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The Bush Budget Speech; Ka-ching!

The Cynic



With the Clinton's dominating the news cycles (and by extension their brothers, Roger and Jabba), one could almost forget that we have a new President. Last night, President Bush seized the opportunity to step out from behind his media wall and propose his budget to Congress and the people.

The speech was well constructed and fit his speaking style well. He hit all of his proposals in a well thought out order. He spent a bulk of the time talking about education, which seems to be his lead foot for his first 100 days, and he finally addressed Social Security (which my patience was wearing thin with his silence on the issue).

His delivery of the tax cut plan was flawless, however I would be remiss not to point out that if the surplus is "the people's money," we should get all of it back not a paltry 10%. That being said, he sold it well and the morning polls seem to suggest that the people bought it. It's not perfect, but a step in the right direction.

From what I hear, the Democratic response to the budget is what everyone expected it to be, lot's of doom and gloom and scare tactics to try to turn the polls against GW. (I say 'from what I hear' because I didn't bother to watch the Democrat's response to his speech. As the father of an 8 month old, I have already reached my quota for crying and whimpering this month.)

There were a couple of things I feel the need to address about President Bush's budget. He pointed out that his budget will only increase spending "at a responsible 4 percent." He added that "last year, government spending shot up 8 percent. That is far more than our economy grew, far more than personal income grew and far more than the rate of inflation. " Ummm....couldn't we cut back on last years extravagance and possibly budget for an increase of 0%?

Yes, a 4% increase is better than an 8% one, but what happens once the vultures of Congress start tacking on their pet projects? A 4% budget increase is slightly over the current rate of inflation, so it is not all that bad, but Congress has a knack for mucking up Presidential budgets. Ronald Reagan's first budget (for FY 1982) was only a 2.5% increase over the previous fiscal year. This was when inflation was at 6.5% (they call this a spending cut in Washington). When all was said and done, Congress increased federal outlays by 10%. 

In all fairness, President Reagan never had the advantage of a House and Senate controlled by his own party. President Bush is the first Republican President to have this advantage in a couple of generations, and we will find out how serious the GOP is in reducing spending once the budget is passed.

I'm trying to not be too hard on President Bush. I voted for him and I want him to do well. There is a part of me that knows that he is following the lead set by former administrations when it comes to spending. Every President has increased spending in his budget. He is just continuing the trend.

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I would have preferred that his spending increases would have been held to the inflation rate, nothing more.

President Bush's budget is about $1.9 trillion. Had we been "responsible" and held federal spending to inflation and continued the trends of John F. Kennedy's first budget (FY 1962) spending for next year should come to $589.2 billion (all figures in year 2024 dollars), or roughly a third of what it is now. If we were to use the 1972 budget it would come out to $979.4 billion, or roughly half. 1982 spending would have us at $1.287 trillion.

Every percentage point above inflation will compound over time and result in budgets that will become harder and harder to fund. Where will this leave us 10 years from now when this 1.8% increase over inflation compounds? If every budget over the next 10 years restrains itself to the inflation rate(won't happen) and assuming that inflation rate is close to the same rate for the past 10 years (big assumption there, if anything it will be worse) this 1.8% increase will cost US taxpayers about $448 billion more than if this budget had increased only by the inflation rate. It increases exponentially from there.

If anything, technology and innovation should reduce our need for government, not increase it. We need less government now then in 1962, 1972 or even 1992. So yes, I'm irritated that regardless of our advancements and our increases in the quality of life, health care and wealth, spending continues to go up. We can cut, and we can cut deep. Considering that last years increase was double of that proposed by President Bush, would a 4% real reduction have been out of the question?

OK, I'm done beating up on the guy.  I know that if Clinton were putting out a budget for next year it would be well above the 4% mark and closer to the 8% that we saw last year. Regardless, a four percent increase in spending is too much, but I think I'll look on the bright side: Al Gore could have won Florida.

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