‘I am greatly afflicted.’
I said in my alarm, ‘All men are liars.’
GOP leaders are congratulating themselves after passing legislation that
President Clinton has agreed to sign, which completes the FY-2000 federal
budget. They are taking credit for an across-the-board cut, balancing the
budget, saving the Social Security surplus, and paying down the national
debt, while increasing funds for education and national defense.
It is absolutely true that the Republican-led Congress increased spending
on education and defense, and that was just the beginning. These legislators
went into these budget negotiations determined to top the president’s
requests on all the hot-button issues, no matter what he asked for,
reasonable or unreasonable. They also topped Clinton’s request for the
National Institutes of Health by $2 billion and added an extra $12 billion
for Medicare heath care providers. They increased the Department of Interior
spending by $338 million, which gives the federal government in excess of a
half billion dollars to buy up more private land next year. In addition,
they added $1.3 billion to continue Mr. Clinton’s program to hire 100,000
teachers and $595 million for the first installment of his plan to hire up
to 50,000 more police officers. Mr. Clinton also won $1.8 billion to carry
out his Middle East accord, and $1 billion to pay the controversial back
debt to the United Nations.
Just a few months ago, GOP leaders faithfully promised us that they would
adhere to the budget caps in the 1997 deal they signed with President
Clinton, calling for a $10 billion cut from the 1999 level. However,
discretionary spending for FY-2000 did not go down. It is up a whopping 5
percent over last year. When all bills are totaled, instead of the $580
billion they agreed to, discretionary spending will come in around $614
billion, or $34 billion more than last year.
If the whole truth were known, it would reveal that this Congress went on
a spending spree unlike anything we have ever seen. Citizens Against
Government Waste pulled out $14.6 billion in earmarked projects in the eight
appropriations bills passed individually and proclaimed that these first
eight bills alone were enough to set an all time pork barrel record.
Earmarks are items not formally requested or competitively awarded and serve
only a local or special interest.
Examples of earmarks in the 2000 budget include the $1 million set-aside
for Texas Tech University’s garden machine program, which is an experiment
on growing vegetables in outer space, and the $500,000 gift to North
Carolina State University for the study of swine waste management. Then
there was $100,000 for Vidalia Onion research in Vidalia, Georgia and
another $500,000 for a water taxi in Savannah. This pales next to the $1.1
million for a viticulture consortium, in California and New York, which is a
giveaway to the wine industry. The $5.5 million for a Sustainable Green
Manufacturing Initiative at the Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey is just one
glaring example of waste in the defense bill, and CAGW hasn’t had a chance
to look at the omnibus bill that just passed, which contains the funds for
seven Cabinet departments.
Now for the half-truths: Yes, there was a puny little across-the-board
cut which amounted to 0.38 percent. But please bear in mind that this was a
decrease of the 5 percent increase that already had been appropriated. Only
in Washington could that be called a cut. As for paying down the national
debt, that was achieved only by using the Social Security Surplus that the
Republicans claimed they saved.
Now, for the outright lies: Republicans are claiming they did not dip
into the money coming in from Social Security to pay for the items in this
budget. When President Clinton was fighting with Congress, trying to win
more spending concessions, he pointed out that congressional leaders were
using budget gimmicks to mask the amount of their overspending. Now that he
has been rewarded, Mr. Clinton isn’t talking about the gimmicks anymore. In
fact, he has added some of his own. For example, Congress is using a White
House estimate that the Pentagon will spend its FY-2000 allocation more
slowly than expected, and that part of the spending will be pushed into the
following year. The same kind of accounting will used with the so-called
emergency spending items.
Also, Congress is counting money from the sale of the broadcast spectrum
rights, assuming that the sale will be complete in FY-2000, even though the
Congressional Budget Office says that is unlikely. Even if the money from
the broadcast spectrum materializes, it’s a one-time thing. However, when
Congress spends money on projects, it is assumed money for these projects
will not only continue, but increase in the years to follow. Money from the
sale of the broadcast spectrum should not be used to fund budget items. It
should be returned to the public or used to pay down the debt.
The biggest gimmick used by Congress is simply delaying payments that
normally would be made at the end of the fiscal year. FY-2000 ends on a
Saturday. If the checks go out on Monday instead of Friday, they will not be
counted until FY-2001. Congress has pushed another $20 billion into next
Even with all of this creative accounting, the amount of the overspending
this year has gobbled up the $14 billion non-Social Security surplus and
another $19 billion to boot. Furthermore, GOP leaders are assuming that the
economy will continue to boom and revenues will go up another $19 billion in
excess of any current estimates. That’s like planning your budget with the
assumption your company is going to give you a big fat raise. If this doesn’
t happen, where is that money going to come from? The only place it can come
from is the Social Security surplus.
The untold story is that with this increase in spending, these GOP
leaders have taken next year’s projected $38 billion surplus, and turned it
into a one to five billion dollar deficit. To make matters worse, next year’
s discretionary budget is supposed to go down to $574 billion. If they can’t
get from $590 billion to $580 billion this year, can we expect them to go
from $614 billion to $574 billion in an election year? The simple answer is
“no,” so kiss any future tax cut goodbye and hold on to your wallets.