Key expenses are omitted, analysts say
Page 2 of 2 -- The deficit will shrink in subsequent years only if military needs in Iraq and Afghanistan disappear in the coming year -- something the administration concedes is highly unlikely -- and if Bush does not succeed in remaking Social Security. Also, it assumes that Congress will not enact more tax cuts, including Bush-backed extensions of tax cuts that are due to expire toward the end of this decade.
''The administration is sweeping under the carpet the huge costs of some of their most reckless policies and is doing next to nothing to rein in out-of-control spending in Washington," said Senator John F. Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts. ''The Bush administration has succeeded in reaching new lows of fiscal irresponsibility."
As a candidate for reelection last year, Bush repeatedly pledged to cut the federal budget deficit in half within five years. On paper, Bush's budget seems to do that; it says the deficit will be at $233 billion in fiscal 2009, down from $521 billion that the administration says was the expected deficit at the time he made the promise.
But the $521 billion figure has been shown to be artificially high because the current estimate for the deficit is only $427 billion. That means the administration is taking credit for nearly $100 billion in deficit-cutting because of economic growth, not tough budget choices.
''They'll continue to redefine 'half' until they come up with something that works," said Stan Collender, a budget and economics analyst with Financial Dynamics Business Communications.
Democrats also noted that under Bush's plans, deficits will begin to rise substantially in fiscal 2010 and beyond, as government costs continue to rise and baby boomers start to retire. The ranking Democrat on the Senate budget committee, Kent Conrad of North Dakota, appeared at a news conference yesterday with charts that had black curtains covering up the sea of red ink -- representing the mounting deficits he said Bush does not want the nation to see.
''When we pull back the curtains, we see the reality: more deficits, more debt, and more focus on the wrong priorities," Conrad said. ''This budget hides the true fiscal condition of the country from the American people."
Rick Klein can be reached at email@example.com.