Plan to reduce the deficit harms needed programs

Their View

Continuing his trend of taking one step forward and then one step back, President Bush has outlined a budget designed to cut the deficit in half by 2009 — a plan that calls for cuts in funding for numerous domestic programs and ignores some pricey extras.

Bush’s $2.57 trillion budget for 2006 includes cuts to, or outright elimination of, about 150 programs, including reductions in 12 of 23 major government agencies.

Though the budget hardly is a “hoax on the American people,” as House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi described it, it’s true the budget offers little consideration of the president’s favored issues: privatization of Social Security, military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and the permanent establishment of his temporary tax cuts. Resolving these issues will not be cheap, and their exclusion leaves the validity of the entire budget in question.

Some aspects of the budget likely will have trouble finding support even among Republicans, especially the major cuts to the Department of Agriculture. Bush looks to save more than $8 million through these reductions, which include a 10 percent cut in discretionary spending and reductions in farm subsidies.

Disturbingly, 48 of the 150 programs that are projected to receive cuts or outright elimination are in the Department of Education. Bush’s claims that the current system is ineffective may be true, but decreasing funds is perhaps the worst possible way to correct this deficiency. In particular, the $1.5-billion high school performance program is insultingly low — especially when it sits next to the proposed $419 billion for Department of Defense spending.

Bush is counting on a strong economy to back up this budget, and he will need it if his plan is to be successful. In particular, the president’s insistence on continuing his tax cuts must provide noticeable dividends if they are to be worthwhile — and if he is going to convince opponents that they aren’t simply a way of pandering to his rich supporters.

He says the cuts will stimulate the economy by causing citizens to spend more, but it remains to be seen if this boost will justify this allocation of funds.

The success or failure of the budget also is contingent upon the support it receives from Congress. The plan will lose much of its effectiveness if Bush’s proposed cuts don’t make it through the Legislature — which easily could happen. Few of his cuts and eliminations from last year’s budget were approved, causing a dearth in funds for the programs that were increased. In fact, many of the proposals in the budget are similar to proposals that Congress has denied in past years.

Taken as a whole, the cuts outlined in the budget present a stark contrast to the increased amounts that will be spent on programs with a higher profile but less effect on the standard of living of the average American.

If Bush wants a slimmer budget that everyone can get behind, he needs to divert money away from his pet projects and toward the less glamorous programs that need it the most.

The above editorial appeared in the Independent Florida Alligator, the University of Florida student newspaper on Tuesday, Feb. 8 and was made available through UWire.