Bush’s Budget

BUSH’S BUDGET….Catching up on things after my flight I see that George Bush hasn’t lost his sense of humor:

“To assure that Congress observes spending discipline, now and in the future, I propose making spending limits the law,” Mr. Bush said in his weekly radio address. “This simple step would mean that every additional dollar the Congress wants to spend in excess of spending limits must be matched by a dollar in spending cuts elsewhere.”

Note the calculated reference to “every additional dollar the Congress wants to spend,” making it sound as if he’s been a mere bystander for the past three years as Congress has tortured his lean, fiscally austere budgets into the bloated monstrosities they are. Longtime budget fans will remember that Ronald Reagan used the same strategy to good effect.

And at the risk of stating the obvious, why isn’t anyone stating the obvious? Namely that this is little more than a cynical election year ploy designed solely to convince the public that Bush is really a small government conservative? He’s been tossing cash at everything under the sun for three years, he’s going to take a break this year, and then next year it will be business as usual. Surely our eagle-eyed press corps is bright enough to realize this?

POSTSCRIPT: The main point of this story was to report that Bush is planning to cut back on a bunch of stuff. Does this mean that maybe he really can cut the deficit in half in five years?

In a word, no, because he’s still sticking to his plan to increase discretionary spending 4% and make his tax breaks permanent. If you’re interested in how the deficit breaks down, Max has a detailed analysis here.

On the other hand, if you’re the impatient type ? and who isn’t these days? ? the MTV version complete with a colorful pie chart is here. Bottom line: nondefense discretionary spending just isn’t a big factor.