I debate putting this here, as you probably have read it, and yet, I think it is important that we keep in the forefront of our mind just how bad Bush really is, and maybe you are saying it has absorbed your whole mind and turned it into a tumbleweed that is roaring west, but nevertheless, let's look at what he continues to propose. More money for defense. What are we defending against? Suicide bombers.
Remember how the American terrorists shot at the British in their dashing red coats from behind trees. We didn't play fair, and now, we are free, or as free as this administration allows us to be.
President Bush’s 2009 budget is a grim guided tour through his misplaced priorities, failed fiscal policies and the disastrous legacy that he will leave for the next president. And even that requires you to accept the White House’s optimistic accounting, which seven years of experience tells us would be foolish in the extreme.
With Mr. Bush on his way out the door and the Democrats in charge of Congress, it is not clear how many of the president’s priorities, unveiled on Monday, will survive. Among its many wrongheaded ideas, the budget includes some $2 billion to ratchet up enforcement-heavy immigration policies and billions more for a defense against ballistic missiles that show no signs of working.
What will definitely outlast Mr. Bush for years to come are big deficits, a military so battered by the Iraq war that it will take hundreds of billions of dollars to repair it and stunted social programs that have been squeezed to pay for Mr. Bush’s misguided military adventure and his misguided tax cuts for the wealthy.
The president claimed on Monday that his plan would put the country on the path to balancing the budget by 2012. That is nonsense. His own proposal projects a $410 billion deficit for 2008 and a $407 billion deficit next year. Even more disingenuous, Mr. Bush’s projection for a balanced budget in 2012 assumes only partial funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for 2009, and no such spending — zero — starting in 2010.
It also assumes that there will be no long-running relief from the alternative minimum tax — which would be ruinous for the middle class — and that there will be deep cuts in Medicare and other health care spending that have proved to be politically impossible to enact.
Mr. Bush, of course, inherited a surplus from the Clinton administration, which he quickly used up on his tax cuts. He then continued cutting taxes after the surpluses were gone and even after launching the war in Iraq — $600 billion and counting. Mr. Bush remains unrepentant. Even now, with the economy — and revenues — slowing, he is pushing to make those tax cuts permanent. That would be fiscally catastrophic.
The big winner, predictably, is the Pentagon. After adjusting for inflation, the proposed defense budget of $515.4 billion — which does not include either war spending or the cost of nuclear weapons — would be up by more than 30 percent since Mr. Bush took office and would be the highest level of military spending since World War II.
Mr. Bush’s war of choice in Iraq, on top of the war of necessity in Afghanistan, has seriously strained the American military — its people and its equipment. Even a new president committed to a swift withdrawal of American troops from Iraq will have to keep asking for large Pentagon budgets, both to repair that damage and to prepare the country to face what will continue to be a very dangerous world.
What is so infuriating about this budget is there is not even a hint of the need for real trade-offs. As far as anyone can tell, not a single weapons system would be canceled. That means it will be up to Congress — also far too captive to military-industry lobbyists — to start scaling back or canceling expensive programs that don’t meet today’s threats, or tomorrow’s.
There is one place we’re delighted to see Mr. Bush invest more money: a proposal to hire 1,100 new diplomats. The next president will need all of the diplomatic help he or she can get to contain the many international disasters Mr. Bush will leave behind.
Predictably, the big losers in Mr. Bush’s budget are domestic-spending programs — including medical research, environmental protection and education — which will either be held flat or cut.
Even more predictably, most of Mr. Bush’s touted savings would come from programs intended to protect the country’s most vulnerable citizens: the elderly, the poor and the disabled. The budget would sharply restrain the growth of spending on the huge Medicare health insurance program, in an effort to save some $178 billion over the next five years. The administration would achieve that primarily by cutting the annual increases in payments to hospitals, nursing homes and other health care providers that are designed to keep up with the rising costs of caring for Medicare beneficiaries.
There is clearly room to restrain the rate of growth in some of these payments. But the size and duration of the cuts are irresponsible. Meanwhile, Mr. Bush — who insists that every answer to the country’s health care woes can be found in the private sector — has left largely untouched the big subsidies that prop up the private Medicare Advantage insurance plans. Eliminating these unjustified subsidies could save Medicare more than $50 billion over five years and $150 billion over 10 years.
Just as the nation seems on the edge of a recession, the budget would also shave federal contributions to state Medicaid programs by some $17 billion over five years. That is exactly the wrong direction to go in tough economic times, when low-income workers who lose their jobs need Medicaid coverage and states have fewer funds to supply it.
All of this means that Mr. Bush will leave his successor a daunting list of problems: the ever-rising cost of health care, the tens of millions of uninsured, a military that is desperately in need of rebuilding. Thanks to Mr. Bush’s profligate ways, it also means that the next president will have even less money for solving them.
Who would want to leave such a legacy? I kept thinking that one day Bush would wake up and "see the light." It seems he prefers to stay in the darkness of his own head and heart, and that is clearly a very hard-headed and hard-hearted place to be.