President Bush's $2.77 trillion budget is fiction masquerading as fact, a governmental version of the made-up memoirs that have been denounced up and down the continent lately. The spending proposal is built around the pretense that the same House and Senate that are set to consider a record deficit of $423 billion will now impose a virtual freeze on everything other than Pentagon and homeland security outlays. The budget writers even fantasized an end to Social Security's lump-sum death benefit — a whopping $255 per recipient — as if Congress would dare to do something so heartless and easy to exploit in an election year.Now, I'm not particularly a huge fan of Harry Reid - he's a bit on the fringe - but he may just be right, here. As Brother Malcolm used to say, the extreme is necessary to make the middle seem more palatable. Here's an interesting question that cropped up on Air Force One during Scotty's press gaggle. Have a gander at how he tries to skirt the issue:
The point of all these imaginary financial projections is to give the president leeway to cement in place hundreds of billions of dollars in tax cuts the nation can ill afford and does not need. The cuts were made temporary in the first place because there was no way to even pretend that budgets could be balanced in the future with such an enormous loss of revenue.
Now, to pay for his top priorities — the military and tax cuts — the president is relying on proposed spending cuts. While Congress will never make some of them, it may make others, but only at the peril of the poor and the middle class. Those cuts include basic needs in education, environmental protection, medical research, low-income housing for the elderly and the disabled, community policing, and supplemental food for the needy.
The budget is steeped in campaign-year pretensions, billboarding $65 billion in "savings" across the next five years — more than half of it in Medicare — even as tax revenue is further choked. A Congress up for re-election should be wary of taking that path, particularly as the open-ended costs of the Iraq war dwarf all promised savings.
Mr. Bush was praised last week for calling for an end to dependency on oil imports without dragging out the ill-advised — and meaningless — administration fixation on oil drilling in protected parts of Alaska. Yet there it is, back again in the budget. There is little new in the plan, except for small but worthy initiatives that would be paid for with cuts in equally useful programs already on the books.
The president's plan was, on the whole, depressingly familiar. The administration that produced shattering deficits is at it again. Even the fiction was plagiarized from failed budgets of the past.
Q Scott, yesterday when the budget came out, Harry Reid didn't just criticize it, he called it "immoral." What's the White House reaction to that?
MR. McCLELLAN: The President, in his State of the Union, called for elevating the tone in Washington, D.C., and working together on the priorities of the American people. This budget lays out the important priorities for the American people. And the President has always worked to elevate the tone in Washington, D.C.
I think it's one thing to have a substantive debate on the issues. Unfortunately, I think we've come to expect from Senator Reid such unfounded partisan attacks. The issue here that we ought to be focusing on is what the debate is about. It's about priorities and about spending and taxes. And it appears that he is intent on engaging in baseless partisan attacks. And that might be in part because the only ideas that have really been offered from some members of his party are higher taxes and bigger spending.
And the President is going to continue working to reach out and find ways we can work together to accomplish big priorities for the American people. He laid out some very important ones in his State of the Union. These are not partisan issues; this is about -- when he laid out the competitiveness initiative, that's about making sure America remains the most competitive economy in the world. When he laid out the advanced energy initiative, that's about making sure that we are working together to reduce our dependence on foreign sources of energy. And when he laid out his health care initiatives, those are about ways we can work together to reduce cost and make sure that Americans have the best possible health care.
There are a number of areas that I talked about last week where the President believes we have an opportunity to really work together and get things done. Some of those are the ones I just mentioned. The commission -- the bipartisan commission to address the mandatory spending with entitlement programs -- entitlement programs are the biggest threat to our fiscal health. And that's where the real danger lies in terms of spending. And that's why the President is reaching out to Democratic and Republican leaders to move forward on a commission to solve these issues.
You can say "entitlement," but I would suggest that one of the fundamental purposes of government is to take care of those who are continuously down trodden. Oh, by the way, what ways have you seen the President "reach out to Democratic" leadership? Anyone?