Bush budget stirs debate

Posted 4:29pm February 13

by Nell McGarity
U-WIRE Washington Bureau

Last week, President Bush released his budget proposal, which increases spending in education, defense and homeland security while many programs receive cuts.

The over 1,000 page volume outlines the president’s proposal for increased defense spending by 7 percent, increased homeland security spending by 10 percent, and holds the rest of discretionary spending to 0.5 percent. This projected defense budget does not include the projected costs of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Treasury, Transportation, Health and Human Services as well as Environmental Protection Agency and Small Business Administration will all receive budget cuts under the President’s plan. In total, over 100 programs will be cut, according to United Press International.

The main goal of the budget is to reduce the deficit over time while making tax cuts permanent and reinforcing the issues and departments that have been at the center of the President’s term: education, defense, and homeland security.

Republicans are hailing it as a means to reduce the deficit through responsible spending, while Democrats oppose the program cuts and emphasis on defense and homeland security.

“A budget is more than a collection of numbers. It is an outline of America’s priorities and a blueprint for our future. The president’s budget reflects our government’s number one priority — to protect and defend our homeland,” said House Majority Whip Roy Blunt, R-Mo.

“Faced with post-9-11 levels of critical security spending, the war against terror, and a faltering economy, the deficit swelled. President Bush has proposed an aggressive plan to cut the federal deficit in half in five years, calling for outright cuts in seven of 16 Cabinet-level agencies,” Blunt said.

Democrats, however, are describing the budget in different terms.

Senator Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass, called the budget, “The most anti-family, anti-worker, anti-health care, anti-education budget in modern times, and it doesn’t deserve to pass.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Cal., said, “The President’s budget will create record deficits, but it will not create jobs. It fulfills his promises to big drug companies, but breaks his promise to fund our children’s education. It will protect corporate polluters, but will not protect the environment.”

Republicans pointed the finger back at Democrats as well.

“The president’s budget is a good start to funding our priorities and a good answer for the Democrats who are proposing increased spending and an increased deficit,” House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, said. “They’re not calling for responsible spending — they’re calling for a tax hike.”

This partisan name-calling from both sides still does not erase the potential losses that will be incurred in areas like the environment, which could remain affected by departmental and polluter enforcement cutbacks beyond the 2005 fiscal year.

“This year’s EPA budget offers three great deceptions,” said Wesley Warren, Deputy Director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Advocacy Center last week during the EMS Environmental Budget briefing. “First, the administration has been touting increases in water quality money for the Great Lakes and the Chesapeake Bay. Yet these regions, and the nation as a whole, end up net losers on water quality assistance when one takes into account the overall reduction of $827 million in water pollution projects.

“Second, the administration claims that it supports ‘sound science’ in decision-making, but inexplicably cuts the EPA science budget by $93 million or an astonishing 12 percent. Finally, the administration proposes a small yet welcome increase in Superfund ($124 million), but refuses reinstating the Superfund “polluters pay” fee — leaving taxpayers to foot the bill. Until the fee is reinstated, ensuring the polluters pay to clean up their mess, the Superfund program will never have the resources needed to get the job done,” Warren said.

EPA Administrator Mike Leavitt praises the budget, despite the 7.2 percent decrease in funding.

“With the President’s budget, we can increase the velocity of environmental protection — protecting our land, cleaning our air and cleansing our water — efficiently, effectively and without impairing the economy,” Leavitt said. “We are adopting better ways — facilitating collaboration, harnessing technology, creating market incentives — and we are committed to measuring progress, not process.”

The EPA is responsible for keeping the air, water and land pollution free and employs over 18,000 people across the country.

“We are ready for the next big leap in productivity,” Leavitt stated. “We’ve made enormous progress over the past 30 years, and this budget will enable the EPA to pursue even better ways to care for the environment and protect people’s health.”

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