Trillions in red ink

President George W. Bush’s 2006 budget resorts to so many accounting tricks it reads like the annual corporate report of Enron or WorldCom.

Robert Greenstein, director of the widely respected Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, told a telephone news conference Feb. 8 that the administration’s budgetary sleight of hand raises troubling questions on “how transparent, how honest this budget is.” It “goes beyond anything we have seen in previous budgets in hiding information. It is unprecedented.”

Item: Not mentioned, he said, are the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, to be financed in an $81 billion off-the-budget “supplemental.” Over the next decade those wars will cost at least $350 billion.

Item: Not mentioned are the costs of privatizing Social Security. Over the next 10 years this would add $2 trillion to the deficit and $6 trillion over the next 20 years.

Item: The budget projections cover only five years, not 10 as in previous budgets, “masking the full costs of its tax cuts” in reducing revenues for vital benefits and services. Bush argues that projections beyond five years are “too uncertain.” Yet he insists on using “infinite” or 75-year horizons in calculating the costs of Social Security.

Item: The budget fails to provide information beyond the upcoming year on funding of specific discretionary programs, “thereby hiding the impact of large discretionary cuts” in vital programs like veterans’ benefits, food stamps and Medicaid. In fact, Bush’s five-year freeze would result in a $65 billion cut in these programs by 2010, the CBPP warns.

Item: A new budget rule requires that Congress treat Bush’s tax cuts as if they were already permanently enacted in estimating the cost of various line items.

“Such budgetary legerdemain would be unprecedented and shatter rules designed to promote some modicum of fiscal responsibility,” CBPP said in a sub-report titled “Budgetary Hide and Seek.”

The Bush administration lied in dragging us into a pre-emptive war. Now they are lying about their budget, which declares war on the people here at home. Contact your senators and representatives. Tell them to stand against this highway robbery.

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Rattling sabers at Iran

Many people around the world are worried that the Bush administration will attack Iran, and they are right to wonder. Three years ago, President Bush called Iran part of an “axis of evil.” In his recent inaugural speech, he accused Iran of being the world’s primary sponsor of terror.

This week Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice labeled that country an “outpost of tyranny.” When asked at a London press conference whether or not the U.S. seeks “regime change” in Iran, Rice didn’t answer. She said only that the “Iranian people deserve better.”

While Britain, Germany, and France are negotiating with Iran over its possible nuclear program, the U.S. has been busy rattling its sabers. Rice, on a tour of Europe, said that there were no immediate plans to attack Iran, but “the American president is never going to take options off the table.”

Though Bush and Rice both say that currently diplomacy is still the main option, their reactions to European negotiations have been cool at best. Rice has demanded that the European players take a harsher position toward Iran regarding its nuclear potential. The sheer hypocrisy of this situation is stunning.

There is no proof that Iran is developing nuclear weapons. Iran’s leaders say they are developing nuclear energy for their domestic electricity needs. At the same time, the United States already has 10,000 nuclear warheads in its arsenal. Each one of them is much more powerful than the ones that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki 60 years ago. But, for Bush, this is not enough.

According to the New York Times, the U.S. has “begun designing a new generation of nuclear arms meant to be sturdier and more reliable and to have longer lives.” Bush’s new budget allocates additional billions for nuclear weapons development, including the restoration of funds for research and development of earth-penetrating “bunker buster” warheads.

The U.S. spends about $40 billion per year on nuclear weapons. It can’t continue to develop nuclear weapons, label other nations “evil” or in need of “regime change,” and then expect those same nations to feel safe. Nor can it expect them to permanently renounce the peaceful use of nuclear power.

If the U.S. wants to send a clear message to the world, it should begin by dismantling its own nuclear stockpile, which is capable of destroying the earth many times over.

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