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Tom Adkins - Contributor

Tom Adkins is Executive Publisher of and frequent financial commentator on Fox News. [go to Adkins index]

The Bush Budget
A billion here, a billion there...

[Tom Adkins] 3/31/05

A million bucks is a lot of money. A billion is a thousand million. A trillion is a thousand billion. Keeping this straight? Good! Now, think about this: President Bush's 2006 Federal Budget proposal is about 2.57 trillion dollars.

Hmmm…think that should be enough too go around?

Not if you were wandering around Capital Hill on February 2nd. You could hear Shakespearean screams of agony echoing through the halls of Congress. Offended representatives pounded podiums, and shrieked hysterically, breathlessly flagging down any unfortunate TV crew caught wandering by. "How could President Bush heartlessly cut MY precious program?" Listening to these congressfolk, we must have a waste-free, finely tuned Swiss watch bureaucracy of exceptional programs with nary a wayward penny. Right? Okay. You can stop laughing. No, I mean it. Stop. Please. Thanks.

It's all grandstanding, of course. Can anyone seriously claim our government doesn't flush away immense gobs of our money? The list of foolish, failed or just plain idiotic programs could fill ten supercomputers, like those purchased by the IRS a decade ago. Never used. Still sitting somewhere. Cost? $70 million.

Yet Wednesday, Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer were whining that President Bush is cutting with a budgetary "meat axe." Why? Because Bush dared suggest combining 18 abuse-ridden block grant programs into one. Horrors! Where is ultra-wealthy Westchester County, New York, gonna find another $500,000 for "streetscape improvements"?

Chuck and Hillary aren't exactly lone lunatics. Loretta Sanchez bagged $300,000 to help poverty-stricken Disneyland buy new busses. And long-time lardmaster Robert Byrd went over the one trillion lifetime pork meter for West Virginia this year. That's a thousand, thousand million.

In fact, Democrats manufactured the failed government entitlement market. The welfare state spent over $6 trillion to essentially preserve poverty, while collectively wasting three bucks for every dollar delivered to recipients. Same with the Department of Education. Medicare wastes about 20% of its budget. Social Security is heading for the rocks.

Yet it's not just Democrats. Senator Chuck Grassley soaked taxpayers for $50 mil to create a 5-acre indoor rainforest in Coralville, Iowa. Appropriations Committee chair Bill Young snagged a cool $2.5 million for Pinellas Cty, Florida, for no apparent need whatsoever. Ted Stevens routinely pulls in over $500 million annually for Alaska. In fact, the GOP Congress jacked up discretionary spending 14% since 2002. Now, Republicans are balking about fixing those famously failing liberal boondoggles. Seems like everyone succumbs to the sweet perfume of bubbling pork.

Here's why. Every Congressman gets elected to do something. Building a million dollar bridge looks better than saving everyone a hundred bucks. So they spend. Unneeded buildings, roads to nowhere, and ribbons cut in every county. And they create noble-sounding programs that usually fail. Then, they claim it needs more money. Another Congressman steps forward, swapping votes to fix his failed program, creating a third program to help the first two. And so on. If there's a dollar on the floor, a bunch of Congressmen are fighting over it. If they can't agree? They borrow.

That's why President Bush faces a Steel Cage Death Match over his budget. It's full of great ideas that end this entrenched cynical taxpayer abuse. He wants to combine duplicate programs, tie discretionary spending to inflation and end useless programs, starting with 150 of 'em. He wants pencil-pushing government employees subject to performance rather than seniority. And he wants that dreaded budgetary saber, the line item veto.

Still, Homeland Security, HUD, HHS, Agriculture, NASA, Commerce, State Department, Veterans and of course, Defense all get budget increases, even after waste elimination. This fits inside an overall plan to cut taxes and keep pumping money back into a vibrant, entrepreneurial economy. And with 2.6 trillion bucks out there, any deficits are clearly caused by spending, not a lack of revenue.

Sound draconian? Well, the folks who got $75,000 to study drunken goldfish are probably outraged. How dare we take away their place at the feeding trough?

Well, Mr. President, please dare. Bush is proposing something quite historic: taking on failed sacred budget cows by demanding Congress streamline or eliminate useless programs while fighting a global war against nasty, well-funded terrorists.

Then again, special interests, greedy constituents and a selfish Congress may be President Bush's most formidable enemy. tRO

This article was published in the Philadelphia Inquirer

copyright 2005




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