While the ricin found in the Senate crystallizes the bioterror threat evident since the deadly anthrax mailings, Bush's budget excluded funding requested by the Postal Service for biodetection technology. It also cuts Centers for Disease Control programs and aid to hospitals to prepare for bioterror attacks.
A 2002 report on homeland security, published by the Council on Foreign Relations, warned that "America remains dangerously unprepared to prevent and respond to a catastrophic terrorist attack" and "America's own ill-prepared response could hurt its people to a much greater extent than any single attack by a terrorist." A follow-up 2003 report found that emergency responders are "drastically underfunded" and still "dangerously unprepared."
The Bush budget slashes first responder assistance as well as local law enforcement programs, ensuring that the massive layoffs of police, firefighters and emergency medical workers since 9/11 will continue. The budget also cuts air traffic control modernization and leaves gaping holes in security at nuclear, chemical and port facilities.
While soldiers wounded in Iraq face painful delays for treatment at home, Bush's budget shortchanges veterans' healthcare. Veterans of Foreign Wars Commander Edward Banas calls the funding "a disgrace and a sham."
While 44 million Americans have no health insurance, Bush's budget cuts Medicaid and child health coverage, and gives billions in subsidies to HMOs and drug companies in the guise of prescription drug benefits for seniors.
Millions of Americans are unemployed and underemployed, and many communities are in distress. Bush's budget slashes the Small Business Administration, community development, empowerment zones, brownsfields redevelopment, vocational training, adult education, and assistance for workers dislocated by NAFTA.
In the face of rapidly growing threats from global warming and other environmental hazards, Bush cuts the budget for the Environmental Protection Agency and rewards coal and oil industry lobbyists.
While tax cuts for the top 1 percent of Americans will average nearly $60,000 this year, Bush's budget reduces housing, childcare, education and other assistance for low-income families and leaves millions of children behind.
In the year 2000, the federal budget was balanced without borrowing the surpluses in the Social Security or Medicare Trust Funds. Bush turned the Social Security "lock box" into a jackpot for the rich.
Through years of hefty payroll taxes, we purposely built up surpluses in the Social Security and Medicare Trust Funds needed for the Baby Boomers' retirement and beyond. Would you give your retirement savings away to wealthy neighbors? That's basically what Bush did.
Bush took our common retirement savings, paid disproportionately by low- and middle-income Americans since the Social Security tax is capped--now at $87,900--and gave it away as tax cuts for the wealthy.
Since January 2001, a projected 10-year federal budget surplus of $5 trillion has become projected deficits of more than $4 trillion. Tax cuts are the major factor, reports the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. "Federal revenues fell to their lowest level as a share of the economy since 1959, a time when Medicare, Medicaid, most federal education aid, most environmental programs...did not exist."
"Restoring Fiscal Sanity," a new Brookings Institution study, warns that slower economic growth and higher interest rates caused by excessive deficits will mean that by 2014, the average family's income will be an estimated $1,800 lower; a family with a 30-year, $250,000 mortgage would pay an additional $2,000 a year in interest.
Between 2001 and 2010, the already enacted tax cuts will cost more than $3 trillion if they are made permanent, with 60 percent of the benefits in 2010 going to the top 5 percent of Americans.
The top 1 percent will get tax cuts averaging $122,329 each in 2010, reports Citizens for Tax Justice. Bush wants even more tax cuts favoring the richest Americans.
Looking back years from now, will our children and grandchildren think we acted with their best interests in mind? Or will they know us as the Irresponsible Generation, and pay for our mistakes long after we're gone?
Holly Sklar is coauthor of Raise the Floor: Wages and Policies That Work for All Of Us (www.raisethefloor.org). For reprint permission and other correspondence, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service © Copyright 2004 Holly Sklar.
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