Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Remembrance of Budgets Past

When GWB, in his first term, introduced each of his two large transfers of the tax burden to middle and lower income earners – er – tax cuts – er – tax relief packages, I was struck at the time at how they were being discussed in isolation of the budgets they would impact. How could Congress, I recall thinking, pass any tax package without considering the deficits it might produce or the spending cuts that might be necessitated?

One of the most vivid images I have from the time of the first tax relief package is one of GWB standing in front of a large check (physically large) for $1000.00 made out to US Taxpayers. It was represented as being the average amount the average taxpayer would receive from his tax relief package. George didn’t say that it would be every year. But he didn’t make clear that this was an estimate, of a ten year total, based on certain assumptions. (Never mind that the average tax cut and the amount that the average taxpayer might receive are two different things.) The picture spoke larger than any caveat could. Here’s a check for $1000.00. Want it? And many, many people responded, Why, yes. Yes, I would.

George told us that we could eat our cake and have it too. We could cut taxes (never mind for whom), increase spending on education (never mind on what, exactly), and have money left over to pay down the debt.

Between 1/19/01 and 2/7/05, the national debt increased by $1,891,503,004,067.94, or 33%. In just over 4 years, every man, woman and child acquired an average new debt of $6,400.06.

Yes, yes, 9-11 changed “everything”. 9-11 is not solely or even largely responsible for this mess. Most notably, the one thing 9-11 did not affect in the slightest is Bush’s fiscal policy. The rationales shifted all over the place, but the policy stayed the same – in the face of 9-11, in the face of “the war on terror”, in the face of the invasion of Iraq, in the face of stagnant job growth, in the face of record busting deficits.

Today the blogosphere and punditacracy is alive with debate and discussion over the newly proposed budget. CNN tells us, “President Bush sent Congress a $2.57 trillion budget plan Monday that would eliminate or vastly scale back 150 government programs while cutting the deficit to $390 billion for 2006.” Reuters headlines, ”Powerful Republicans Worry About Bush Budget Cuts.” And various sources admonish us about the “tough choices” that need to made.

But in real dollar terms, the proposed budget increasing spending by 2.1% over last year. And this is if you exclude: the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the moneys being “borrowed” from the Social Security trust fund and the cost of Bush’s A-1 top domestic priority, dismantling Social Security – er – partially privatizing Social Security – er – offering Personal Investment Accounts to hardworking American taxpayers.

The lackluster deficit reduction projections depend on all of the above exclusions, plus they do not account for either the proposal to make permanent the tax relief packages that is Bush’s second top domestic priority – or the new round of tax cuts proposed on the very same day as the release of budget proposal.

Look, many a blogger more able than I has spent and will spend many a pixel detailing the deception and depravity in this new budget proposal. And none of it will remove the picture of Bush as Brave Budget Warrior, doing battle with Spending Addicted Democrats to save the Hard-Earned Money of the American Taxpayer.

Fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can't get fooled again.

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