George Bush's 'Heartless' Budget

The game has begun. George Bush has introduced a budget that contains "tough cuts" in programs. The Democrats are screaming, and "libertarian" Republicans are cheering Bush’s courage.

But let’s see what’s going on. For fiscal 2005, the latest estimate is that the federal government will spend $2.4 trillion.

For fiscal 2006, the President is proposing a tough, no-nonsense, program-slashing budget of $2.6 trillion.

So with all "Bush’s proposed cuts," we wind up with a federal government that’s 7% larger.

In addition, we must note that the actual budget almost always exceeds the President’s proposed budget – usually by several percent. So what we’re hearing is the same old "we’re going to . . . " that we always hear from the Republicans. The reality undoubtedly will be only a tiny fraction of what they’re promising now, and more likely will be the opposite of what they’re promising.

But, all together now, let’s give a round of applause to President Bush for holding the increase in spending down to 7%. Isn’t that exactly what we’ve been hoping for?

I guess not.

The whole thing is a game. Republicans pretend to cut, to appeal to free-market Republicans – and the Democrats pretend to be outraged, to appeal to their socialist supporters. In reality, nothing will actually change. It never does.

Republicans are great at two things: (1) taking credit for promises that haven’t been fulfilled yet, and (2) coming up with excuses when the promises aren’t fulfilled.

‘Would You Believe?’ Department

Something I never thought I’d see: A Democratic governor is proposing real cuts in Medicaid.

Medicaid is a federal program that’s supposed to provide health care to poor people who can’t afford or can’t get health insurance. Each state government receives money from the federal government, adds money from its own budget, and sets up its own program. In Tennessee it’s called TennCare. Governor Phil Bredesen is a Democrat who was elected in 2002. While his Republican predecessor was dedicated to pushing a state income tax on one of the few states without such an abomination, Bredesen has steadfastly refused to balance budgets by introducing new taxes or raising old ones.

Don’t get me wrong, Bredesen is a politician – and I could fill this page with boondoggles and intrusions that he’s introduced, both as governor and previously as mayor of Nashville. But at least he works within the revenues available and doesn’t ask for more.

Now he has said, "The way in which Medicaid pays for services has more in common with a socialist economy than the commonsense economic and business principles that do such a good job allocating resources efficiently in other parts of our American life." I can’t remember the last time I heard a politician utter the word "socialist" while discussing a government program – or compare government inefficiency with free-market efficiency.

Bredesen is proposing a number of changes in the program – most notably the removal of 323,000 non-Medicaid-eligible people from the program, to save $575 million in Tennessee dollars. Needless to say, it has produced howls of anguish from the usual suspects.

What he has proposed is still just a proposal. As with any politician we have to wait and see how hard he actually works to make the proposal a reality. In the meantime, the dialogue is refreshing.

The New Era

As you may remember, when the Iraqi war started, all the TV news networks – when reporting about the war – displayed the caption "Operation Iraqi Freedom" at the bottom of the screen. This was the name the Bush administration gave to the operation. When the violence continued into the "postwar" period, most networks stopped using the slogan – although I did see it once about a month ago (I’ve forgotten which network displayed it).

This afternoon, while getting something in the kitchen, I turned on the TV to Fox News. The network now has a new, post-election slogan at the bottom of the screen when reporting on the war: "Iraq: The New Era." Unfortunately, while this was displayed, the announcer was reporting on today’s Iraqi violence. Sometimes, it’s hard to tell the New Era from the Old Era.

From the mail bag (or inbox)

This email message poses a poignant question:

In his prolific writings, has Harry ever said what he would do, without altering history, to prevent these terrorist fanatics from killing? Please send a link.

I’ve said quite a bit on this subject. You can find links to a number of solution-type articles on the page "What Should We Do about Terrorism?"

Your constant whining and lack of pleasure with anything is really starting to wear me down, and dampen my enthusiasm for anything close to you. I got over it once, and even though most of your bellyaching did not come to fruition, I’d thought I’d give you another chance. But here we are, millions did not die, Iraq is progressing better than you ever predicted, and you still are finding fault.

You must have me mixed up with someone else. I didn’t predict that millions would die. Neither did I make any prediction regarding what would happen in Iraq. I said only that our government had no business making war on a country that hadn’t attacked us.

Even if WMDs had been found in Iraq, it wouldn’t have justified invading Iraq – any more than the existence of WMDs in Russia, Israel, China, Pakistan, France, England, India, or anywhere else would justify attacking a country that hasn’t threatened us.

As to "Iraq is progressing better," I hardly think the deaths of 100,000 people are something to celebrate. But, then, we may not value life in the same way.

And, finally, as to my whining, I’m sorry if it bothers you, but to remain silent while our government systematically attacks and devastates other countries seems to me to be the highest form of treason. I love America too much to watch its government go down the self-destructive road of empire and not try to stop it.

Why the disdain for Fox TV News? Did you prefer the status of the media before, when the big three sang the New York Times song in harmony?  Fox isn’t perfect, but it is a fresh voice, and far more libertarian than what was before.

I’ve said often that the press in general is pro-government. Fox TV News is no exception. I wrote about the network in the recent article simply because it was the network that I happened to watch the night of the Iraqi elections. However, because the network is overtly pro-Bush, the ridiculous assertions I quoted in my article probably exceeded those that were made on the other networks. I might have had less material for an article if I’d watched CNN or MSNBC.

February 11, 2005