President Bush proposed a record $3.1 trillion budget Feb. 4 that hands a whopping $515 billion to the military and slashes health care for seniors and other human needs programs.

Opposition is boiling over in Congress, among the Democratic presidential candidates, seniors and students and in unions.

Bush’s budget for the next fiscal year is the first in U.S. history to top $3 trillion.

The proposal would hobble a new administration with what many consider the most disastrous parts of the Bush agenda: increasing Iraq war spending, expanding tax cuts for the rich, slashing both Social Security and Medicare and racking up an additional $407 billion deficit for fiscal 2009.

“This budget is fiscally irresponsible and highly deceptive, hiding the costs of the war in Iraq while increasing our skyrocketing debt,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). “President Bush’s fiscal policies are the worst in our nation’s history — he has turned record surpluses into record deficits — and this budget is more of the same.”

Observers note that Bush’s budget assumes a 3 percent increase in gross domestic product this year, a rate that is unlikely if the economy continues to slow down as it has in recent months.

In addition to this budget proposal, bloated with military spending, Bush also plans to separately request another $70 billion for the Iraq war, on top of his earlier demand, not yet approved by Congress, for $102 billion more for that war.

Meanwhile, his budget would slash Medicare, which serves 44 million seniors and disabled people, by $178 billion over five years. Hospitals and other providers would be cut the most, with private insurance plans favored by the administration receiving few if any cuts.

The scale of the Medicare reductions would cause many hospitals to close, and increase the number of doctors opting out of the plan. These cuts come on top of already scheduled cuts in Medicare fees to doctors.

The Bush budget also calls for a 7 percent cut in funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

It cuts $50 billion from 151 social programs including grants to states for technical education, health and counseling programs, drug and alcohol abuse programs, health services for the poor and scholarship programs.

Not to worry, though. Bush told Congress that he was saving taxpayer money by e-mailing the budget to House and Senate members and they could buy printed copies for $200 a piece. The move was unlikely to impress lawmakers of either party.

On the campaign trail, Democrats are hitting the Bush budget hard, arguing that urgent domestic needs — from children’s health care to expanded spending on highways and other infrastructure — are going unmet because of the costs of the Iraq war.

“We are spending $9 billion to $10 billion every month in Iraq,” Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama said. “That’s money that could be going to lay broadband lines in rural communities and to rebuilding our schools.”

AFL-CIO President John Sweeney assailed Bush’s proposal, and called for “putting Americans to work directly in construction and repair projects” as an “obvious response to rising unemployment.”

“Unlike tax rebates,” Sweeney said in a statement, “all of this would be spent to increase domestic economic activity, none would be spent on imports, and none would be saved. There is a backlog of at least $100 billion in needed repairs to schools. There are 6,000 bridges that have been declared unsafe, and many of these projects are ready for work to begin immediately.”

Sweeney called on Congress to provide $40 billion for public investment in infrastructure, including school, bridge and sewage treatment repair.

Several labor unions and progressive groups are running TV ads targeting GOP lawmakers for voting against efforts to expand health care for children. One ad by USAction says, “Health care for 1.7 million kids costs the same as just one week in Iraq. But Republicans in Congress helped President Bush to block the program’s extension.”

“An economic downturn is not the time for drastically reducing investment in health care, education and job training,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, a Maryland Democrat, said in a statement.

The AFL-CIO is addressing this concern in its long-range proposals to stimulate the economy.

The labor-backed plan calls for an end to wage stagnation, which it describes as an underlying cause of current economic weakness. “Long-term solutions for this,” Sweeney says, “include fixing our broken labor laws so that workers who want to form a union can bargain with their employers for better wages and benefits.”

jwojcik@pww.org

Tags:

Comments

comments

MOST POPULAR

Sorry. No data so far.