Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Sale! Cheap Government! Buy Now, Pay Later!

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Sale! Cheap Government! Buy Now, Pay Later!

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON _ The biggest holiday bargain in the country is being offered by the federal government.

Before making their own shopping trips to the malls, President Bush and Congress nailed down the last details of a 1991-92 budget that will charge only 77 cents in taxes and fees for every dollar that will be spent by the federal government.

That's not all. The first priority set by leaders of Congress for the second half of the two-year legislative cycle is tax cuts. At least four rival plans _ two from Republicans and two from Democrats _ will be analyzed at public hearings this month, and President Bush is under great pressure to propose his own plan in his State of the Union address in late January _ or sooner.

The four congressional plans offer tax cuts ranging from $22 to $450 a year for middle-class households, according to Robert Greenstein, director of the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

But every silver lining has a cloud: In providing cheap government during rough economic times, Bush and Congress have already added at least $350 billion to the federal deficit _ another $3,600 in public debt per household, or roughly $1,400 for every American man, woman and child.

"Nobody pays retail any more. Everything's on sale. That's one reason we tolerate deficits so readily," joked congressional analyst Norman Ornstein of the conservative American Enterprise Institute. "If one happens to have money, or credit, it's a wonderful time."

With $3 trillion in public debt _ about $31,000 per household _ already outstanding before the fiscal year began Oct. 1, Bush and Congress saw little leeway for new programs to stimulate the sagging economy.

"That's one way that ordinary people are heavily affected by the deficit," Greenstein said.

When Congress convened in January there were 7.7 million Americans unemployed. When Congress adjourned, the latest number, covering October, was 8.6 million. That didn't count the 6.1 million workers (900,000 more than in January) who said they were working part-time out of economic necessity, rather than personal choice.

But Congress and the White House crafted a 1991-92 budget that didn't break the five-year budget agreement they reached last year, which set limits on spending and taxes, but not the deficit. …

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