Friday, January 23, 2004

Finally. The squeaky wheel got some grease. A one percent spending increase is not as good as a zero percent increase, but it's better than the four percent we heard in the SOTU address. Whatever domestic spending level the White House proposes to Congress is usually just an opening bid that Congress will raise, therefore fiscal conservatives will have to keep up the pressure if they want to see promises of spending restraint become actual spending restraint.

Of course, Bush wants to increase defense and homeland security spending by a lot more than one percent. As noted here, homeland security spending is set to go up 9.7%. There is some concern about this, as noted in this excerpt from the first article linked to:
Brian Riedl, a federal budget analyst at the Heritage Foundation, said the Republican definition of "homeland security" has become increasingly elastic as budget pressures have grown. In that context, holding spending outside of homeland security to 1 percent may mean less than it appears to, he said.
We'll see what happens. The one thing I say for sure is that in an election year the last thing a Republican president wants to talk about is spending restraint, as he'd rather buy off centrist voters than please his base. The promised spending restraint we're hearing now is official recognition of how angry the base is. The down-side to this rosy scenario is that come fall, when appropriation bills are actually passed, the base may be more angry at the Democratic nominee than profligate spending, in which case the political pressure to avoid election ads of the form "Bush cut important program X" may prove overwhelming. I predict that not a single education program's budget will be cut under any circumstances.

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