Bush budget: billions for greedy, bones for needy

WASHINGTON — President Bush sent a $2.9 trillion “guns not butter” 2008 budget to Congress Feb. 5, loaded with goodies for the rich, for corporations and the war-makers, but bare bones for working people, senior citizens, children and the poor. Bush told the media his budget will erase hundreds of billions in deficits by slashing entitlement programs while also making tax cuts for the wealthy permanent.

Bush’s plan would slash or eliminate entirely funding for 141 federal agencies. It earmarks, in a separate section of the budget, $99.6 billion in supplemental funds to continue and escalate the Iraq war. Antiwar lawmakers have introduced bills in the House and Senate to block that request. Bush’s budget also requests $145.2 billion for the Iraq war in 2008. This is in addition to his request for $481 billion in military spending, an 11 percent increase. Spending for discretionary domestic programs, excluding Homeland Security, is slashed by about 4 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars.

Gerald McEntee, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, blasted Bush for proposing permanent tax cuts for the richest 1 percent that will cost the treasury trillions in lost revenues. “As we enter the fourth year of a costly military conflict abroad, the president wants to make permanent tax cuts for the rich that no commander-in-chief should support during time of war,” said McEntee. “It’s an outrage that he wants to gut domestic services to do it.”

He cited Bush’s proposal to slash Medicare by $75 billion and Medicaid by $25 billion, balancing the budget on the backs of senior citizens and the poor. “To pay for his expensive war abroad, President Bush is willing to abandon basic domestic responsibilities like health care here at home,” McEntee said.

Lena O’Roark, director of government affairs for Families USA, told the World Bush’s request for only $5 billion to fund CHIP, the low-income children’s health care program, will mean that hundreds of thousands of children will lose benefits. “We need at least $15 billion just to stay where we are,” she said. “The president’s budget means kids are going to lose coverage. My feeling is that this Congress is not going to allow children to lose coverage. But we still need a grassroots upsurge to let Congress know that more money is needed.”

The CHIP program, together with Medicaid and Medicare, “has really reduced the number of uninsured children. But we still have 9 million children without health care coverage. If universal coverage of every child is truly a national priority, then Congress can find the funds to pay for it.” Just allowing Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy to lapse “means there would be funds to cover every uninsured child in America.”

Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, pointed out that Bush’s proposed cuts in CHIP, Medicaid and Medicare “contravenes his explicit promise at the 2004 Republican convention. It also stymies efforts by Republican and Democratic governors to expand health coverage to the 9 million children who are uninsured today.”

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities said the budget “would essentially further enrich the most well-off at other Americans’ expense.” Those with incomes over $1 million annually “would get tax cuts averaging $160,000 a year,” its statement said.

The CBPP statement continued, “According to the administration’s own figures, the number of children in low-income families who receive child care assistance would be cut by 300,000 between 2006 and 2010. The number of children in Head Start also would be cut as the funding for the program would be sliced $100 million below the 2007 level in the House-passed Continuing Resolution.”

Marie Antoinette advised the poor to “eat cake.” Bush goes her one better. He calls for termination of a program that provides a bag of surplus food commodities at a cost of $20 per bag to 440,000 low-income seniors. The flour, rice, powdered milk, etc., is aimed at keeping these seniors from running out of food toward the end of each month.

At the same time he proposes sharp cuts in the Low Income Energy Assistance Program. “These poor elderly individuals would face cuts in both food assistance and in help paying for their heating bills at the same time,” the CBPP statement charges.

In other words: Let the poor starve and let them also freeze.

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