Sunday, September 14, 2003

Is Anything Better Off?

You know, I just can't help but wonder sometimes how Bush's popluarity rating can even get up to 25%, much less 52%. Can anyone out there in Blogland tell me anything about this country that has become better since he took office?

One only hopes (and recent polls like this and this are looking better) that some of this information is sinking in around the country:
With no extra money available for the foreseeable future, real choices are being illuminated on Capitol Hill — choices between electronic bombs and electrical grids, between low taxes now and lower retirement payments later.

Should Washington reconstruct Iraq's schools and hospitals, lawmakers are asking, or America's? Should it pay for more than 100,000 American troops to stay in Iraq, or for 40 million seniors to be offered prescription drugs through Medicare? And if it tries to do it all, should it keep cutting taxes?

The Bush administration says it can do all of the above, once the tax cuts inaugurate a burst of economic growth. Democrats and virtually every mainstream economist say that something will have to give, very possibly the government's retirement promises to millions of aging baby boomers.


Disputes have broken out in Congress this year on spending items that used to be routine, like construction of housing for military families, which the administration proposed cutting by 6 percent. The administration invoked the deficit earlier this year in explaining the size of its proposed 2004 budget for the Environmental Protection Agency, which was 5.5 percent less than this year's spending. (Congress is likely to restore some of those funds.) And next year's budget could fall short of paying for more than 100,000 housing vouchers now used by low-income families, said a study by the liberal Center for Budget and Policy Priorities; it would be the first time in 30 years that existing vouchers were not renewed.


The Committee for Economic Development, a group of business executives, warned earlier this year that persistent deficits could lead, for the first time in the nation's history, to a lower living standard for future generations.
A Sliver Lining?

With things looking so bleak, enquiring minds might wonder if there's some kind of vast rightwing conspiracy out there:
Congressional Republicans deny the Democratic charge that the deficit was deliberately created to shrink government, but nonetheless acknowledge that it will be a useful tool to achieve that goal.

"There's no question that annual federal deficits have been the only effective check on Congressional spending in the modern era," said Representative Mike Pence, an Indiana Republican and a member of a conservative House caucus pushing for big cuts in spending. "There's been a lot more willingness on the part of our appropriators to exercise discipline in the last eight months than in the previous Congress. It doesn't justify all that red ink, but it's kind of a silver lining in that cloud."
That was the New York Times, here is the Washington Post
Imagine an army massing directly in front of you. Your own forces are having some supply line problems. And enemies are hiding on either side, waiting to ambush you. So what do you do? Dismantle your own arsenal?

If you're talking about the fiscal battles the United States is facing, and if you're the Bush administration, the answer seems to be: Yes. Call it fiscal disarmament. In its first two years, the Bush administration -- faced with a swelling army of retirees, unknown costs of lurking national security dangers and challenges to its supply of tax revenues because of fixes needed with the alternate minimum tax -- chose to surrender some of the fiscal weapons at its disposal through massive tax cuts.

The president's request last week for another $87 billion for the occupation in Iraq is chump change in the context of what has been given away in the Bush tax cuts. It comes to about 5 percent of the cost of the president's tax cuts over 10 years. In the mountain of U.S. borrowing, it amounts to a hill of beans. It will add only a little more than 2 percent to the national debt.