Rushie: Presidency, fiscal responsibility

Jordan Rushie

George W. Bush has cut taxes in order to improve the economy. And yes, the tax cuts appear to be working. Alan Greenspan, Chairman of the Federal Reserve board, who worked for both Republicans and Democrats, said: “I am in favor, as I have indicated in the past, for continuing the tax cuts that are in dispute at this particular stage. But I would argue strenuously that it should be taken out on the expenditure side.”

Yes, Greenspan says tax cuts are a good way to rejuvenate our economy – but only at the expense of cutting back on some federal spending.

Mr. Bush has not cut back on any federal spending. In fact, Mr. Bush has actually increased federal spending – at the highest growth rate seen for any three-year period since George Bush Sr. took over the oval office from Ronald Regan. George W. Bush’s estimated budget is $2.31 trillion, up from Clinton’s $1.86 trillion budget. Bush and the Republican congress’ budget includes a $400 billion, 10-year enlargement of Medicare, $87 billion in expanded benefits for agriculture and $40 billion for increased veterans’ payments and the Air Force’s leasing and buying of new tankers. These expenses put the Federal deficit at $477 billion dollars.

The Bush administration has increased discretionary spending by a 31.5 percent – compared to Clinton’s 3.4 percent. On top of that, the war in Iraq cost over $111 billion and is increasing in cost by the day. Normally during an economic recession, the idea is to spend money into a deficit, and then make up for it when the economy is better and there is a surplus. However, the war on terrorism has caused this deficit to grow at an unexpectedly rapid rate and the war in Iraq is not helping. The economic recession, higher federal spending, tax cuts, a costly war and a huge increase in the defense budget are causing the federal deficit to grow.

In order for Bush to cut the deficit in half, make the tax cuts permanent and rebuild Iraq, Congress would have to keep spending at or below the inflation rate of about 1.9 percent. Bush has said he would like to limit spending for all things except defense and national security to 1 percent this year. However, there is growing pressure for Republicans to increase spending on social programs such as public education, college financial aid and public transportation. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that in order to reduce the national deficit, there must be no additional spending and the tax cuts must be phased out, which will expire in 2005. Iraq is a variable in the economic equation; due to the fact its overall cost is dependent upon on how much of its oil production can be used to rebuild the country. In order to lower the federal deficit, soon the only things we may be able to increase funding for is defense. If the war does not go as planned, we may actually have to reduce federal spending in other domestic areas – such as public education and transportation.

To put this into perspective, before Sept. 11, the economy was entering a recession. In order to try and ease that recession, the Bush administration spent money into a deficit by lowering taxes and increasing federal spending in an attempt to rejuvenate it. When Sept. 11 occurred, a huge increase in the amount of money being put into national security and defense was necessary. The Bush administration did not reverse the tax cuts nor cut back on federal spending to compensate for the increase in the defense budget. Then, on top of an already high deficit, the Bush administration decided invading Iraq was a top priority.

This invasion is the equivalent of losing your job, taking a lower paying job when you are scraping to get by, but then purchasing an expensive new mansion, sending your kids to private school and buying a brand new BMW to park in the driveway. Even when you get a new job, it will be very difficult to make up for all the money you spent while you were unemployed. In order to spend more money eventually you also have to make significantly more money. Bush can either raise taxes and continue with his ambitious spending or lower them and cut federal spending – but he can’t do both forever – or recovering from the deficit will be impossible. It’s just that simple. Greenspan said of the Bush administration’s spending hikes that his “real concern is that when the time comes to start to pay these benefits, we’re going to find that we are in very serious fiscal difficulty.”So yes, you may agree with everything that the Bush administration has done. You may agree with its actions on a moral, political and philosophical level. But regardless of your moral stance on the war on Iraq, if you think the war made the world a better place, that the Iraqis are better off and that the ruthless dictator needed to go, the Bush Administration could have at least waited for a more economically sound time to do it. The time the Bush administration chose to invade Iraq displays a great amount of fiscal irresponsibility.

It is apparent that Iraq did not pose an immediate threat to the United States – since we have found no weapons of mass destruction and our military toppled theirs with almost no resistance. Their only method of retaliation has been through primitive guerilla tactics, taking hostages and shooting at coalition troops. They have not used biological, chemical, or nuclear weapons – weapons of mass destruction – to oppose our invasion. If Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction, they would have used them against our invasion.

What’s worse, since it only took the United States about three days to topple Iraq, and the United States already has its arsenal stockpiled, the war did not create new jobs through investments in the weapons industry which was seen in wars of the past. Previous wars have generated revenue and jobs due to the money being spent on supplying the military with planes, bombs, tanks, trucks and ammunition. Since the military already had these things to begin with, the majority of the money was spent in deployments and supplying our troops, which does not generate economic growth.

The war in Iraq has become another expenditure which the American taxpayers bear the burden of along with already high federal spending, which is going to have to be paid for one way or another. It’s just a matter of when and whose shoulders it will fall on. Now our public school systems, public transportation, federal college funding and other social programs will have to suffer to pay for it. Though the world may now be a better place for some Iraqis and the Middle East, this fiscal irresponsibility has not made my life better in any aspect.