Worse Than You Thought

Worse Than You Thought

Bush’s Budget and the Gutting of Social Security

The economic consequences of the worst government in U.S. history are starting to emerge. The number of people living in poverty has increased three years in a row; the share of total income that goes to the bottom two-fifths of households has fallen to one of its lowest levels since the end of the Second World War; wages for most workers are stagnant or falling; the number of people lacking health insurance is at a record forty-five million; the budget deficit has climbed to $427 billion (this during an economic recovery); and the world’s largest economy, not to mention preeminent military power, is also the world’s largest debtor.

All of this will be made worse by the Bush budget, which is callous in its severe cuts for programs serving the middle class and poor, dishonest in its hiding the full extent of its budget reductions, stunning in its outright redistribution of wealth upward, manipulative in its not including the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the $4.5 trillion the president proposes to borrow in order to privatize Social Security, and catastrophic in its economic effect on the country.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has documented how the cuts affect a broad array of public services, such as education, environmental protection, transportation, veterans’ health care, medical research, law enforcement, and food- and drug-safety inspection. The budget calls for $214 billion in reductions over five years in domestic programs outside of Homeland Security. This translates into food-stamp cuts that will eliminate benefits for approximately three hundred thousand people primarily in low-income working families. A five-year freeze on child care funding will result in cutting the number of low-income children receiving child care assistance. The Environmental Protection Agency’s efforts to maintain and improve clean water are curtailed. Many veterans will face a doubling of the co-payment for prescription drugs. Job-training funds are cut by a half-billion dollars. All funding for Amtrak is eliminated. The budget also proposes to reduce Medicaid funding by at least $45 billion over ten years-a proposal that will push hard-pressed states to eliminate coverage for a substantial number of low-income people, increasing the ranks of the uninsured and the underinsured.

As we have come to expect from this administration, it tries to hide the implications of its policies. The budget fails to reveal funding levels for individual programs for the years after 2005. This is the first time in fifteen years that an administration’s budget has lacked this type of information. The administration provides details on how it will achieve only the first $18 billion of cuts, the reductions that would occur in 2006. Some $196 billion in domestic cuts-all of the reductions in years 2007 through 2010-are left unidentified. In 2006, the budget would cut domestic discretionary programs ou...

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