Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Bush Budget for a Changed World ; New Realities Promise Tough Hill Fight: Deficits Are Back, Debt Reduction Is out, Social Security Isn't Sacrosanct

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Bush Budget for a Changed World ; New Realities Promise Tough Hill Fight: Deficits Are Back, Debt Reduction Is out, Social Security Isn't Sacrosanct

Article excerpt

What a difference a war makes.

Last year, President Bush presented Americans with a peacetime, have-it-all budget. It promised a hefty tax cut while leaving Social Security untouched. It called for paying off part of the national debt. Even after all that, there would still be surpluses.

This year, the nation apparently can't have it all.

With the war on terrorism now the top priority, the administration's 2003 budget, released yesterday, reflects new realities: Social Security is no longer sacrosanct, debt reduction is a laudable but unrealistic goal, and deficits are back.

The reordered priorities promise a tendentious fight that will test the president's newfound political capital - and will set the tone for the 2002 midterm elections.

"We're unified in Washington on winning this war. One way to express our unity is for Congress to set the military budget, the defense of the United States as the number one priority and fully fund my request," said the president, wearing a bomber jacket before a cheering crowd at Elgin Air Force Base in Florida yesterday. "The budget I submit recognizes the vital role the military will play, and recognizes we have only one alternative and that is victory."

While Congress has already signaled support for Mr. Bush's proposed increase in military spending - the biggest in 20 years - and substantial sums for homeland defense, differences will be intense over other elements in the president's portfolio, notably tax cuts and entitlement spending.

Democrats, eager to retain control of Congress, will portray the White House as abdicating fiscal responsibility and endangering Social Security. They no doubt will step up their attacks of his 10- year, $1.35 trillion tax cut, passed last year, as the main reason for disappearing surpluses.

Both parties will have objections to elements of the president's proposed budget cuts, which target lawmakers' pet programs and affect everything from youth job training to highway improvement projects.

"I don't expect most of what the president is proposing [in budget cuts] to be accepted by Congress," says Stan Collender, a budget expert at Fleishman-Hillard Inc. In fact, he predicts "outright rejection on a bipartisan basis."

Yet, while the Bush plan reflects a major shift since Sept. 11, experts say the change is less astonishing when viewed historically.

Even with the administration proposing a 14.5 percent increase, for instance, defense spending still represents just 3.5 percent of the nation's gross domestic product. When President Reagan was fighting the cold war in the 1980s, his military budget accounted for as much as 6 percent of GDP.

Indeed, the administration points out that previous wartime presidents took much more extreme approaches to the budget than the Bush White House. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.