Monday, April 24, 2006

Bush’s bureaucratic budget shuffle could hurt you

Think about the federal government's disastrous response to Hurricane Katrina and the need for a strong and efficient FEMA. Think about federal loans that help middle-class college students and federal grants that help poor students. Think about environmental programs that protect our air and water. Think about programs that help poor children get a head start on school. Don't blink, though.

George W. Bush and his administration have cooked up a plan that could suck the life out of those programs while allowing for "unlimited tax cuts." That's the word from a new study by The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Based on past performance, I'm betting that those tax cuts wouldn't be trickling down to anyone who isn't already rolling in money.

The Center reports:
The leaderships of both the Senate and the House have indicated that they plan to take up legislation later this year to change the budget rules. Some of the Administration proposals may be considered at that time.
The Center says that the Bush Administration proposes to cap the costs of certain programs in ways that will increase costs and decrease benefits to taxpayers. For example, Medicare costs would be "subject to an artificial cap" that would "induce cuts" in benefits and increase premiums. Caps on annually appropriated programs like FEMA, federal financial aid, education and environmental programs "would be capped at levels that imply substantial reductions."
On the other hand, the Administration proposes no new rules to impede tax cuts of any size, no matter how costly.
The administration is also proposing a "new accounting gimmick" to allow the supposedly temporary 2001 and 2003 tax cuts to be extended indefinitely by Congress. The Center says this would cost "hundreds of billions of dollars per year," but that the administration plans to claim that the cost is zero.

Meanwhile, the Bush Administration is apparently proposing new rules to limit Congressional power over the budget, while strengthening the President's power.

The Center report concludes with some interesting ideas on how current budgeting rules could be revised without causing so much damage. It's well worth reading.

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