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More Spending, New Tax Cuts Backed

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  • More Spending, New Tax Cuts Backed

    More Spending, New Tax Cuts Backed
    Turning Tough Talk on Deficits Into Action Is Hard, Experts Say

    Washington Post Article:

    Surging federal deficits have dominated the debate over the 2005 budget winding through Congress. But in the span of five hours last week, the Senate added $7 billion for the Pentagon, boosted spending on veterans health care, forest management and medical research, and stripped out a relatively modest $3.4 billion cut in entitlement spending over five years.

    Then, yesterday, the House Budget Committee adopted a budget plan that takes a tough line on spending, but more than offsets those spending cuts with $150 billion in additional tax cuts over the next five years.

    So far, budget analysts say, the effort to craft a budget resolution is demonstrating how hard it is to translate tough talk into action -- especially in an election year. "It's a lot harder than it looks," said Robert D. Reischauer, a former director of the Congressional Budget Office and now president of the Urban Institute.

    The Senate made waves last week when a few Republicans joined Democrats to insist that any new tax cuts be offset by spending cuts or increases in other taxes. Only a 60-vote majority in the 100-seat Senate could waive that restriction.

    Less noted before final passage of the Senate budget were the measures likely to increase the deficit, which is projected to reach $477 billion this year.

    Senate Budget Committee Chairman Don Nickles (R-Okla.) had insisted that lawmakers tighten all areas of spending under Congress's discretion, including defense. But the Senate overwhelmingly rejected that notion, adding $7 billion in defense spending to comply with President Bush's request. Also added: $2 billion for the National Institutes of Health, $1.7 billion for emergency responders and port security, $343 million for forest restoration, $33 million for college tuition assistance, $101 million for veterans health research, and $5.6 billion for an expansion of health insurance for military reservists and National Guardsmen.

    Most of those spending increases are to be paid for by unspecified cuts to general government funding or federal "allowances." But without specifics, Republican and Democratic Senate aides say those offsets will never happen. In all, a Senate GOP leadership aide said, as much as $15 billion was tacked on to the budget.

    Norman Chad, syndicated columnist: “Sports radio, reflecting our sinking culture, spends entire days advising managers and coaches, berating managers and coaches, firing managers and coaches and searching the countryside for better middle relievers. If they just redirected their energy toward, say, crosswalk-signal maintenance, America would be 2 percent more livable.”

    "The best argument against democracy," someone (Churchill?) said, "is a five minute conversation with the average voter."