Bush Budget: "Where's the Beef?"
In 1984, Clara Peller had her fifteen minutes of fame as the little old lady who went from hamburger joint to hamburger joint complaining about the burgers with no meat. "Where's the Beef?" became the rallying cry for the Wendy's hamburger chain.
As the Bush Administration has just submitted its now rather well-reviewed budget, we are again forced to ask "Where's the Beef?"
The Concord Coalition, that now historic group that has fought for a balanced budget, reports that no money has been budgeted for Social Security "reform", even though Dick Cheney has said it will cost trillions. And even the war in Iraq is not included in the budget.
As they report:
No funds have been set aside in President Bush’s new budget for Social Security reform, says the The Concord Coalition. Vice President Cheney said only a day earlier that the private accounts proposed for Social Security will cost “trillions of dollars.”
As this report summarizes:
"The main problem with this budget is not what's in it, but what's left out. It assumes that the upcoming $81 billion supplemental spending request for Iraq and Afghanistan will be the last one and that the Treasury will get a growing revenue windfall from the alternative minimum tax (AMT). Neither is a realistic assumption, and in fact, neither is Administration policy. The cost of continuing the war efforts and providing AMT relief could easily add another $500 billion to the deficit over the next five years and over $100 billion in 2009 alone. Rather than cutting the deficit in half, as the Administration proposes, its budget policies are more likely to result in persistent annual deficits of about $400 billion," said Concord Coalition Executive Director Robert L. Bixby.
And what about John Kerry? Will he be able to better manage the budget than the imcompetent leadership we now have in the White House?
As Debbie Marquez in the Vail Daily News pointed out:
Kerry's plan has a greater chance of balancing the budget, because it actually brings in revenue! Balancing the budget is not a new position for Kerry. He, John McCain and several other senators have long championed a constitutional amendment to balance the budget.
There is something awful going on in Washington Senator Kerry. We have an Administration that is not about Conservative. It is not about being a responsible steward for us and the future generation of Americans.
This Administration has a dark side. They are now embracing extravagant spending with plans to keep tax cuts permanent. They plan to take the meat out of the social programs that make America a safe place to live. They wish to destroy Social Security by "reforming it". They raise the expenditures going to the Military-Industrial Complex and wage pro-active wars while pressuring for cuts on aid to the least powerful and least influential in our society. They say "No child left behind" and then they propose multiple cuts to Education.
This President subscribes to the "Starve the Beast" theory that hates central government of any form. As Ed Kilgore has written:
Conservative Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, exemplifies the trend. "I came to the House as a real deficit hawk, but I am no longer a deficit hawk," he told The Hill newspaper in February. "I'll tell you why. I had to spend the surpluses. Deficits make it easier to say no."
Deficits seem to make a lot of things easier. As University of California economist Brad DeLong observed in the autumn of 2002: "The whole point of the strategy is to do something that makes the country worse off-create a large deficit that slows economic growth, raises the chances of higher inflation in the future, and diminishes the government's capacity to undertake any expensive new initiatives in the future that national security might require -- and then to count on the fact that one's political opponents care more about the well-being of the country than you do to fix the situation."
It's clear the "starve the beast" theory offers Republicans the political equivalent of a bottomless crack pipe. Tax cuts no longer have to be rationalized by any particular theory of economic growth, efficiency, consistency, or fairness. Politicians are free to defend or extend corporate or other narrow tax subsidies; free to target tax cuts to their favored constituencies; and entirely free from the constraints normally supplied by budgetary arithmetic.
Senator Kerry, America needed you in 2004. Our need for your leadership becomes even more acute each day that passes. Pull our nation from the water! Leave that door open for 2008 and step right through. We have your back!