by Bill Pascrell, Jr.
Between the President's State of the Union Address and his just announced Budget Plan, we've been inundated with a lot of numbers recently. We've heard a lot about the 100,000 new jobs created last month and the 4 percent growth at the close of 2003. But there are some other numbers that deserve attention. For example, in the 5,228 word Presidential address last month, only 85 words were allotted in reference to the federal budget deficit.
How bad is the deficit? Last year we were $374 billion in the red, a record amount. In light of this, the President's near silence on the subject is disturbing. If we do not take action, our nation's long-term economic fortune will be worse than almost ever before.
David Walker, the Comptroller General of the United States is an official whose 15-year term gives him the political freedom many in the Bush Administration don't have. So it is with particular credence that he states "Our nation has a major long-term fiscal challenge that is not going away and requires serious and sustained attention." He is referring, of course, to the debilitating ramifications of endless budget deficits.
The President's own budget estimates a deficit this year of at least $521 billion-overwhelmingly the largest budget deficit in our nation's history. By the end of 2014, it is estimated that we will have a debt held by the public of more than $8.5 trillion.
This is cause for acute concern. Chronic deficits soak up national savings and crowd out productive investment and raise interest rates. The results will be higher car payments, mortgages and student loans.
Large deficits will also cut deeply into productive federal programs. Expect deep cuts in economic development, housing, child care, job training and transportation, just to name a few. In fact, we're already seeing negative consequences. This year's Bush Budget actually cuts 38 educational programs for our children.
And let us not forget that these enormous deficits will cause cut backs on Social Security and push Medicare even further into privatization. These cuts will generate potentially disastrous consequences-particularly as the Baby Boomers begin to retire. If we do not stop this radical fiscal irresponsibility we are headed for a veritable economic Armageddon.
Our current situation has been molded by the Bush Administration's ideologically driven economic agenda. Although they suggest that long term deficits have been caused by homeland security needs and the recession, we know otherwise. Prominent non-partisan economic groups have reported that the three enormous tax cuts, titled heavily towards the wealthy, are responsible for the largest role in our fiscal demise.
Of course, the administration knows exactly what it's doing. All the President's men understand that constantly cutting taxes regardless of the situation or circumstance-including war-will bring forth debilitating revenue shortages. They are aware that if these policies continue the federal government will ultimately be starved of its resources.
That's their goal.
The extreme shrinking of the federal government and a substantial privatization of successful social programs has been high on the administration's agenda from the onset. Most Americans do not embrace these ideas. Thus, the role for deficits: creating a situation in which minimal resources force fundamental change that would otherwise be impossible.
Not convinced? Consider this: While we're faced with endless red-ink, not to mention open-ended spending on Iraq and increased security costs, what is the President currently doing? You guessed it-he's working on a plan to give more than $135 billion in new additional tax breaks to large corporations.
Many of these are the same patriotic corporations that already dodge taxes by setting up shop in the Cayman Islands and Bermuda. On top of this, he's looking at another set of tax cuts predominantly geared to the top earners, thereby reducing revenues by another $1 trillion. Well done Mr. President.
We need to stop the radical redistribution of wealth that is exploding our deficits and starving our government. We need to immediately repeal the Bush tax cuts for the most affluent among us. To put it into perspective, tax cuts given to the top 1 percent of income earners equals more money than the federal government assigns to the Department of Education. We need to close the corporate tax loophole once and for all. In short, we desperately need fiscal responsibility to return to Washington.
If we continue on this path, ignoring deficits, continuing record federal spending, and reckless tax cuts, a day of economic reckoning will soon be upon us.