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January 22, 2005
Bush To Submit "Tough Budget"

President Bush, fresh off his re-election and spectacular inaugural address, plans on pushing his leanest budget yet for next year, according to the Washington Times:

President Bush will propose a virtual freeze on overall non-defense discretionary spending in next year's budget and will abolish or consolidate wasteful, duplicative programs, according to administration budget officials. Deep spending cuts are slated for housing and community development block grants, scientific research, agriculture and veterans programs, among other departments and agencies that, along with higher tax revenue from a growing economy, could shrink last year's $400 billion deficit by more than $150 billion, said budget officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The officials said the budget will essentially freeze aggregate discretionary spending at this year's levels. Last year, Congress kept the rise in discretionary appropriations, excluding defense and homeland security, to less than 1 percent as Mr. Bush requested. But overall non-emergency discretionary spending increased by about 4 percent.

Fiscal conservatives should be pleased with Bush's new austerity program, even though that would overstate the effect. Despite the cuts promised in some programs, the overall change still means a 1% increase in federal spending. Besides, as the Heritage Foundation notes, coming up with Bush's leanest budget would hardly qualify as rocket science, given the large expenditures of his first term:

"It wouldn't take much to make it the leanest budget in years, given the spending spree they've been on in the last several years," said Brian Riedl, a budget analyst at the Heritage Foundation. "Overall spending has jumped 23 percent in the last three years. Non-defense, non-homeland security discretionary spending has leaped 39 percent in the last three years. We've been on a course of runaway spending, unrestrained entitlements and crippling debt which will lead to higher taxes and a poor economy," Mr. Riedl said in an interview.

Runaway spending threatened to split conservatives and risk his presidency early on in the first term. Mavericks like Joe Scarborough in his book, Rome Wasn't Burnt In A Day, pilloried Bush as a sell-out. Bush hoped to govern from the center, Clinton-style, in order to capture a large enough plurality to make his re-election certain. He didn't calculate the extreme hatred the Left has for him, and has finally discovered that no matter how much he spends, he cannot win those people over.

Bush now appears to aim for a Reaganesque view of federal government instead of the more Rockefellerian domestic viewpoint of his first term. This budget looks to be one step towards that end. However, fiscal conservatives should remain vigilant that spending and federal growth really do shrink over the next four years, and that Bush doesn't fall back into his free-spending habits.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at January 22, 2005 10:55 AM

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