Bush Budget: Feast for the Military, Famine for the People, Will Democrats let him get away with it?

By LeiLani Dowell, NYC FIST

Even the corporate papers are saying it’s unbelievable. Yet it’s only so in its blatancy.

For his last budget before retiring from a much-hated presidency—at a time of an economic crisis that affects workers most—President George W. Bush has proposed propping up the military budget to unprecedented levels while slashing domestic programs left and right and making his tax cuts for rich people permanent.

Bush’s proposed figure of $515.4 billion in military spending roughly equals the sum of the military budgets of the rest of the world’s countries. The Washington Post reports that this figure “is 7.5 percent higher than the current year’s and promises to fund some of the armed forces’ largest and most costly weapons programs.” (Feb. 11)

However, this figure doesn’t even include the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, to the tune of another $70 billion—and that’s just until Bush’s term ends, at which point Pentagon officials expect the new president to fund the wars with billions more. (Washington Post, Feb. 5).

Add to that amount other items not in the budget—such as billions for nuclear warheads and for other agencies like the FBI—and “War Stories” columnist Fred Kaplan suggests that the military budget climbs to a whopping $713 billion! (Slate.com, Feb. 4)

To accommodate this growth in military spending, the Washington Post reports that Bush’s plan would “slice $14.2 billion from the growth of federal health-care programs in 2009, eliminate scores of programs and virtually freeze domestic programs.” (Feb. 5)

Remember the continuing crisis of AIDS, particularly in communities of color? Remember the decaying U.S. educational system, thanks in part to Bush’s No Child Left Behind program? Remember the housing crisis that is making people homeless throughout the country? Remember the survivors of hurricanes Katrina and Rita?

The Post continues, “The plan would … extend abstinence education programs [and] create elementary and secondary school vouchers. … Among the programs Bush would eliminate are food programs for poor children … weatherization assistance, community development grants … and a public housing revitalization program that the House just overwhelmingly authorized.”

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reports that “nearly every area of the domestic budget” would be hit, resulting in 200,000 fewer children receiving childcare assistance; 100,000 fewer households receiving housing voucher assistance; $433 million less funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; $330 million less funding for the Environmental Protection Agency; cuts of $18.2 billion to Medicaid over five years and $556 billion to Medicare in 10 years; and a reduction in the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which would have to drop more than 1 million families and elderly from the program, reduce the amount of assistance provided by 22 percent, or a combination of the two. (www.cbpp.org, Feb. 7)

And yet, Bush won’t let the rich suffer over his bloated military budget. The same report states that Bush’s tax giveaways to the rich will cost $2.4 trillion over the next 10 years. The Center says that combined tax cuts to households with annual incomes of more than $1 million—just 0.3 percent of the country’s households—“would exceed the entire amount that the federal government spends on elementary and secondary education, as well as the entire amount that it devotes to medical care for the nation’s veterans.”

Bush has projected a more than $400 billion deficit as a result of this budget, assuming the country’s economic growth of 2.7 percent this year, a figure that seems unlikely in a period leaning towards recession.

Analysts and media outlets are saying that this is a mess that Bush is leaving for the next president to clean up. However, as always, the burden will not be felt by the politicians, but by the workers, who will suffer needlessly while the government feeds “defense” contractors and the drive for more war. And as always, it will only be the workers’ struggles that have the possibility of pushing these attacks back.


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