Tags: The | Party | Spending | and | Deficits | ... | the

The Party of Spending and Deficits Is ... the GOP

Tuesday, 10 June 2003 12:00 AM

A decade ago, when Democrats controlled all of Congress and the presidency, spending rose 4.8 percent from 1993 to 1994.

Now the Congressional Budget Office is forecasting a $400 billion budget deficit this year, about 4 percent of the Gross Domestic Product. That could mean trouble for the GOP in elections.

"People think we're increasing spending just for defense," said Brian Riedl, federal budget analyst for the Heritage Foundation. "But Congress has also gone on a spending spree in areas such as education, health research, [$190 billion in] farm subsidies, unemployment benefits, highways and small low-priority programs.

"Really, Congress isn't saying no to anybody right now," said Riedl. Federal spending per American household is now at $21,000 annually, up from $16,000 in 1999, he noted.

The largest increases in fiscal year 2002 federal spending came in the form of programs such as Medicare ($251 billion, up 5.8 percent), unemployment compensation, earned income tax credits and food stamps.

Medicaid payments increased $148 billion (11.1 percent). Federal procurement awards, which include contracts for the Department of Defense, increased by 10 percent.

Although much of the federal budget is effectively on autopilot for programs such as Social Security and Medicare, Riedl and other analysts blame Republicans for ramping up discretionary spending.

"The Republican reputation for being for small government is wholly undeserved," said Riedl. "Republicans are politicians first, and they're trying to spend money to get themselves re-elected.

"The current crop of Republicans is surprising in their lack of principles," he surmised. "They seem willing to spend on any special interest they need to win re-election next year."

Budget Committee Chairman Jim Nussle, R-Iowa, is one oft-cited exception. He and Majority Leader Tom DeLay have called for across-the-board budget cuts and have given committees until Sept. 1 to identify waste, fraud and abuse in federal programs.

"Nussle deserves a lot of credit for putting those programs on the table," said the Concord Coalition's Harry Zeeve. "But it was met with virtually no support" by his own party, much less by Democrats.

Zeeve wants all programs on the chopping block. "Being a deficit hawk, I'd have pretty much everything on the table. There really would be no sacred cows."

The group Citizens Against Government Waste believes there are "tens of billions of dollars" in waste, fraud and abuse that can be eliminated.

Riedl points specifically at agriculture and corporate subsidies. But education and health spending should also be pruned, he believes.

"I don't want to say all these programs are bad and unworthy, but when you're also at the same time fighting a war on terrorism and building up the homeland, you really have to set priorities," said Riedl.

There are signs that the Bush administration is beginning to fret over profligate spending.

To succeed Office of Management and Budget Director Mitch Daniels, Bush has nominated Joshua B. Bolten, a deputy White House chief of staff, who has a reputation of fiscal restraint.

Bolten publicly vowed to keep "a very watchful eye on the people's money" and be "a tight-fisted custodian of the people's money."

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A decade ago, when Democrats controlled all of Congress and the presidency, spending rose 4.8 percent from 1993 to 1994. Now the Congressional Budget Office is forecasting a $400 billion budget deficit this year, about 4 percent of the Gross Domestic Product. That could...
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2003-00-10
Tuesday, 10 June 2003 12:00 AM
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