The NYTimes editorial page has never suckled at Bush’s teat. Here’s a bit from today’s piece on Chimpy’s new budget proposal.
President Bush’s $2.77 trillion budget is fiction masquerading as fact, a governmental version of the made-up memoirs that have been denounced up and down the continent lately. The spending proposal is built around the pretense that the same House and Senate that are set to consider a record deficit of $423 billion will now impose a virtual freeze on everything other than Pentagon and homeland security outlays. The budget writers even fantasized an end to Social Security’s lump-sum death benefit — a whopping $255 per recipient — as if Congress would dare to do something so heartless and easy to exploit in an election year.
The point of all these imaginary financial projections is to give the president leeway to cement in place hundreds of billions of dollars in tax cuts the nation can ill afford and does not need. The cuts were made temporary in the first place because there was no way to even pretend that budgets could be balanced in the future with such an enormous loss of revenue.
The president’s plan was, on the whole, depressingly familiar. The administration that produced shattering deficits is at it again. Even the fiction was plagiarized from failed budgets of the past.
Unfortunately the WaPo editorial page has not been successfully weaned. Their editorial on the budget proposal today is entitled “Budget Bravery”, and they heap praises on the Chimpster’s courageous attack on the least among us even though they admit that his budget is all smoke and mirrors.
OF ALL THE enormous budgetary problems facing the country, the most daunting is the impending explosion in the growth of Medicare, the health care program for the elderly. So President Bush deserves credit for at least proposing to take modest steps to restrain Medicare’s growth in the fiscal 2007 budget released yesterday.
Mr. Bush’s proposed cuts would take just a sliver out of Medicare spending; during the five years in which Mr. Bush wants to cut $36 billion from Medicare, total Medicare spending is set to top $2 trillion. But don’t hold your breath waiting for even these to happen. There is an eternal sunshine of the spotless budgetary mind aspect to this discussion: To imagine that these cuts will be made requires wiping out all recollection of the past when it comes both to this administration and Congress.
Having presided over the biggest expansion in the history of the Medicare program with the addition of the prescription drug benefit, the administration is more than a little late to the cause of restraining the growth in Medicare costs. Moreover, its track record in proposing politically unpopular cuts is not promising: initial bravery followed by — well, followed by nothing.
There are many other, distressingly familiar points to make about the Bush budget: the folly and unfairness of pressing to extend tax cuts in this fiscal environment and to expand tax-preferred savings vehicles that benefit the wealthy; the dishonesty of once again excluding known costs for things such as paying for the war in Iraq after 2007 and giving middle-income taxpayers relief from the alternative minimum tax; and the increasingly cruel squeeze on programs for low-income Americans. We’ll discuss these in the days to come. For now, though, we’ll succumb to the triumph of editorial hope over experience and give the president marks for trying on Medicare — at least for the moment.