Letter: Federal budgets
President Bush released his inaugural budget request to Congress. It’s a surprisingly tightfisted budget – capping federal domestic spending growth at below 4 percent for 2002. That’s still too much, but it’s a big improvement over the 6 percent rate of growth of spending in the last few Clinton years. It smartly makes room for the President’s $1.6 trillion tax cut, and it even reserves $1 trillion of the Bush campaign proposal of allowing about 15 percent of workers’ payroll tax dollars to be placed in personal retirement accounts.
In many ways, this is the most Reaganesque budget submitted by a president since the Gipper’s last budget proposal back in January of 1989. Although the Bush plan seeks a preposterously large 9 percent bulge in the education budget, all other domestic programs are held at or below the inflation rate.
If Bush has his way, over the next five years federal spending will fall below 18 percent of national output for the first time in 40 years. Bush Budget Director Mitchell Daniels deserves high praise for this impressive budget blueprint for the new administration.
The Bush plan stacks up well against the congressional Democrats’ alternative. House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (D.-Mo.) and Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D.-S.D.) recently endorsed a plan that proposes devoting one third of the expected tax surplus for higher spending. That’s $1 trillion above the $1 trillion of new spending already built into the budget baseline for the next 10 years.
The Democratic plan thus proposes $2 trillion of new spending over the next 10 years. That’s more money than the entire combined income of all the residents of Illinois, Ohio, Michigan and Minnesota. The Democratic alternative only punctuates President Bush’s claim that if taxes aren’t cut Congress will surely spend the money. Bush wants to give most of those dollars back to Americans through income tax relief.
But Bush’s challenge will be not just to sell the plan to moderate Democrats, but to the increasingly pro-spending factions in his own party.
Trent Lott announced to the world March 5 that he intends to slow down the momentum behind passing President Bush’s tax cut. According to him, we first have to see how much money Congress “wants” to spend before considering whether or not we can “afford” the tax cuts.