Friday, January 28, 2005

A Deficit You Can't Refuse

By Jonathan Chait

I don't mean to sound cynical, but it's starting to look as though the Bush administration does not seriously intend to get the federal budget in order. At least that's the impression I got from White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan's attempt this week to explain the unfortunate fact that the administration projects that the deficit will climb this year.

To grasp the full vacuity of the administration's rationalization, you need to consider it piece by piece. Here's how McClellan began his response to a reporter's question about the growing deficit: "And in terms of the deficit, the president has a deficit reduction plan. It's based on strong economic growth and spending restraint."

So the two elements of this plan are strong economic growth and spending restraint. Let's begin with the growth.

"Strong economic growth" means an expanding economy that produces large gains in tax revenues. The trouble is that the economy, as the administration has been reminding us for a long time, is already growing, yet tax revenues are not rising anywhere fast enough to meet the level of spending. Tax revenue accounted for 20.9% of the economy in 2000 and is projected to account for just 16.8% this year. A really hot business cycle can usually push tax revenues up a couple percentage points in a great year. Even if that were to happen in 2005, calling this a deficit reduction plan is like assuring your teenager that you have a plan to pay for her education, and it involves her growing 10 inches and winning a basketball scholarship. And no, dear, this growth plan has nothing to do with that new luxury yacht I just bought myself.

Phase 2 of the "plan" is spending restraint. President Bush is confining his spending restraint to domestic discretionary spending, which accounts for about $500 billion, less than a quarter of the budget. So, as I noted on this page a few weeks ago, programs like the National Science Foundation will suffer a budget freeze.

If he can get Congress to accept his spending limits — something he's tried and failed to do in every year of his presidency — we would chop a whopping $9 billion from the deficit. The deficit, let me remind you, will exceed $400 billion.

McClellan, perhaps trying to make the plan sound more extensive than it is, proceeded to repeat points one and two before concluding: "We've got a plan to cut the deficit in half over the next five years. And we are on track to meet that goal." On track, huh? Last year, the deficit was $412 billion. This year, it's expected to hit $427 billion. At this pace, we'll cut it in half by — hmm, let me pull out my calculator here — approximately never.

Nor is this the first of the broken promises. Bush first said he would cut the deficit by half in five years in July of 2003. Now, 18 months later, his press secretary is still promising to cut the deficit by half "over the next five years." It seems that at any given point in time, the date of this promised halving is always five years away.

What the Bush administration's position on deficits most resembles — aside from Michael Corleone's insincere desire to legitimize his crime family — is the Bush administration's position on tyranny. Rhetorically, Bush stands foursquare against tyranny, has pledged to make democracy the central feature of his relations with every leader in the world and insists that this principle has always guided his presidency. In practice, though, he believes in democratization only when it does not conflict with some other strategic objective, hence his close relations with Pakistan, Egypt, Uzbekistan, Russia, China and the Persian Gulf states.

Lately, his spokesmen have taken to insisting that Bush's inaugural promise to sweep away global tyranny was actually a suggestion for what future administrations might tackle.

Likewise, Bush believes strongly in fiscal responsibility. Unless it conflicts with his desire to cut taxes while fighting a major war. But rest assured that one day, the deficit will disappear, long after he's left office. He's trying, darling

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Deadliest day for U.S. in Iraq war

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Thirty Marines and a Navy corpsman were killed in a helicopter crash near Iraq's border with Jordan, bringing the number of U.S. troops killed Wednesday to 37 -- the deadliest day for U.S. forces since the start of the war in Iraq.

Four U.S. Marines were killed during combat in Iraq's Anbar province, and two U.S. soldiers were killed in attacks in the Baghdad area, according to the U.S. military. (Most based in Hawaii)

The cause of the chopper crash is under investigation, although it appears to be weather-related, according to Gen. John Abizaid, chief of U.S. Central Command.

"The weather was bad. We don't know of any enemy action; the investigation continues," he said.

There was no evidence of any survivors, according to Abizaid, who said the helicopter was on "a routine mission in support of the elections."

"It's a dangerous environment that we operate in Iraq, we all understand that, and again our condolences to the families," he said.

Wednesday's death toll surpassed the 31 U.S. troops killed on March 23, 2003 -- four days after the start of the war in Iraq. Twenty-nine of them died in combat that day.

Wednesday's incidents brought the U.S. death toll in the war to 1,418 -- 1,085 of them in hostile action.

The CH 53E Super Stallion crashed about 1:20 a.m. local time (5:20 p.m. Tuesday ET) near Ar Rutba in Anbar province in western Iraq. (Map)

It was carrying personnel from the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing and the 1st Marine Division.

The four other Marines who died Wednesday were killed during combat operations elsewhere in Anbar province, according to a military news release. The Marines were assigned to the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force.

A U.S. soldier was killed Wednesday when insurgents attacked a combat patrol with grenades near Ad Duluiyah, military officials said.

The soldier, from the 1st Infantry Division, died and two others were wounded in the attack about 11:20 a.m. (3:20 a.m. ET). The injured were taken to a military hospital for treatment; one was in serious condition.

A roadside bomb killed another U.S. soldier and wounded two others Wednesday afternoon in the southern Baghdad district of al-Rashid, according to the 1st Cavalry Division.

In addition to the U.S. military deaths, four multinational soldiers were wounded Wednesday morning when a car bomb exploded near a convoy in southwestern Baghdad along the road to the airport, a source with the 1st Cavalry Division said.

Seven Iraqis killed

In Tamin province, also on Wednesday, three car bombs within an hour killed five Iraqis and injured six other people, according to the police chief in Kirkuk.

The bombs exploded between 11 a.m. and noon (3 and 4 a.m. ET), said Maj. Gen. Torhan Abdul Rahman.

The first was in the town of Riyadh, about 30 kilometers (19 miles) west of Kirkuk, and targeted a police station, he said. Three Iraqi police officers were killed and three civilians injured.

The second detonated outside the Riyadh mayor's office, killing two Iraqi soldiers. The third bomb exploded outside Riyadh and targeted a U.S. military convoy. Three other Iraqi civilians were wounded.

Insurgents attacked the offices of two political parties in Baquba on Wednesday, triggering clashes that left an Iraqi police officer dead and four others wounded -- three of them working as guards for the parties, Baquba police said.

The insurgents used grenades and small arms fire to attack the Kurdish Democratic Party office and the office of the Iraqi Patriotic Gathering Alliance about 6:30 a.m. (10:30 p.m. Tuesday ET), police said, and the resulting battles lasted two hours.

In al-Nahrawan, a southeastern suburb of Baghdad, city council leader Karim Sarhan was gunned down Wednesday morning in a drive-by shooting on his way to work, Iraqi police said.


Sunday, January 23, 2005

"Bush's Big Joke" -- A Video of Atrocities

This video is heart-wrenching, but it is a glaring example of everything that is wrong with George W. Bush's presidency and the Bush administration's policies. The original video is from an event in March 2004. During Bush's speech, he thought it would be funny to show pictures of himself (e.g., looking under a desk) while he joked about not finding WMDs in Iraq. If Bush had an ounce of compassion or the tiniest bit of empathy, he would understand that his lies are killing people. The victims of his war won't find his jokes very funny. Bush lied to the America people and the American people deserve better.

to view the video click here