If you are old, sick or poor, President Bush's $3.1-trillion budget is not for you. If you are a middle-class family caught in the sticky trap of the alternative minimum tax, the Bush budget is not for you. If you are worried about burdening your children and grandchildren with a crippling national debt, the Bush budget is not for you. If you are a Floridian looking to save the Everglades or caring for a growing population of military veterans, the Bush budget is not for you. Even the Pentagon, which would gain the most, is a loser in the Bush budget because there is no accounting for the cost of war after next year or the rebuilding of a fighting force stretched to the breaking point.
Bush is playing the same cynical game with this, his last budget, that has led to near-record deficits, a burgeoning health care crisis and a job-approval rating so low it should have shamed him into responsibility by now. It hasn't.
How can you spend $3,100,000,000,000 and not account for the full cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, fixing an unconscionable tax increase on the middle class and protecting the most vulnerable Americans? Only with a budget that is a lie.
Bush is preparing for a showdown with congressional Democrats over extending his tax cuts, yet he puts nothing in his fantasy budget to fix the unfair alternative minimum tax - which could cost another $1-trillion. It's not clear Democrats have the courage to call Bush on that omission because Republicans seem to have won the rhetorical battle on demonizing tax increases, even when they're necessary to get the nation's financial house in order.
Bush shows his contempt for entitlements and other domestic programs such as environmental protection and veterans care with his spending cuts. Medicare would be trimmed by $178-billion, mainly through cuts to hospitals and nursing homes. Medicaid would get $17-billion less in federal money, making the program for the poor a greater burden on states when their budgets are already strained.
In Florida, some popular and necessary initiatives would be shortchanged by the Bush budget. The federal government would break its promise, once again, to share the cost of Everglades restoration by allocating less than a third of the money needed to design a major cleanup of the Indian River Lagoon, pretty much killing that important project. A VA hospital planned for Orlando - the largest metropolitan area in the country without such a facility - would be denied hundreds of millions of dollars.
The biggest charade, however, comes in Bush's estimate of his budget's impact on the deficit. While the White House admits the deficit would grow to more than $400-billion the next two years, the budget assumes the deficit will disappear in 2012. Not even a Las Vegas magician would make such an outrageous claim of legerdemain with a straight face. Here's the truth: While Bush was president, the national debt will have more than doubled to $9.7-trillion.
Americans can't hope for a swift or satisfying resolution of this budget farce. Democrats don't want to level with voters, either, in a presidential election year. Here is what neither side will tell you: It is impossible to have massive tax cuts, endless war and bountiful domestic spending without seriously harming the nation's economic future.
Look instead for temporary patches that will delay real resolution of budget problems until Bush is hiding out in his presidential library, trying to put the best spin on his wasteful ways.