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DERRICK Z. JACKSON

And slashing funds at home

PRESIDENT Bush loves to say things like, "When an American president speaks, he better speak with authority, clarity, and certainty. And when he does speak, he better mean it." If he means it about a recent memo, there are mean days ahead for millions of Americans if he is reelected.

Last week The Washington Post reported that it had obtained a May 19 White House memo that directs officials of domestic programs to brace for cuts in 2006. The reason is transparent. Bush's invasion and occupation of Iraq has so badly blown up in his face that the only way he can keep his tax cuts to the wealthy and face his fellow conservatives on overall spending is to rob other programs.

In February Bush stated that his three top budgetary priorities were the war on terror, homeland security, and economic growth. "In addition," he said, "we will continue to strengthen the domestic institutions that best express our values and serve the basic needs of all: good schools, quality and affordable health care, and programs that promote hope and compassion in our communities."

There is no question that Bush will strengthen his top priority. For fiscal 2006, spending on defense would increase by 5.2 percent, to $422.7 billion. Spending for the Department of Justice would go up by 4.3 percent, to $19.5 billion.

To get those kinds of increases for bombs and jails yet hold overall discretionary spending to an increase of just 2.7 percent, Bush has given another message to domestic program officials. They have been warned that if they proposed to increase funding for any programs, "it must be offset within your agency by proposing to decrease funding below that level in other accounts."

Thus, despite Bush saying in his 2002 State of the Union address that "we need to prepare our children to read and succeed in school with improved Head Start and early-childhood development programs," he would cut $177 million from Head Start, 2.5 percent of its budget, in 2006.

In virtually all his recent speeches about the economy, Bush brags about the rise in homeownership. "We want more people owning their own homes," Bush has said. "When people own something, they have a vital stake in the future of our country." But in 2006, Bush proposes a $53 million cut in a homeownership program, canceling out two-thirds of a $78 million increase for 2005.

Even for veterans Bush cannot place his money where his mouth is. Last year Bush said on Veterans Day: "Our veterans from every era are the finest of citizens. We owe them the life we know today. The command the respect of the American people and they have our lasting gratitude." But after proposing an increase in 2005 -- before the election -- of $519 million for the Department of Veterans Affairs, he will cut -- after he is reelected -- the department by $910 million cut in 2006. The agency would actually receive less in 2006 than it did in 2004.   Continued...

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