Final Bush Budget Shows Economic Weakness, Policies at Odds with Marketplace, Moment

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Among the numerous scathing criticisms leveled against the record $3.1 trillion federal budget proposal —which will be the last of the George W. Bush White House— are fiscal irresponsibility, near record deficits, and plans to cut or eliminate fully 151 federal programs, in an effort to save just $18 billion, while base Defense Dept. spending increases by 8%.

Economists worry that spending priorities laid out in the budget will only exacerbate current economic slowdown. Democrats in Congress have vowed the budget “will not be the model” for the legislation they will put forth to govern spending for 2009. But the White House insists the budget is fiscally responsible and will in fact reduce spending.

Some $160 billion could be tied to a planned “economic stimulus package”, currently being debated in the Senate, already approved by the House, and Iraq war costs severely inflate the overall amount of spending. It is believed that 2008 spending will also exceed $3 trillion, when all war costs are tallied. Total Defense spending for this year was a record $670 billion, including war costs.

One surprising budget cut would be funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which could be a major necessary component in responding to any sort of biological weapons attack, a danger often cited by the administration in its warnings about terrorist attacks on American soil.

The Community-Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program, which put huge numbers of additional police on urban streets, and helped integrate police work into the fabric of communities, thus further reducing crime figures, would be cut 100%. Homeland security apparatus would see significant budget increases, however, of some $4 billion, while the Homeland Security Department would see its budget cut by $2.5 billion.

Democrats have already seized on such contradictions as evidence that the budget does not take real security for the American citizen seriously and misdirects vital government spending to what opponents see as ill-advised cash-drains, like the surplus-eliminating tax cuts of 2001 and 2003, and the war in Iraq.

The Congressional Budget Office in January published its own projections showing concern that budget deficits would jump by $250 billion in 2008, in part a sign of the poor state of economic performance at the individual and corporate level. Economic stimulus would sharpen those deficits, though long-term tax-revenue gains may offset some of the cost.

The state of the American economy at present is in part why the president is not able to fund his own priorities (border-security, Iraq war, the $635 billion 5-year price of making his tax cuts permanent) without slashing much-needed government spending in other areas, leaving even then a likely record deficit.

The result is that Congress will not start with the White House budget proposal as a baseline, but will likely initiate an entirely parallel process of negotiation and planning, as even top Republicans in Congress have complained about the massive deficits and potentially unpopular spending priorities.

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Originally published February 5, 2008, for the Hot Spring Network‘s Quipu Economic Forum

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