This is really classic


This is really classic Bush.

Look at the first couple grafs of tomorrow’s Times article on the roll-out of President Bush’s 2005 budget …

Facing a record budget deficit, Bush administration officials say they have drafted an election-year budget that will rein in the growth of domestic spending without alienating politically influential constituencies.

They said the president’s proposed budget for the 2005 fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1, would control the rising cost of housing vouchers for the poor, require some veterans to pay more for health care, slow the growth in spending on biomedical research and merge or eliminate some job training and employment programs. The moves are intended to trim the programs without damaging any essential services, the administration said.

Where to start?

First of all it’s nice <$Ad$> to see that we’re apparently beyond the need to pretend that the calculus here is anything but electoral — i.e., finding cuts in spending “without alienating politically influential constituencies.”

And what are the cuts?

It sounds to me like it’s a combination of cuts to groups with no ability to push back politically (working poor and sick veterans) and cuts that won’t show up with visible ill effects until years later.

Like the cuts in biomedical research.

If we weren’t all immortal now, I’d say that’s a bit of a shortsighted way to save money, no?

And job training — always a good place to cut in a period when high-skilled jobs are getting sent to India and China.

Look, certainly not everyone will agree with the policy priorities implicit in the criticisms and jabs above.

But it’s very hard to look at this budget — or the outlines of it — and not see this as a few relatively minor cuts (judged in comparison to the oceans of red inks we’re now swimming in), picked for almost exclusively electoral reasons, after the president has as recently as this past year pushed through still more tax cuts and major new spending programs.

The contrast with the Clinton budgets is instructive and, truth be told, almost comical.

Say what you will about the policies behind spending priorities in the Clinton administration. But policy (either inspired or misguided) played a key role in shaping budgeting decisions. This, on the other, is pure politics.

How do we push the budget discipline issue without pressuring any of our interest groups (for whom we’ve been looting the fisc for the last couple years) and do it in a way that the consequences won’t be clear until we’re well into the second term?

Sort of the definition of forward-looking leadership.

As Bertrand Russell’s little old lady might have said, it’s politics all the way down.