Udall blasts Bush’s budget
An “irresponsible” fiscal policy that will only help the wealthy and bring about record job losses is how Eagle County’s Democratic Congressman, Mark Udall, described President Bush’s 2005 spending plan for the country.
President Bush sent Congress a $2.4 trillion election-year budget on Monday featuring big increases for defense and homeland security and a pledge to cut this year’s projected record deficit of $521 billion in half by 2009. But Udall said this week the plan would “plunge our nation into record debt.”
“Insisting on a generous tax cut for the wealthiest Americans means there is less to invest in transportation, jobs, health care and education,” Udall said. “As far as I can tell, the priorities of this budget help wealthy taxpayers who need it the least, subsidize HMOs and oil companies, and add more funds to missile defense.-
“I don’t believe most Americans will be helped by this budget,” Udall said.
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Bush blamed the soaring budget deficits on the 2001 recession and the costs of fighting a war on terrorism. His budget director said as much as $50 billion more in red ink will be added to the budget’s projected $364 billion deficit for 2005 when the costs of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan get added in.
“The reason we are where we are is because we went through a recession, we were attacked and we’re fighting a war. Those are high hurdles for a budget and for a country to overcome,” Bush told his Cabinet.
He said he was confident he could cut the deficit in half in five years by working with Congress “to bring fiscal discipline to the appropriations process.”
White House budget director Joshua Bolten said the administration will not make a request for a wartime supplemental for Iraq and Afghanistan until after the November elections. He said $50 billion would probably be the “upper limit” of what would be needed in 2005. If that level is reached, it would mean Bush’s $364 billion deficit target for 2005 would rise to $414 billion.
Udall said the spending plan with fiscally handcuff the country in vital areas, including defense against terrorist attacks.
“This budget will drown our nation in red ink as far as the eye can see,” he said. “It will put our nation deeper into debt, drain investment capital with higher interest rates and ultimately make it harder to meet our growing health care, education, transportation, and homeland security needs.”
“A cynical move’
Bolten said “hopefully the needs will be less” for military costs in Afghanistan and Iraq next year. But he said “the uncertainty of the security situation” prompted the administration to wait and request a supplemental appropriation rather than include estimated costs in Monday’s budget request.
Democrats, however, charged that Bush left the war spending out of the budget in order to make the deficit appear smaller.
To battle the soaring deficits, Bush proposed squeezing scores of government programs and sought outright spending cuts in seven of 16 Cabinet-level agencies. The Agriculture Department and the Environmental Protection Agency were targeted for the biggest reductions in discretionary spending.
In total, Bolten said Bush’s budget would eliminate 65 government programs for a saving of $4.9 billion. The budget proposes trimming spending in 63 other programs.
Bolten said the administration targeted duplicative programs and those not achieving their objectives. A total of 38 education programs are targeted for elimination.
The president declared that his spending blueprint, which will set off months of heated debate in Congress, advances his three highest priorities – winning the war on terror, strengthening homeland defenses and boosting the economic recovery.
“Our nation remains at war,” Bush said in his budget message. “This nation has committed itself to the long war against terror. And we will see that war to its inevitable conclusion: the destruction of the terrorists.”
But Udall accused Bush’s plan of being politically motivated and built on fuzzy math.
“The President’s budget takes a meat cleaver to vital domestic programs, cutting funding for education, transportation, environmental, agriculture, and science,” Udall said. “He proposes making permanent a tax cut targeted to help the wealthiest Americans and cutting the deficit in half in ten years. The numbers just don’t add up.-
“And in a cynical move,” Udall added, “the President postpones a request for an additional $50 billion for the Iraq military and reconstructions efforts until after the November elections.”
Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts called on Congress to reject Bush’s spending plan, charging it was the “most antifamily, anti-worker, anti-healthcare, anti-education budget in modern times.”
As previously announced, Bush’s budget proposes an ambitious program to return Americans to the moon as early as 2015 and eventually send a mission to Mars. However, the budget only contains $1 billion in new money for the effort over the next five years with another $11 billion reallocated from current NASA programs. In 2005, Bush proposes increasing NASA’s budget by 6 percent to $16.2 billion.
Other programs that would receive boosts in Bush’s budget include his No Child Left Behind education program; job training programs, including one that links community colleges with employers’ and an $18 million increase for the National Endowment for the Arts.
Bush’s budget proposes to hold the spending increase for all of the government’s discretionary programs – those other than mandatory entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare – to 3.9 percent in 2005. That average rise includes big boosts for the military and homeland security.
Scores of government programs outside those two areas will be restrained to an overall increase of just 0.5 percent, below the rise in inflation, and some agencies will suffer outright cuts.
Udall said he hoped Bush’s plan would be defeated and a spending plan rewritten to support more Americans.
“Congress should reject the President’s budget,” he said, “and approve a financially sound blueprint that helps all Americans achieve financial security, invests in programs that create good paying jobs, lowers health care costs, improves education and protects our homeland.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.