US Budget Slashes Social Security to Pay for War
President Bush plans to disclose a $2.5 trillion budget eliminating dozens of politically sensitive domestic programs, including funding for education, environmental protection, agriculture, transportation and business development, while proposing significant increases for the military and international spending. Under the pressure to balance the budget, Bush has chosen to reduce government spending on many programs. Balancing the budget requires cutting the fat out of the budget and leaving the effective programs well funded. In general, discretionary spending other than defense and homeland security would fall by nearly one percent, the first time in many years that funding for the major part of the budget controlled by Congress would actually go down in real terms, according to officials with access to the budget.
About 150 programs in all would be shuttered or radically cut back to help meet Bush's goal of shaving the budget deficit in half by 2009. One out of every three of the targeted programs concerns education. Medicaid funding would be reduced significantly and even major military weapons programs would be scrapped to make more resources available for the war in Iraq. Bush’s proposals to Congress also include cuts in public housing subsidies and food stamps.
The proposed funding for the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security totals some $449 billion. Bush said the proposal would trim the current budget deficit of $497 billion to $390 billion - some 3.5 percent of gross domestic product - and would scale back or eliminate 150 federal programs. Further, the Environmental Protection Agency's $8.1 billion would drop by $450 million, or about 6 percent, with most of the reductions coming in water programs and projects won by lawmakers for their home districts. And the $2.2 billion program that provides low-income people — in large part the elderly — with home-heating aid would be cut to $2 billion.
The government pays out $15 a year to farms growing cotton, rice, corn and wheat. A cut in those subsidies would be a boon to developing countries but would bring protests from the agro-industrial sector, which profits most from the subsidies. But despite these cuts, Bush’s budget does contain some new spending. The Pentagon’s budget is to increase by about $19 billion and the Homeland Security Department would get a boost of seven percent.
With this budget cuts and new spending, Bush’s priorities are clear- cut social programs and fund defense, military ventures, reforms that benefit multinational corporations and tax cuts for the wealthy. It is indeed unfortunate that the social programs that benefit the most helpless and vulnerable Americans are the first to get the axe.