Only a Democrat like Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland could say with a straight face that President Bush's proposed $2.9 trillion budget for 2008 is "spartan and skimpy." There are some good things in this budget, which Democrats see as bad, and some bad things, which Republicans see as good.
Among the good is the president's proposal for eliminating money for 141 programs, saving $12 billion over five years. While $12 billion in a $2.9 trillion budget is chump change, the elimination of outdated and unneeded programs is a trend to be encouraged.
Those awfully named "entitlements" are reduced in the president's budget proposal, saving $95.9 billion over the next five years. Much of the savings would come from Medicare by slowing the growth of payments to hospitals and health-care providers and increasing premiums for those with higher incomes. That's called "means testing" and it has been needed for some time. Democrats, who believe in "soaking the rich," ought to favor this proposal, but they probably won't because they can't afford to allow the president to "win" anything.
Bad things in the budget, as outlined by Citizens Against Government Waste, include the failure to eliminate the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT). Congress designed this monster to get at the super-rich who often managed to avoid paying any taxes, but the AMT hits a larger share of the middle class every year. The proposed one-year "fix" of the AMT does not solve the problem.
There is another ridiculous proposal for $9 billion in loan guarantees for alternative energy sources and $2.7 billion for advanced technologies. Haven't we been spending and pursuing such things for 30 years? This proposal will not bring us closer to energy independence, but it could raise prices and increase dependency on government handouts.
The war aside (granted it's a pretty big aside), there is still too much in the budget that is designed to meet public expectations. There are still too many people who believe they are owed something from the sweat of another's brow. That government has become a first resource for such people, instead of a last resort, grows the budget and expands the horizons of those who believe it is more blessed to receive than it is to give.
-© 2007 Tribune Media Services, Inc.