[Mb-civic] Digging in on 'debt reduction' - Thomas Oliphant -
Boston Globe Op-Ed
swiggard at comcast.net
Tue Nov 8 04:01:19 PST 2005
Digging in on 'debt reduction'
By Thomas Oliphant, Globe Columnist | November 8, 2005
WASHINGTON ONLY IN a country governed by the triumvirate of George Bush,
Bill Frist, and Dennis Hastert could the following set of events unfold
with absurd smoothness.
The Senate narrowly approves a ''deficit reduction" bill as part of a
larger package that will increase the deficit. That was last week.
The House narrowly approves its own Draconian ''deficit reduction" bill
as part of a larger package that will increase the deficit. That is
likely to be this week, barring a last-minute revolt of moderate
The final version of the legislation, negotiated by conservative
legislators from each chamber with moderates and Democrats cut out of
the behind-closed-doors process, jettisons the sensible portions of the
Senate bill and adds the worst of the House measure, presenting members
with a take-it-or-leave-it proposition that asks senators to approve via
the back door what they had rejected.
President Bush then approves the result, and the country is again
another day older and deeper in debt.
This kind of government -- you might call it the institutionalization of
irresponsibility -- is what the vast majority of Americans, who tell
pollsters by large margins that the country is headed in the wrong
direction and that both the president and Congress are not doing their
jobs well, reject. But they are getting it anyway.
Supposedly, this latest expression of alleged concern about the ruinous
budget deficit stemmed from the shock of fiscal hawks among the
Republican membership of the House at the first batch of measures rushed
through in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina -- $62 billion by my
arithmetic. That necessity essentially wiped out a one-time corporate
taxes windfall and put the federal budget deficit back on its familiar
path toward the stratosphere (above $400 billion).
In its deliberations, the Senate attempted to move the needle back on
the spending side, coming up with what the Congressional Budget Office
estimated would be roughly $35 billion in new savings over the next five
years. In order to minimize the impact on ordinary families and the
poor, moreover, the Senate targeted one of the more outrageous sections
of the horridly complicated prescription drug program under Medicare
that was narrowly enacted at the end of 2003. That would be the
so-called ''stabilization fund," a $10 billion goody that will be paid
out to HMOs and other providers. In English it's a slush fund, and Bush
has pleased his private-sector buddies by threatening to veto the entire
legislation if this one provision is retained. However, aware that Bush
has been making idle threats like this throughout his presidency, the
Senate held its ground -- at least through phase one of the process.
Even so, it meekly submitted when Bush insisted that its addition to
Medicaid assistance to poverty-stricken victims of the hurricane be
slashed to barely 10 percent of the officially estimated need.
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