President Bush promised to rebuild the Gulf Coastal regions of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama-- an undertaking expected to cost well over a quarter of a trillion dollars (that's 'trillion,' with a 't.')
He said that he would do it without raising taxes, and balance the budget by cutting 'unnecessary spending.'
Of course, this goes along with his conservative philosophy, but on further examination it looks anything but conservative.
For example, in order to finance our last quarter trillion dollar disaster, in Iraq, without raising taxes (and in an economy already mired deep in record debt thanks to his tax CUTS in early 2001), the President cut 'unnecessary spending' already, several times. Among the hits: deep cuts to the national parks and other shared treasures of America, and cuts to block grant programs to the states. This last case was actually a stroke of genius on his part, if his goal was to get rid of government assistance to the poor without being blamed. While running for office, he campaigned on changing the way Federal assistance was given, and proposed packaging them into block grants to the states. His first year in office, this was done. Then, after another year, he began proposing (and Congress began passing) deep cuts in the block grants. This put state and local officials in the position of taking the heat for either the inevitable cuts in services or increases in taxes, while the President could claim that he was not making the decisions on these matters.
Most troubling, however, was another matter on his cut list: New Orleans levees. Not just New Orleans, of course, but public safety and works across the country. As quoted more than a year ago in the New Orleans Times-Picayune:
"It appears that the money has been moved in the president's budget to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq, and I suppose that's the price we pay. Nobody locally is happy that the levees can't be finished, and we are doing everything we can to make the case that this is a security issue for us."
-- Walter Maestri, emergency management chief for Jefferson Parish, Louisiana; New Orleans Times-Picayune, June 8, 2004.
Now, I'm not suggesting that the levee money would have, even if it was approved in full, prevented widespread death and destruction at the hands of Katrina (although it is equally valid to point out that it would have alleviated the effects in some areas); but what this shows is something very profound. The President's definition of 'unnecessary spending' is highly questionable. If it involves gambling that the deleterious effects of cuts won't happen, just as he gambled with the New Orleans flood control system to finance Iraq, then I (not being a gambler) don't support it.
However, since the President is so opposed to raising taxes, I would like to propose an 'unnecessary' spending program that he could cut: Repeal or suspend the enormously expensive and ineffective Medicare Prescription Drug bill that was passed in December of 2003, and which, even in order to get passed, Tom Delay had to break the rules including, among other violations, offer what amounted to a bribe to Republican Nick Smith of Michigan (which is one of the ethics charges DeLay is now answering to the ethics committee for). Not only that, but the actual cost was kept secret, even from the members of Congress who actually had to vote on it.
According to a report published by the Pacific Research Center, this bill, which sends most of its taxpayer largesse to pharmaceutical companies, originally pegged at $400 billion for the first year, will cost over $1.6 trillion over the next two decades.
Meanwhile, America's seniors are not as dumb as the Republican leadership thought they would be. It turns out, that they are opting out of the program in unanticipated numbers. In fact, the President and his supporters will be lucky if they even get half of the seniors in America to sign up for what is being billed as a 'free' benefit. In fact, it is ironic that during the crucial first two days of the Katrina crisis, the President was in Arizona and California campaigning to try and get seniors to sign up for the program.
Dr. Joseph Mercola, Author of the Total Health Program, sums it up perfectly: The Medicare drug plan will force millions of older Americans to accept inferior drug coverage while it enriches pharmaceutical companies and cheats taxpayers.
Now, the $1.6 trillion dollars that the Medicare drug bill will cost according to the Pacific Research Center study is several times even the highest estimates for Katrina. And it does little or nothing for seniors, but only enriches Merck and Pfizer.
Further, despite what we all think of when someone says, 'welfare,' between draconian cuts in individual welfare in most states due to the block grant situation, and huge increases in corporate welfare under Bush because of bills like this, corporate welfare is now five times as much of what is spent in welfare every year, as is welfare payments to individuals.
So, instead of urging the President to raise taxes (although sooner or later we will have to do that too when it comes time to pay the piper for all this borrowing), I have a suggestion for some 'unnecessary spending' he can cut.