Bush’s credibility problem as a fiscal disciplinarian
Published 5:28 pm Monday, January 30, 2006
After five years of tax cuts and massive spending that brought deficits roaring back, it's reported President George W. Bush intends to use his Jan. 31 State of the Union address to recast himself as a fiscal disciplinarian.
The Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal makes for a prime time to go after earmarks, that spending inserted into legislation without public review for pet pork projects.
This year's federal budget contained 13,997 such projects at a cost of $27.3 billion, according to Citizens Against Government Waste.
For example, a $242,000 turkey-habitat education program found its way into a December defense bill.
Bush, however, isn't the most credible advocate for spending restraint, as much as his White House has decided it wants to make that one of his defining characteristics, along with fighting the global war on terror and spreading democracy around the world.
Bush has presided over the $236 billion Clinton surplus of 2000 becoming a $400 billion annual deficit, yet the second-term president has still never vetoed a single bill.
Aside from Social Security, about a fourth of what Uncle Sam has spent during the Bush presidency has been borrowed.
If, as he advocates, his tax cuts are made permanent, deficits will persist for at least 10 years, estimates the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO).
Bush pushed through some budget cuts in 2005 that virtually eliminated President Clinton's popular community policing program.
Last year Bush asked for savings of $16 billion in 154 programs.
Congress passed $6 billion in savings in 89 programs.
Despite his rhetoric to the contrary, total federal spending under Reagan increased 19.1 percent; George H.W. Bush, 6.4 percent; Bill Clinton, 6.7 percent; Jimmy Carter, 7.5 percent; Gerald Ford, 5.2 percent; Richard Nixon, 10.8 percent; and Lyndon Johnson, a whopping 35.5 percent.
President Bush is at 20.9 percent to date. He is projected to finish his term closing in on his fellow Texan LBJ at 30.5 percent.
The budget Bush sends to Congress six days after his address likely won't contain costs for Katrina or wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Those will be addressed later in supplemental requests for money that will further widen the deficit gap.
The federal debt stood at $5.7 trillion when Bush entered office in 2001 and has grown to more than $8 trillion.
According to the U.S. Comptroller General, there exists some $40 trillion in unfunded liabilities - payments promised in the Medicare and Social Security systems that current revenue streams can't support.
Bush's prescription-drug plan is alone responsible for $8 trillion of that figure - “equal to all the national debt that has been accumulating since the time of George Washington,” Time magazine reported.