Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Our Budget Woes

From today's Wall Street Journal editorial:
"In one corner are the Republicans, who propose to 'cut' entitlements over the next five years by $35 billion (Senate) and $59 billion (House). GOP 'moderates' were so spooked by even this amount that last week they forced their leadership to pull the budget from a scheduled vote on the floor. The Republicans could not corral even a single Democratic vote for a budget they say contains savage cuts. To which we can only respond: what cuts?

The reality is that over the next five years the total federal budget is expected to exceed $13.855 trillion. The Republican faux-Slimfast plan basically erases the rounding error, or the $0.055 trillion, and leaves the $13.8 trillion untouched. To put it another way, the GOP plan reduces the increase in the federal budget by a microscopic 0.25% over the next five years. The new prescription drug bill by itself adds some $300 billion to the budget over this same five years, or six times what this 'deficit reduction' bill would save.

In the other corner are the Democrats who supposedly learned 'fiscal discipline' at the knee of Robert Rubin. Not quite. Their Congressional leaders, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, have denounced even these paltry GOP savings as 'shameful' and 'immoral.' They even brought a dozen Katrina Hurricane victims to Washington, trotted them out in front of the national media, and proceeded to lambaste Republicans for shredding the social safety net.

The hypocrisy here is nearly immeasurable. Earlier this year when President Bush tried to fix Social Security with private investment accounts and slower benefit growth for high-income seniors, his critics said the health care cost 'crisis' was more urgent. But now liberals are assailing even the tiniest slivers in Medicare and Medicaid as shameful and anti-poor.

Here's a reality check on the state of the safety net: For the past five years federal spending on anti-poverty programs has increased by 41%. Medicaid, which provides health care for the poor, is scheduled to grow by 7.9% a year, and under the GOP plan it would grow by 7.5% a year. Either way the program expands by more than double the rate of inflation through 2011. Meanwhile, we still await those Democrats who fancy themselves as deficit hawks to propose even one remotely serious entitlement reform."
What are we to do? Both sides of the political isle seem to embrace more spending and larger national government. Years ago David Stockman wrote a book about the national government budget, and he argued that "we" (meaning citizens and taxpayers) got what we wanted, i.e., big national government. Is this really what "we" intended to do -- elect a bunch of politicians to spend our money like drunken sailors?

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