President Bush is sending Congress his final $3 trillion budget today, but Democrats have already started to attack it even before the document arrived at the Capitol building.
Besides providing more money for national defense and protecting tax cuts, it would cut spending in government health care programs as well as the rest of the U.S. Government. The plan would generate near-record budget deficits over the next two years.
Democrats are speaking out against the Bush budget as what they contend are seven years of failed policies by the current administration.
"Today's budget bears all the hallmarks of the Bush legacy - it leads to more deficits, more debt, more tax cuts, more cutbacks in critical services," said House Budget Committee Chairman John Spratt, D-S.C.
Bush's spending plan starts the political rhetoric in what insiders say will probably be the first of several epic battles to be waged during the President's last year in office as the country heads into elections later this year.
No Paper Copies to Lawmakers
With this plan, Bush decided to stop providing 3,000 paper copies of the budget to members of Congress and the media. It was supposed to be a moneysaving measure. Democrats said that Bush had run out of red ink.
"We have seen this script before. The President proposes more of the same failed policies he has embraced throughout his time in office - more deficit-financed war spending, more deficit-financed tax cuts tilted to benefit the wealthiest and more borrowing from foreign nations like China and Japan," said Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D.
Democrats said the huge leap in deficits for this year and 2009 continued an era under Bush in which the national debt has exploded. When the President took office, there was a projected 10-year surplus of $5.6 trillion. It was wiped out by the 2001 recession and more spending to fight terrorism. The Democrats also contend Bush's tax cuts have cost the country as well.
As in past years, the administration's largest proposed increases are in national security. Defense spending is projected to rise by about 7 percent, to $515 billion, and homeland security money by almost 11 percent, with a big gain for border security. Details on the budget were obtained through interviews with administration officials, who spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity until the budget's release.
Most of the government's programs for which Congress sets annual spending levels would remain essentially frozen at their current levels. The President's plan marks extra money on some favored programs in education. It also increases inspections of imported food, following last year's high-profile recalls of tainted products coming from China.
Sizable savings in the budget would be made by slowing the growth in the major health programs - Medicare for retirees and Medicaid for the poor. Almost $200 billion in cuts over five years, will be requested by the President, which is about three times the savings he proposed last year. Savings would come from freezing payment levels for hospitals and other health care providers.
Bush will leave office as the first president to hit $3 trillion with a spending plan.
Source: Associated Press