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economic justice

Rep. DeFazio nails Bu$h's federal "budget"

Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore) thoroughly outlines pResident Bu$h's economic "planning". The commander-in-thief "... based his tax cut and budget priorities on projections that the federal budget would enjoy $5.6 trillion in surpluses over the next decade."

Time to pack your bags, king George.
Fake Numbers Mean Real Pain for Average Americans
by Rep. Peter DeFazio


Like President Reagan, the Bush Administration and Republicans in Congress
have manipulated spendings, revenue and economic projections to push
through unjustified tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and massive
increases in military spending that fail to address our country's security
needs.

This willful mismanagement of the federal budget will saddle our children
with trillions of dollars in debt they didn't create. Trillions of
dollars earmarked for Social Security and Medicare will be spent on
unrelated government programs. Critical domestic programs, like
education, health care, housing, and social services, will be seriously
underfunded.

What A Difference a Year Makes

Less than 12 months ago President Bush promised we could have it all--a $2
trillion tax cut, substantial defense spending increases, reductions in our
national debt, a prescription drug program for Medicare, protection of
Social Security surpluses, modest increases in other government spending
and money left over.

It sounded too good to be true--and it was. The President based his tax
cut and budget priorities on projections that the federal budget would
enjoy $5.6 trillion in surpluses over the next decade. As I pointed out at
the time, a projected surplus is not the same as money in the bank. The
Congressional Budget Office (CBO) noted the budget could fall into deficit
in 2006, even without tax cuts, if the Administration's economic or
demographic assumptions were off just slightly.

Now, just 12 months later, $5 trillion of a projected $5.6 trillion
surplus has evaporated. According to the Administration's own numbers, the
Bush tax cut depleted 43 percent of the surplus, economic changes were
responsible for 30 percent, and increased spending in response to last
fall's terrorist attacks accounted for the disappearance of 17 percent of
the surplus.

Last year, the Bush Administration said its budget would pay off the
national debt by 2008. Instead of paying off the debt, the latest Bush
budget will add hundreds of billions of dollars to the total, leading to
$1 trillion in additional interest payments. That $1 trillion won't be
available for education, medical care, housing and other critical
needs. The Bush budget also proposed $600 billion in additional tax cuts,
including making last year's tax cuts for the wealthy a permanent feature
of our tax code.

Last year, the Bush Administration and Republicans in Congress loudly
trumpeted their desire to protect Social Security and Medicare surpluses
from being spent on other government programs. This year, President Bush
proposed spending $1.5 trillion in Social Security money and $500 billion
in Medicare money to preserve his tax cuts for the wealthy.

An Irresponsible Pentagon Budget

Under the President's budget, more than $1 of every $2 dollars allocated by
Congress will got to the Pentagon. President Bush pitches his $48 billion
increase in Pentagon spending, for a total budget in fiscal year 2003 of
nearly $400 billion, as necessary to win the military campaign against
terrorism. However, only around $30 billion of the total is directly
related to the war on terrorism and homeland security needs.

What Do We Pay? What Do We Get?

What are American taxpayers getting for the lavish spending at the
Pentagon? Not much.

The Pentagon acknowledges it can't keep track of the money it spends, and
the Pentagon's own auditors admit the Department can't account for $2.3
trillion in transactions. That's $8,000 for every man, woman, and child in
America. Secretary Rumsfeld concedes there is a problem, but he's done
nothing to address the Pentagon's shoddy accounting.

I have requested several reports from the General Accounting Office (GAO),
the arm of Congress that audits federal agencies and programs, and they
all document lost shipments of inventory, overpayments for commercial
parts and inadequate quality and cost controls in Pentagon programs.

As Republican Senator Charles Grassley noted in a hearing last year, "if
the Pentagon does not know what it owns and spends, then how does the
Pentagon know if it needs more money?" A very logical question the
Pentagon refuses to answer.

Retired Vice Admiral Jack Shanahan answered Senator Grassley's question
when he told CBS News, "With good financial oversight, we could find $48
billion in loose change in that building [the Pentagon] without having to
hit the taxpayers."

Even when the Pentagon knows why it is cutting checks, far too often it is
paying for programs that are irrelevant to national security. The
Pentagon's misguided spending priorities hamper our ability to address
more urgent threats and could endanger our national security.

Cold War Recedes, Spending Surges

President Bush and Secretary Rumsfeld promised to slash weapon systems
designed to meet Cold War threats. As recently as January 2002, an aide to
the Defense Secretary was quoted in USA Today claiming the Administration
would cancel several Cold War weapons systems. However, when the Pentagon
budget was submitted to Congress, tens of billions of dollars went to
funding Cold War weapons systems. A $48 billion spending increase can
paper over a lot of problems.

The Bush Administration continues to sink billions of dollars into an
unworkable national missle defense (NMD) system, which also led to Bush's
decision to unilaterally withdraw from the Anti-Ballistic Missle
(ABM) Treaty. Withdrawing from the ABM Treaty and pursuit of a NMD system
will actually decrease our national security and likely provide Americans
with a false sense of security.

In addition, while President Bush has indicated a desire to reduce the
size of our nation's vast nuclear weapons stockpile, he hasn't committed
to destroying the weapons he takes off alert status. He want to put them
in storage for possible retrieval in the future, which doesn't save any
money, and won't increase our security.

Perhaps even worse, in it Nuclear Posture Review, the Bush Administration
says it wants to target nuclear weapons toward China, Iran, and others and
expand the situations in which the weapons could be used. The President
plans to develop so-called "mini" nuclear weapons. These weapons would
blur the line between conventional and nuclear weapons and make it more
likely that nuclear weapons would be used as offensive weapons rather than
just as a deterrent. Developing these weapons would undermine our national
security and increase the availability of weapons of mass destruction to
rogue nations and terrorist groups.

The Army is still spending millions of dollars a year on the Crusader
artillery system, which was designed to shell Soviet troops; and the
Comanche helicopter, despite two reports I requested from the GAO that
document the Comanche is over-budget, behind-schedule, and unable to
meet performance requirements.

Working Families Shoulder the Burden

During times of national insecurity, presidents have called for shared
sacrifice. In the Bush budget, average working families do all the
sacrificing while the wealthiest Americans and the most profitable
corporations get the lion's share of tax breaks.

The Administration's Budget Director, Mitch Daniels, claimed the Bush
budget caused "no pain," but the wide-ranging budget cuts proposed by the
President and House Republicans prove otherwise:

* Energy conservation programs--cut 2.9 percent

* Various renewable energy programs--cut 2-3 percent

* Environmental Protection Agency funding--cut 7.9 percent

* The Clean Water State Revolving Fund--cut 10.2 percent

* Community Development Block Grants--cut 7 percent

* Employment and training assistance funds--cut 12.1 percent

* Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)--cut 17.6 percent

* Rural health care programs--cut 41.9 percent

* Health professions training program--cut 71.6 percent

* Telehealth activities--cut 84.6 percent

Can Anything Be Done?

When the budget resolution was considered in the House of Representatives,
I offered a modest amendment to freeze a portion of last year's tax cuts
for the wealthiest Americans. My amendment would have frozen the top three
tax rates at fiscal year 2003 levels and blocked a total repeal of the
estate tax, while allowing small business owners and family farmers to
pass their estates on to heirs with little or no taxation.

A whopping 97.5 percent of all taxpayers have no personal stake in the tax
cuts I planned to freeze. More than 95 percent of the tax cuts I proposed
freezing would go to individuals making more than $373,000 a year (the top
one percent of income earners). The average Oregonian, who make $30,000
annually, would receive every penny they were promised last year.

Postponing tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans would generate around
$400 billion over 10 years that could be dedicated to adequately funding
critical programs, protecting Social Security and Medicare, and easing the
debt burden on our children.

Congress and President Reagan realized the tax cut enacted in 1981 was too
large and rolled back a portion of it a year later. In total, Reagan
offset about one third of the tax cuts he and Congress had enacted just 12
months before.

President Bush likes to invoke the name of President Reagan, but he
refuses to follow Reagan's example and admit last year's $2 trillion tax
cut was irresponsible. Bush' tax cuts for the wealthy and the billions of
dollars being showered on the Pentagon by House Republicans are going to
cause real pain for average families this year, and for the foreseeable
future.


Peter DeFazio represents Oregon's Fourth Congressional District in the House of Representatives.

homepage: homepage: http://act1v1st.blogspot.com/
address: address: Corvallis, Ore.