March 25, 2003
Budgetary Shock and Awe
he American public transfixed by the unfolding invasion of Iraq may someday look up and discover too late what the Republican Congress did while the world's attention was elsewhere. Led by the Bush administration, the House and Senate are about to march under the public's radar screen and lead the country into a decade of budgetary disaster.
The country is facing plenty of financial problems: the economy, the cost of the war on terrorism and the war in Iraq. Stunningly, Congress is preparing to make things far, far worse with more than $500 billion in tax cuts for the upper 1 percent of taxpayers. To finance these spoils for the wealthiest Americans, House leaders — who have taken the lead in hammering a budget together — plan deep cuts of $475 billion in vital programs for the bottom 99 percent. These direct hits will range from Medicaid to child care, education to food stamps, environmental protection to emergency doles for the poor.
This plan, in the form of a budget resolution tied to a firm tax-cut mandate, is moving forward on Capitol Hill even as lawmakers' boilerplate speeches resound with calls for shared wartime sacrifice by all Americans. How an average $90,000 tax cut for each millionaire counts as sacrifice is only one of many unexplained mysteries as Republican leaders fiercely protect President Bush's second wave of tax cuts. The gallant troops in Iraq who are being invoked daily in speeches by members of Congress might be interested to know that the array of cuts includes an estimated $14 billion reduction in military veterans' programs.
Last week, Senate moderates failed to pass what amounted to an embarrassment-reduction plan to halve President Bush's $726 billion tax cut. Now they talk of a last-ditch attempt to revive that half-loaf approach this week, before the tax cuts are written in parliamentary stone. But a few key liberals are so far refusing, furious at approving any new tax cuts that will increase the deficits of postwar America. We sadly urge reviving the half-loaf strategy, if only as a symbolic protest of the Republicans' shameful use of the fog of war in their budget scheming. As for shared sacrifice, tell it to the Marines.