THE MISSING-IN-ACTION PRESIDENT
AN EDITORIAL BY JIM COOPER
MARCH 15, 2005
Today Congress will vote on a five-year budget for the nation. Usually contentious, this year's debate is relatively quiet as the richest nation in the world begs foreigners to finance our lifestyle.
Most Americans can name the President's top four policy priorities - tax cuts, war in Iraq, Social Security reform, and Medicare drug legislation. What Americans don't know is that these were either omitted from, or low-balled in, the President's own budget and his $82 billion supplemental request. It's as if Bush budgeted for someone else's presidency.
The President's budget pays for only six months of the war in Iraq and completely overlooks the transition costs of Social Security reform. The Administration always lied about the cost of the Medicare drug bill. Extending the tax cuts will produce a sea of red ink just beyond the Bush budget's five-year window.
The House Republican budget is based largely on the President's, adding a tiny bit of compassion and $50 billion for the war. Its deficits are still so large that, by the last year of the Bush administration, we will be paying more money to our nation's creditors than to our own citizens in non-defense domestic discretionary spending. According to the GAO, by 2040 our current policies will result in creditors getting all of our taxpayers' money. There will be nothing left for national defense, Social Security, Medicare, veterans benefits, or any other program to help Americans.
Republican control of the executive and legislative branches means that they have the power to budget honestly for our nation and reduce our deficits. President Clinton was able to achieve budget surpluses despite a divided government.
Take the veto. Bush is the first president since James Garfield in 1881 not to veto a single bill. Garfield only had six months in office; Bush has had over four years.
Bush did threaten to veto any effort to repeal the 2003 Medicare drug law that added $8.1 trillion in unfunded liabilities to our nation. This one entitlement program will be twice as hard for future generations to afford as the alleged "crisis" in Social Security. Bush brandished his veto pen to force Congress to spend money we do not have.
Take the rescission power. Few people realize that Bush could slash any program in federal government with the approval of a simple majority in the Senate and the House. He has "fast-track" authority and no worries about filibusters. In other words, Republicans already have the "nuclear option" to cut spending. They've never used it. They don't even want you to know they have it.
President Clinton was able to pass 111 of his 163 rescission requests, saving taxpayers billions of dollars. President Bush has requested no rescissions.
Bush himself repeatedly calls for line-item veto power in order to tame spending. But why wait years for a constitutional amendment when he has never used the power he already has? Every second counts. Delay costs us over a billion dollars a day in additional borrowing.
Bush may be a strong leader in the war on terrorism, but on budget deficits he is missing-in-action. Conservative think tanks like the Heritage Foundation and Cato Institute have criticized Bush for his big increases in spending, which far exceed those of the Clinton era. Meanwhile tax revenues as a percent of GNP are the lowest since Eisenhower days.
Democrats are accustomed to Republicans routinely violating their term-limits pledges, and forgetting their Contract-with-America idealism (including the Balanced Budget Amendment), but Republicans are doing serious damage to the nation with their irresponsibility on budget issues. As Head of State and Party, the President is being particularly irresponsible.
Is government spending the problem, as Republicans claim? If so, they have all the tools to stop it-more tools than any political party in modern times. Why won't Bush use his budget, his veto, his rescission, or simple restraint? Could it be that Republicans have fallen in love with "big government"? They are just refusing to pay her expenses.