On the Record

The President’s Budget

Norman Ornstein and Thomas E. Mann

Diane Rehm: Thanks for joining us, I’m Diane Rheem; President Bush sent his budget proposal to Congress yesterday. He’s asking for a record breaking boost in defense spending and a 100% increase in funds for homeland security. He also wants billions of dollars in tax breaks as part of his economic stimulus plan. Democrats are criticizing the president for relying on several years of deficit spending to reach his goals.

Joining me here today to talk about the priorities and politics behind the budget: Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute and Tom Mann of the Brookings Institution…Good Morning…Good to have you both here. This is President Bush’s first budget, it’s also a wartime budget. How are these two factors visible in his plan?…

Tom, how does the budget sort of stick to what the President outlined in his campaign?

Thomas Mann: It’s certainly was faithful to the critical importance of tax cuts. The President maintains his tax cut passed last spring. Speeds it up as part of the stimulus and makes it permanent. All adding up to another 600 billion dollars over the next ten years. It’s also faithful in the sense that it generously funds National missile defense, and more broadly pours new resources into the defense budget.

I think what is new is the money for homeland security; what is also new in some respect is the absence of concrete demonstration of compassionate conservatism. The President was very successful during the campaign and even in his first months in using a rhetoric of moderation to disguise an ideology of a programmatic thrust of genuine conservatism. Tax cuts, defense buildup, efforts in the private sector to deal with social problems. Now we’re really seeing that come home to roost, Diane.

There is not question but that the President is using his extraordinary standing as Commander in Chief and the Country’s concern about security to advance a budget for this coming year and for the next decade that is dramatically different from his predecessors in ways the public had no way of contemplating when he ran for office. Basically, the lid is off, the surpluses are gone forever. We may be at wartime, but it’s no time to ask the American people to help out. We want to cut their taxes…

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