Only a Democrat like Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland could say with a straight face that President Bush's proposed $2.9 trillion budget for 2008 is "spartan and skimpy." Democrats never have enough of our money to spend on their favorite entitlement programs - the ones that keep them in office.
There are some good things in this budget, which Democrats see as bad and some bad things, which Republicans see as good.
Among the good is the president's proposal for eliminating money for 141 programs, saving $12 billion over five years. While $12 billion in a $2.9 trillion budget is chump change, the elimination of outdated and unneeded government programs is a trend to be encouraged.
The president also wants to make his tax cuts permanent, but he'll be lucky if he just wins a brief extension of them. The tax cuts have had their desired effect. As Brian Riedl of The Heritage Foundation notes, current tax revenues following the rate cuts amount to 18.4 percent of GDP, which is above the historical average. And 2006 tax revenues were $47 billion above the level projected by the Congressional Budget Office before the 2003 tax cuts. "Supply-side economics," often derided by the Left, has again been proven to work. Less is more when it comes to taxes (less) and revenue (more).
Those awfully named "entitlements" are reduced in the president's budget proposal, saving $95.9 billion over the next five years. Much of the savings would come from Medicare by slowing the growth of payments to hospitals and health-care providers and increasing premiums for those with higher incomes. That's called "means testing" and it has been needed for some time. Democrats, who believe in "soaking the rich," ought to favor this proposal, but they probably won't because, if they want to persuade people his is a "failed administration," they can't afford to allow the president to "win" anything. Both parties know that Medicare and especially Social Security need reform, but few want to do what is necessary for fear of being demagogued by the other party. As a result, little gets done and the coming disaster from the impending retirement of 77 million baby boomers draws ever closer.
The president again asks for a line-item veto he says will pass Supreme Court scrutiny and his request for money to continue the effort in Iraq is placed in the regular budget instead of hiding it in "emergency" spending bills, as has been done before. That's a major reason why the total budget is so high.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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