Fiscal Responsibility Gone Awry
By Richard A. Alicea
President Bush unveiled his $2.77 trillion budget plan this week and, to no surprise, it bears more of a resemblance to a SimCity budget than a United States budget, with little regard to the real-world ramifications of what it proposes. Based mostly on strange assumptions and convenient omissions, the budget is devoid of many absolutes.
The budget for the fiscal year claims that the Nation’s record-breaking deficit will be virtually non-existent by the end of this decade. The problem is that it would be near impossible to achieve this task while cutting taxes and continuing the war in Iraq.
In many ways, the budget plays to the political philosophy of George Bush; that of lower taxes (mostly for upper-income citizens), higher defense spending and less money for domestic social programs. Unfortunately, this is the same philosophy that led to a $318 billion deficit last year. While the budget gives a theoretical “roadmap” to a lower deficit, it is unclear how that reduction will come.
The budget acknowledges that the tax cuts Bush wants to make permanent will cost $1.35 trillion over the next decade and almost $120 billion in 2011. At the same time, the budget calls for $50 billion in funding for the Iraq War – well below the $120 billion requested for 2006 – and has no mention of the war after the year 2007, an assumption with little basis, as the president has argued that there will be no timetable for withdrawal. The budget also assumes that Congress will cut domestic spending every year after 2007, another unlikely trend.
It also calls for an estimated $3.6 billion in revenue over the next decade to come from a crackdown in tax fraud – a crackdown never spoken of by anyone at the Internal Revenue Service. An additional $4 billion over the next five years is pegged to come from oil drilling in Alaska, a plan that congress has shown no indication of approving in the near future.
The budget is full of these fantasy provisions and revenue gainers. As a result, many budget experts have called the President’s plan, in short, “unrealistic.” For example, Stanley E. Collender, a federal budget analyst at Financial Dynamics Business Communications has stated flatly that, “this budget is not going to happen,” and asked “why would the White House send Congress a 2007 budget that includes so much that won’t happen?” Furthermore, Collender has predicted that the effects of this budget are “far more likely to be the fiscal equivalent of a tree falling in the woods when there is no one there to hear it, than a sonic boom in an urban area.”
The President has once again turned his back on his constituents, most notably middle and low-income Americans. His proposed tax cuts again benefit mostly those who are too wealthy to notice any difference in their tax bills, leaving average Americans with the tab. Many of the domestic programs of which Bush has proposed cuts benefit the same average Americans, as do the programs Bush assumed will be cut by congress even after he leaves office. He has pledged that we will “stay-the-course” in Iraq and there will be no timetable for withdrawal, yet there is no mention of the Iraq War after the year 2007, which means that either the President is again misleading us or he has absolutely no clue as to what is going on.
George Bush ran for office as a “compassionate conservative,” a self-given title that has eluded him over the years as hard-working Americans are forced to choose between huge tax cuts – which would greatly benefit the working class, if given to them – and the social responsibility of government such as education and health care. While middle and low-income Americans are denied many services that would make life just a little easier, such as access to quality education or lower taxes, a small minority of wealthy Americans benefit greatly from measures proposed by the Bush Administration, and the economic divide is widening. It’s too bad nobody really cares.