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The Battle Over Bush’s Budget

Democrats and Republicans mull over the president's latest budget.

President Bush this week sent Congress a $2.9 trillion budget for 2008 that includes a large increase in defense spending and cuts in domestic programs. The goal, said the White House, is to balance the federal budget by 2012 without raising taxes. 'œMy formula for a balanced budget reflects the priorities of our country,' Bush said. But Democrats pronounced the proposal dead on arrival. 'œThis budget is filled with debt and deception, disconnected from reality, and continues to move America in the wrong direction,' said Sen. Kent Conrad of North Dakota, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee.

The president's plan includes $145 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan next year, but predicts that no money will be needed in these countries after 2009. Overall Pentagon spending would increase to $624.6 billion next year, up from $600.3 billion in 2007. The budget would lock in Bush's first-term tax cuts at a cost of $1.6 trillion over 10 years, but would save $101 billion over five years by trimming Medicaid and Medicare, in part by requiring wealthier seniors to pay higher premiums. The budget squeezes savings out of education and housing programs, while giving a boost to veterans and national parks.

Don't start spending that 2012 surplus yet, said The Washington Post in an editorial. 'œBush's balance is more illusory than real,' based on assumptions about future revenues that nonpartisan analysts consider laughable. Worse, Bush grasps for this balance by targeting the poor and elderly 'œwhile extending tax cuts for millionaires.' Democrats must show they deserve their new power by making 'œthe kinds of painful trade-offs' that Bush would rather avoid.

They can start by taking a serious look at Bush's Medicare proposal, said National Review Online. By asking seniors earning more than $80,000 a year to take more responsibility for their health-care costs, Bush is 'œmaking the most serious effort in a generation to address the looming entitlement catastrophe.' Democrats have been lamenting runaway Medicare costs for years. 'œThis budget puts their words to the test.'

The New York Times

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