Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Desperately Seeking Kindness

Must-read New York Times editorial today....In Search of Budget Moderates

And be sure to read my various (unboring) budget articles on education for our children, closing public libraries, shutting Amtrak, life-saving programs for the disabled, brain-injured, kids & families, healthcare for the 50 million needy and disabled Americans, misplaced priorities of a compassionate conservative, , and Senate strikes bipartisan blow to Bush budget.
Unless a handful of moderate Republicans can inject some common sense and human kindness into the process, Congress is likely to approve a budget blueprint this week that manages to be profligate and mean-spirited at the same time. Nominally the product of a conference between both parties in both chambers, the budget nearing final consideration is in fact a Republican document that is expected to add at least $125 billion to the federal budget deficit in the next five years. It calls for generous tax cuts for investors, who hardly need more help, and for harsh spending cuts for the needy, who certainly do.

The agreement sets overall totals for tax cuts and spending cuts; the specific measures will come later. But the aim is to ensure that spending on Medicaid and other programs for the poor will be cut by $17 billion over five years, which is more than the Bush administration requested. It is also more than the Senate sought in its version of the budget resolution. In the conference, however, the House bid up the Senate's cuts for the poor, while the Senate increased the House's gifts to the rich.

The result is expected to guarantee the passage of tax cuts that would cost $70 billion over the next five years, $25 billion more than the House approved for its highest-priority tax cuts. Those cuts are all but certain to include the extension of low tax rates for dividends and capital gains, which almost entirely benefit people who make more than $200,000 a year.

The budget agreement is also expected to lop $23 billion from mandatory spending programs that are not aimed at the poor. These cuts include spending instructions to Congress's natural resources committees that amount to a backdoor invitation to authorize oil leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. In the past, that terrible idea has failed to pass on its own merits.
There is still time in the next day or so to fix this dreadful bill.

Earlier this year, seven Republican senators joined forces to eliminate the Medicaid cuts that are about to be reinstated by the conference. Four of the seven - Gordon Smith, Susan Collins, Arlen Specter and Norm Coleman - are in the strongest position politically to stand firm against further cuts. The pressure is great.

Fairness and fiscal sanity hang in the balance.

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