Notes on the Atrocities
Like a 100-watt radio station, broadcasting to the dozens...

Tuesday, February 03, 2004  

Sometimes you can only ride a horse so far. The weight of the current Bush budget is making that neocon horse start to wheeze. Listen to the following exchange from the Newshour, and I think you have a sense of what the GOP is going to be up against in the coming year. First is Senator Kent Conrad of North Dakota, the ranking member on the Senate Budget Committee.

What's fictitious about it is when the president says he's going to cut the deficit in half over the next five years. He is not. He's not going to come close to cutting it in half. He gets that by just leaving out big things that he's going to spend money on, like the continuing war on terror, he leaves out that he's going to take every penny of Social Security surplus over the next decade, all that money is going to have to be paid back. He's doing the same thing to the Medicare trust fund. And on and on it goes. He pays for the alternative minimum tax problem in the first year, but no year after that.

So the true deficit five years from now under the president's plan is not going to be cut in half, it's going to be over $600 billion added to the debt. In addition to that, we know that the budget that he's put out there is not his real budget. Over the last three years, he's added spending after he's proposed his budgets of $250 billion, and his OMB director today acknowledged they're going to do it again after this year's election, they're going to come in and ask for over $50 billion more. So this is a fiction in every way.

To this responds Iowa Congressman Jim Nussle, chairman of the House Budget Committee, weakly:

Well, the president of the United States received when he took office a deficit with regard to job creation in this economy. We inherited a recession. He inherited a security deficit from the previous administration that had gutted homeland security and gutted national defense....

Now that we have done that, now that the economy is starting to recover, we're starting to see job creation, now that the country is protected, thank goodness, and needs to be protected even more, we can turn our focus toward dealing with the deficits. The president has a plan to cut the deficit in half, in five years. It's not a fiction to do that.

You see the problem, don't you? The GOP doesn't really have a response to the ballooning budgets because they can't blame it on the Democrats. Blame, obfuscation, and misdirection are the game plan of the GOP. Problem is, these work a whole lot better when you're not actually passing laws.

The reasons blame, obfuscation, and misdirection have worked so well for three years are these: 1) the bills hadn't come due yet, so the obfuscated and misleading remained hidden, and 2) the Democrats failed to call them on the strategy. But now the bills are due, and for once it seems the Democrats may have actually have found their courage. Listen to the final exchange:

MARGARET WARNER: All right, let me ask Congressman Nussle. You said you'd like to see further cuts and do you have many conservative Republicans who are upset about this level of deficits. How are you going to manage all that, and are you going to try to put in even greater cuts than the president is proposing on the domestic side?

REP. JIM NUSSLE: Sure, well, we will have a real plan and it won't just be rhetoric. And what we will try and do is go not only through the discretionary side but also through what we call the mandatory side and look for better ways to deliver the product for people who are in need.

But Senator Conrad mentioned that this is a revenue issue and I just have to respond to that. The revenue I'm concerned about is the revenue that is coming into the checkbooks of families in Iowa and North Dakota and California and across the country. Those are the families who are having revenue problems right now.

We wring our hands as politicians in Washington about the poor government not having enough of your money. It's you that has had a difficult time with your job or a difficult time being able to make ends meet, and making sure you can keep more of those tax dollars is job one to get this economy going again, and I'm proud of that fact -- not only have we coupled that with getting the economy going, but protecting America, and that was worth running a deficit for a short period of time. Now we will get about the business of making sure we control spending so that we not only can cut it in half in five years but get us back to a balanced budget.

MARGARET WARNER: Senator Conrad, brief ten-second response?

SEN. KENT CONRAD: Well, all I can say is I'm concerned about the pocketbooks of North Dakotans and Iowans and the rest Americans too. The problem with this Republican budget is by 2009, they're going to have $35,000 of debt beside the name of each and every American, every man, woman and child in this country, because of the fiscal irresponsibility of this administration.

Spine indeed.

posted by Jeff | 7:15 AM |
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