WHEN IT COMES to budget deficits, President Bush is like a husband who gambles away the grocery money and then blames his wife for serving leftovers. His $2.4 trillion budget, released yesterday, accompanies a record deficit of $521 billion -- not including whatever is spent on Afghanistan and Iraq. But Bush shrugs off responsibility for the deficits he fueled with his trillion-dollar tax cuts, and instead tries to shift the blame to Congress. Bush showed the flag for fiscal discipline in his weekly radio address Saturday, proposing to reduce the deficit by requiring that every dollar Congress wants to spend is matched by a dollar cut elsewhere. Surprise: Tax cuts would be exempt from this measure. Nowhere does Bush acknowledge the effect of this spending on the deficit, even as he implores Congress to make the tax cuts permanent. Bush has become both enabler of the spending addiction and enforcer in the party's 12-step program to control it.
Bush also tried to blame Congress for misjudging the cost of the Medicare drug benefit passed at the end of last year, even though he instructed House leaders to go to extraordinary lengths to win votes from fretful fiscal conservatives in his own party. The administration now estimates that the law will cost $130 billion more than anticipated over the next 10 years.
Bush presents cuts in domestic spending as the answer to what the budget politely calls "a legitimate matter of concern." The Environmental Protection Agency would take a hit of more than 7 percent, for example, and most discretionary spending would not keep up with inflation. Meanwhile, money for the military, including the far-fetched missile defense system, would grow unabated.
For a leader who makes so much of personal responsibility, Bush is remarkably untroubled about the bill coming due. But why not? He's got other people to pay for his spending and tax-cutting binge: America's children.
© Copyright 2004 Globe Newspaper Company.