- The Washington Times - Friday, May 18, 2001

The Oval Office is beside itself with glee over last weeks 53 to 47 Senate vote on the presidents projected $2 trillion budget for fiscal 2002, a supposed increase of only 4 percent in discretionary spending over last years outlay.

President Bush should restrain his happiness. This "budget resolution," which also passed the House, has as much reality as a New Year´s Eve promise. It is not legislation but merely a nonbinding plan for tomorrow, a day that generally never comes.

The Senate originally proposed a ludicrous 8 percent increase, a number equal in growth in President Clinton´s last year. Now supposedly outflanked, the legislators are willing to compromise at a 5 percent rise instead of Mr. Bush´s 4 percent. But don´t bank on that either. The spenders and porkers have plenty of time and ammunition left to fulfill their dreams of a money-flowing Nirvana.

At one time, budget cutting was a Republican prerogative. Spending was the religion only of Democrats, who saw votes in every appropriation, no matter how useless. Today, however, excess, profligacy and waste in government spending are bipartisan skills, beloved on both sides of the aisle as the way to get votes from naive American citizens.

"Why cut the budget?" legislators crow. We can afford to spend more. After all, there´s plenty of money in the "surplus." Nonsense. Seventy-five percent of that surplus is borrowed Social Security taxes that have to be paid back someday.

The truth is that a prudent president like W. should be trying to cut, not raise, the budget by 5 percent, or some $100 billion a year. I have already outlined cuts of $375 billion a year, or almost 19 percent of the budget. But I don´t want to strain the minds of our election-happy members of Congress. For now, I´ll settle for the $100 billion, taken partially from the following giant pool of waste:

• $25 billion for some 150 job-training programs, most of which don´t work, including $148,000 for each Louisiana cosmetology license. The government has also announced that a program to retain workers who lost their jobs to NAFTA has failed.

• $15 billion in pork, including a third $7 million golf course at Andrews Air Force Base near Washington so members of Congress can play at ease, as well as such tragi-comic expenditures as $105,163 to study the "Evolution of Monogamy in a Biparental Rodent," a rival to $107,000 to study the sex life of the Japanese Quail.

• Some $7 billion a year in fraud by taxpayers who don´t report cash income and yet receive Earned Income Tax Credit, a $26 billion operation that is seldom policed for political reasons.

• Billions in unneeded federal courthouses, like the $210 million Boston courthouse on the harbor for which we´re now building a $610 million one-mile subway to get there. (The General Accounting Office reported that four sampled federal courthouses were unused more than half the time.)

• $150 million for government-funded international mutual funds, including one for Russia that has lost a fortune in U.S taxpayer money, and one in Czechoslovakia that has gone belly-up.

• In addition to the high Small Business Administration default rate that costs us hundreds of millions a year, 1 in 8 defaulted SBA loans were given to convicted felons.

• AmeriCorps "volunteers" actually cost the government some $30,000 a year per person in salary, education, training and benefits making the word "volunteer" a mockery and merely adding more bodies to the swollen federal payroll.

• Corporate welfare, which ranges for goodies for the likes of Intel and IBM, costs us $75 billion a year in dozens of program, including several in the Departments of Commerce, Agriculture, Energy, etc.

• Human "welfare" programs, which despite a drop in enrollment, keep going up in cost, now to the tune of $400 billion a year (three-fourths federal money) for 80 uncoordinated programs in six federal Cabinet agencies without a central computer. (See the Congressional Research Report.)

• Almost a billion for the Export-Import Bank which pays American corporations taxpayer money when their overseas customers don´t pay.

• Multibillions in accounting failures such as that of the Internal Revenue Service which, says a recent audit, paid 1 in 9 vendor bills twice.

The list, or course, is virtually endless, it is covered over by eloquent, if philosophically challenged, members of Congress who see our tax money as mainly an opportunity to spend themselves back into office.

Only a 4 percent increase in spending for 2002, some 50 percent higher than inflation?

We should all live so long.


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