Bush’s budget goes for broke

The new budget numbers make it clear that the president's tax cut was aimed at bankrupting the treasury all along.

Topics: Budget Showdown, Social Security,

Are we all dimwits? We just sit there with goofy looks on our faces while the economy sputters and the president blows what remains of the budget surplus on a tax giveaway to the rich. With nary a peep as the “what me worry?” kid has the gall to make stealing funds from Social Security and Medicare — to pay for a military buildup to fight an enemy that doesn’t exist — sound like fiscal responsibility.

There is method to the president’s madness, as he spelled out in his press conference Friday, proclaiming that the prospect of government red ink is “incredibly positive news” because it will produce “a fiscal straitjacket for Congress.”

Get it? The plan is to bankrupt the national government so we can be reduced to life as it’s lived in Texas, where the rich make out like bandits playing with public funds, as George W. did on that stadium deal, while the rest of the folks scramble. Texas politicians, including three presidents in the past 40 years, always make sure their companies are fed well at the Washington trough, even if it means going to war. Whatever the state of the federal budget, Bush is not going to be tight with the dollar when it comes to a bloated military, because big oil still needs that stick of U.S. military intervention to protect its investments abroad.

Why else do we need a military big enough to fight two wars at once except to protect U.S. investments that stretch from the Caspian Sea to the Persian Gulf? Think of it as a Social Security program — or more accurately, welfare — for military contractors and energy companies, led by Halliburton, where Dick Cheney hustled his quick millions.

Bush never believed in a progressive federal government, including its programs for seniors, but he had to pretend otherwise to win over moderate voters. Now he blithely offers a recession he helped create and a war that he’s not yet managed to find as a rationale for stealing from seniors: “I’ve said that the only reason we should use Social Security funds is in the case of an economic recession or war.”

That was Friday, but Monday the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said that this year $9 billion must be taken out of Social Security, thanks to Bush’s tax cut and the economic slowdown. What idiocy, to jeopardize the one domestic government program that really works. Seniors were once the poorest people around, and now they’re the most secure, thanks to the guarantee of at least a minimum income and healthcare. If you buy the lie that those programs just benefit seniors, consider the crushing burden on young families back in the good old days, when they struggled to provide for aging parents. Try to launch a career, raise a family and still pay the health costs of mom and dad, and you’ll get the picture.

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Unless, of course, your family happens to be super rich like the president’s. For most Americans, Social Security and Medicare are the best family values programs, and it’s mind-boggling that we sit by while a born-rich president who has never known a second of family financial insecurity threatens to pull the safety net out from under the rest of us.

Go figure. Maybe we just find it too hard to follow the money — our money — particularly when all those zeros are tacked on. The federal budget is $1.9 trillion, and the $328 billion that Bush wants to give to the military must just sound like chump change. The big news, much easier to understand, is the sex life of a hick congressman whose name the baby boomers will have forgotten 10 years from now when they are informed that there is no money to cover the health and retirement payments owed them.

By then, the president who conned them will be back at his ranch in Crawford, chuckling about how he really put one over. As an ex-president, he may even get to cut ribbons at the umpteenth test of a missile defense program that will still be as far as ever from working.

Of course, wasting money on the military is a time-honored tradition, but with Bush, it’s truly getting out of hand. Even Rep. Jim Nussle, the Iowa Republican who heads the House Budget Committee, was perplexed by the administration’s asking for a defense hike before Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld had even completed his review of what the military requires: “That’s unacceptable if they are planning on getting more,” Nussle said. “We’re not just going to throw money at defense again.”

Sure, he will, and so will most of his colleagues, and Bush knows it. That’s why the president so smugly welcomes the shriveling of the budget surplus as good news, because it means that those nonmilitary things the government is supposed to do but which he never approved of, such as healthcare for the working poor, won’t get done.

Robert Scheer is a syndicated columnist.

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