, crafting something that reflects our values and begins to serve the needs of the nation, not the appetites of the privileged.