- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 15, 2004

The 2005 budget, which President Bush recently transmitted to Congress, continues to support and advance three overriding national priorities: winning the war on terror, protecting the homeland and strengthening the economy.

While the president is committed to spending what is necessary to provide for our security, he is also committed to restraining spending elsewhere.

Since September 11, 2001, more than three-quarters of the increase in the federal government’s appropriated spending has been directly related to our response to the attacks, enhanced homeland security efforts, and the war on terror.

The 2005 budget continues this emphasis, increasing defense spending by 7 percent and homeland security spending by nearly 10 percent. In nonsecurity-related appropriated accounts, Mr. Bush has reduced the growth in spending every year of his administration, from 15 percent in the last year of the previous administration, down to just 0.5 percent next year — less than half the inflation rate.

The president’s budget also builds on the pro-growth economic policies that have laid the foundation for the strong recovery now under way, and for sustained economic growth and job creation in the years ahead. Perhaps the best timed in American history, the tax cuts the president proposed and Congress enacted over the last three years deserve much credit for today’s brightening economic picture.

However, the president will not be satisfied until every American who wants a job can find a job. And so his 2005 budget supports his six-point plan for economic and jobs growth, including making permanent the tax relief that has fueled our economic recovery.

Because of extraordinary challenges confronting America these last few years, we face a projected $521-billion-dollar deficit for fiscal 2004. That size deficit, at 4 percent of gross domestic product, is not historically out of range.

Deficits have been this large or larger in six of the last 25 years, including a peak of 6 percent in 1983. Under the circumstances, today’s deficit is certainly understandable. But it is also undesirable and unwelcome, and with Congress’ help, we will bring it down. With continuation of the president’s economic growth policies and sound spending restraint as reflected in the budget, our projections are the deficit will be cut by more than half over the next five years.

This dramatic reduction begins in 2005, with a projected deficit of $364 billion, roughly 3 percent of GDP. The rapid deficit reductions continue in subsequent years, with our projections showing the deficit falling to 1.6 percent of GDP by 2009. This is not only well below half its current 4 percent level, it is also well below the 2.2 percent average deficit during the last 40 years.

Since Mr. Bush took office, cascading set of challenges have beset our nation. With renewed economic growth and Congress’ cooperation in restraining spending and focusing it on our most critical priorities, we can accomplish the great goals the president has set for the country, while cutting the budget deficit in half.

Joshua B. Bolten is director of the White House Office of Management and Budget. Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service.

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