Wednesday, February 9


Battle of the budget:

While budgets typically have an element of smoke and mirrors, the relegating of billions in ongoing war costs "off budget" is a major wild card. Joshua Bolten, director of the Office of Management and Budget, says "It wouldn't be responsible for us to take a guess at what those costs are."

I just turned in my department budget today for our next fiscal year. I wouldn't like to see the face of our CFO if I told him, "I can't include my four most expensive areas because it would be irresponsible of me to guess the costs." Hey Bolten, you dolt -- it's not "guessing," it's "projecting," and it's figured on the basis of past expenditures and current and future plans.

Fiscal watchdog groups counter that war costs, along with the expected fix of the alternative minimum tax, will produce persistent annual deficits of about $400 billion. This is way above Bush forecasts - or what Republicans hope to run on in 2006.

Still, expected revenues from programs not yet passed by Congress are counted on the revenue side. These include $1.2 billion in revenue in 2007 from leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), a highly controversial proposal in the pending energy bill.

Another cynical Bush ploy. Push a budget that includes revenue from an action not yet authorized, and when the issue rises cry, "We can't reduce the deficit or meet our numbers unless we raise more revenue, so we HAVE to pass ANWR!"

While the new initiatives and program increases are featured in the opening pages of the proposed 2006 budget, there's no list of programs taking a hit, perhaps for a reason: Many target the Republican heartland in rural America. "We expected to fight cuts to rural programs under the Clinton administration. But those who are currently advocating these draconian cuts would not be in office today if it weren't for rural America," says Rep. John Peterson (R) of Pennsylvania, co-chair of the Congressional Rural Caucus.

I have a feeling that 2006 might just be a good year for Democrats.


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