And Onward to the Budget Battles Ahead

President Bush's FY 2005 budget will be released on Monday, Feb. 2 with the promise of a difficult budget process ahead.

According to the President's State of the Union address, his budget for FY 2005 will limit overall discretionary spending to 4 percent. According to Senate Majority Leader Frist (R-TN), because of increases in military spending and homeland security, domestic discretionary spending (funding for most of what government does outside of defense) would be limited to 1 percent. This is about half the rate of inflation, and represents a tiny increase from $399 billion in 2004 to only $403 billion in 2005.

Spending cuts, made necessary by the Bush administration's huge tax cuts targeted to the wealthy, are being slated to fall on domestic programs that serve middle-class Americans, as well as low-income families and children. The cuts will be compounded by the fiscal troubles of the states. President Bush is requesting that all tax cuts enacted in 2001, 2002, and 2003 be permanent (all provisions sunset by the end of 2010); at a cost estimated by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center to be a cool $2 trillion through 2014 ($1.7 trillion in revenue reduction and $.3 trillion in increased interest payments on the national debt).

One small example of the President's disregard for domestic needs is the initiative he unveiled during his State of the Union address to help released prisoners be incorporated back into society.
"Tonight I ask you to consider another group of Americans in need of help. This year, some 600,000 inmates will be released from prison back into society. We know from long experience that if they can't find work, or a home, or help, they are much more likely to commit more crimes and return to prison. So tonight, I propose a four-year, $300 million Prisoner Re-Entry Initiative to expand job training and placement services, to provide transitional housing, and to help newly released prisoners get mentoring, including from faith-based groups. America is the land of the second chance, and when the gates of the prison open, the path ahead should lead to a better life."

Sounds good, but do the math -- that's exactly $500 for each released prisoner, hardly enough for one month's rent.

"A budget that funds the war, protects the homeland, and meets important domestic needs, while limiting the growth in discretionary spending to less than 4 percent," cuts "the deficit in half over the next five years," and makes permanent the huge revenue-reducing tax cuts is certainly the most rosy scenario, and is about as likely as flying pigs. We can look forward to another difficult budget year.

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