White House sends budget to Congress

Posted 10:42 a.m. Feb. 11

by Marcus Mrowka
U-WIRE Washington Bureau

Last week, President Bush announced his $2.23 trillion budget to Congress and the American people. The Administration’s plans call for a tax cut costing nearly $1.5 trillion over the next 10 years and slows domestic spending considerably.

The tax cut proposal comes in addition to the $1.35 trillion tax cut passed in 2001. The cuts would include the elimination of taxation on inheritances and taxes on interest, capital gains and dividends.

Opponents of Bush’s tax cuts have called them unfair to most Americans and accuse the Bush administration of favoring the wealthy.

The Administration calls for significant cuts in domestic spending, including the elimination of programs aimed at rural development, family literacy, vocational education, environmental protection and public housing revitalization.

The Department of Educations budget, while increasing by $1.7 billion, would cut after-school programs, teacher training, and educational technology programs. But $75 million of that allocation would include funds to bolster pilot school choice and controversial voucher programs.

Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., criticized the Bush plan by saying it would “allot to education $5 billion less than the GOP-led Senate approved for the current year just weeks ago.”

Some domestic spending would increase as Bush proposed $200 million in drug treatment, which could be used for controversial “faith-based” anti-drug programs.

To the surprise of many AIDS activists, Bush proposed $15 billion to help combat AIDS in Africa. One official said those funds would “open the floodgates” for relief in the AIDS-ravaged continent. Bush also proposed $200 million for international famine relief.

While there were many cuts in domestic spending, spending on military, defense and homeland security saw a huge rise in allocation. The budget calls for $390 billion in defense spending, a $16.9 billion increase from the previous year. That money includes $9.1 billion for a missile defense program in 2004, money for shipbuilding, for technological development, new weapons development, and Special Operations Command. The figures do not include the price of the potential war with Iraq.

Another big winner in the Bush budget was the newly created Department of Homeland Security which would get $36.2 billion. Most of this money would go to intelligence analysis and assessing transportation and water infrastructure as well as $803 million for anti-terrorism research and development.

The third winner in Bush’s budget is Medicare as it could receive $400 billion over the next 10 years to overhaul the entire system. The plan includes the formation of some form of prescription drug benefits as well as encouraging the elderly to join private health plans.

If the President’s budget passes Congress, it would greatly increase the federal deficit, analysts point out. After a budget surplus in the late 1990s, the federal government again saw itself facing deficits at the dawn of the new century. Bush’s plan would increase the federal deficit from $158 billion in 2002 to nearly $304 billion this year and $307 billion in 2004. Through 2008, the deficit is expected to increase nearly $1.5 trillion, not including the cost of war.

Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., told reporters the tax cuts and Bush’s budget in general were “a budget busting epic disaster.” Daschle also said Bush’s plans “confirm that President Bush is leading the most fiscally irresponsible administration in history.”

Even some Republicans have called the budge plans “ambitious,” “bold,” and “radical,” but it is unclear at this point how much of the Bush’s plans will be enacted by the Republican-controlled House and Senate.

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