HispanicVista Columnists

Getting priorities right doesn't come easily to Bush

By Erika Robles
 

February 14, 2005

On February 7, 2005 President Bush proposed his 2006 budget. The budget includes a big increase to the Department of Defense, to the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI. However, it seeks a cut down on vital social programs such as Medicaid –the federal-state health program for the poor and disabled-, food stamps, farm subsidies, disability services to veterans, a program that provides low-income people with home-heating aid, a loan program for college students, federal spending on vocational education in high school (which will be entirely eliminated) and other 48 education programs.

This budget is the toughest he has written since entering the White House. The idea behind this tight budget is to cut the budget deficit in half by 2009. The budget anticipates a deficit of $390 billion for 2006, down from this year's expected deficit of $427 billion. Bush's plan is to cut the deficit down to $233 billion in 2009. "We are being tight. This is the tightest budget that has been submitted since we got here," Vice President Dick Cheney said in a television interview the day before they unveiled the budget. However, the budget plan omits some major items that could jeopardize his projection. For instance, the spending plan does not include future expenses of the continuing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq nor does it include the transition costs of changing Social Security- which would begin in 2009 and result in around $754 billion in additional debt over its first 5 years.

Although during Bush's campaign trail he boasted the administration's commitment to education and veteran affairs, his budget reflects the opposite. Not only does the budget shows a lack of commitment to his previously spoken words, but also to the people whose life will be changed due to his budget cuts.  People who benefits from social programs such as the Even Start literacy program, Safe and Drug-Free
School grant, education to migrant workers, and Community Food and Nutrition Program will also be cut down or terminated. At the same time the defense budget would grow by almost 5 percent to $419 billion, bringing its overall growth since Bush became president to 41 percent. Homeland Security would grow by 7 percent and the State Department by nearly 16 percent.

The main concerns –and contradictions- regarding Bush's 2006 budget is that he got the nation's priorities wrong. "We will insist on a budget that limits and tames the spending appetite of the federal government," Bush told members of the Detroit Economic Club, a business group. "A taxpayer dollar ought to be spent wisely, or not spent at all." However, his unveiled budget proposal would lead government employment in a different direction. The civilian employment in the executive branch would be 6,000 more workers, higher than this year's and 140,000 higher since 2001.

Furthermore, by cutting Medicaid he will leave tens of thousands of people without health insurance, without being able to afford health care. However, on Bush's mind it will save the
United States around $60 billion over the next 10 years; and that's what matters. The fact that a lot of people would be affected from this is of less importance –or of no importance at all.

As it did last year, the Education Department has the most program eliminations. By cutting down on educational programs would leave thousands of children unprepared and without a proper education. Bottom line, in order to make increases in the budget for the Department of Homeland Security, the Defense Department, the State Department and civilian employment in the executive branch, thousands of people have to sacrifice their basic rights –like health care, education and food. It clearly reminds me of something a third world country would do. When education is a privilege, thousands of people who cannot afford it without those grants now being cut down, will end up without an education. Without an education, the possibilities of having a good job are slim, but on the bright side, they won't have time to complain about the government or question the policies because they would spend all the time trying to make ends meet. I guess that's the idea behind this budget. Getting priorities right doesn't come easily to Bush.
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Erika Robles, a contributing columnist to HispanicVista.com (www.hispanicvista.com), is a writer and translator now living in Eugene
, Oregon. She was educated in Mexico City; London, England; and Melbourne, Australia. Contact at: erobleswords@yahoo.com.    Web page: http://www.geocities.com/oakspublishing