BUSH’S BUDGET: GIVE WAR A CHANCE


06.02.07
MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti political commentator Vladimir Simonov)

In a way, the U.S. Congress on Monday was the exact opposite of a Beatles audience. The latter was enthused by John Lennon’s immortal song “Give Peace a Chance,” whereas the legislators listened in gloomy silence to how George Bush actually asked them to give the war a chance.

The president submitted a draft federal budget for 2008 in which $700 billion (almost a record figure) out of the total $2.9 trillion going toward new military allocations. The White House intends to use the bulk of this sum for its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In fiscal 2008, it is planning to spend $141.7 billion on military operations in these countries, not counting the $93.4 billion which the president wants Congress to earmark right away for the same purposes.

If the legislators meet Bush halfway, the United States will go down in history as a country that spent $661.9 billion on its Iraqi-Afghan military campaign with false motives and illusive goals.

All these figures, which have already soured the mood of the U.S. taxpayer, may not be final – additional expenditures are not ruled out.

Let’s look at the president’s recent idea to send another 21,500 troops to Iraq. Five brigades will not make a huge hole in the budget; moreover, Bush is convinced that these troops can quickly put an end to the civil war in Iraq and turn it into an oasis for building democracy.

But there is more to it than that. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office reported that the dispatch of these troops will require the mobilization of between 15,000 and 28,000 support personnel. The latter figure is more likely. Thus, what seems a modest proposal amounts to the deployment of 48,000 troops and all kinds of military contractors, which will cost about $13 billion in the first four months and about $27 billion in the first year.

For the first time the president had the dubious pleasure of presenting a federal budget to a Democrat-controlled Congress. Their emphatically negative reaction leaves no hope for the adoption of the presidential draft in its initial version. Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad said with typical skepticism that the president’s budget “is filled with debt and deception.” He described it as divorced from reality, adding that it would continue to lead America in the wrong direction.

Bush parried the criticism with his standard phraseology of the last few months, talking about the need for the budget to reflect the national priorities of this “moment of history”, that is, defend the homeland, fight terrorism, and keep the economy in what he considers a prosperous condition. There is a yawning social gap in this budget, and it is clear why.

As always, the administration has only one source to compensate for its military extravagance: the social sphere. This time, the idea is to get rid of the most precious program for American seniors, Medicare, which provides medical insurance for 43 million retirees and disabled people, as well as Medicaid, which safeguards the health of children and poor people. Bush wants to milk $77 billion from both programs for his draft five-year budget and another $280 billion for the following decade.

There is every reason to believe that given the current confrontational alignment of forces in Congress, a reconciled version of the federal budget will appear no sooner than October 1, 2007 – the day America’s new fiscal year begins.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and may not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti. –0-