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The cost of doing nothing about exploding entitlements

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By Michelle Malkin  •  February 4, 2008 12:12 PM

The cost of doing nothing about exploding federal entitlements? A Republican-sponsored $3.1 trillion with a “T” budget and bogus claims of balance by 2012. Earmark reform and pork-barrel spending cuts are all well and good. But they’re a drop in the bucket:

President Bush unveiled a $3.1 trillion budget on Monday that supports sizable increases in military spending to fight the war on terrorism and protects his signature tax cuts.

The spending proposal, which shows the government spending $3 trillion in a 12-month period for the first time in history, squeezes most of government outside of national security, and also seeks $196 billion in savings over the next five years in the government’s giant health care programs – Medicare for the elderly and Medicaid for the poor.

Even with those savings, Bush projects that the deficits, which had been declining, will soar to near-record levels, hitting $410 billion this year and $407 billion in 2009. The all-time high deficit in dollar terms was $413 billion in 2004….

…Even some Republicans faulted Bush’s budget sleight of hand.

“They’ve obviously played an inordinate number of games to try to make it look better,” Sen. Judd Gregg, the top Republican on the Budget Committee, said in an interview with The Associated Press. “Let’s face it. This budget is done with the understanding that nobody’s going to be taking a long, hard look at it,” said Gregg, R-N.H.

Bush’s spending blueprint sets the stage for what will probably be epic battles in the president’s last year in office, as both parties seek to gain advantages with voters heading into the November elections. The 6 percent overall increase in spending for 2009 reflects a continued surge in spending on the government’s huge benefit programs for the elderly – Social Security and Medicare, even with the projected five-year savings of $196 billion over five years. Those savings are achieved by freezing payments to hospitals and other health care providers. A much-smaller effort by Bush in this area last year went nowhere in Congress.

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FWIW, here’s House Republican Whip Roy Blunt’s statement on the budget.

“The president this morning gave Congress a clear sense of the priorities he intends to pursue on behalf of the American people this year, and I’m glad to see that securing our borders, strengthening our Armed Forces, and promoting broad-based, pro-growth tax relief sit atop his list.

“It’s an agenda that stands in stark contrast to the one advanced by congressional Democrats this past year – a platform that, as its centerpiece, sought to impose the largest tax hike in the nation’s history on hard-working American families. More than $250 billion in new taxes later, it appears Democrats in at least one critical area accomplished exactly what they set out to do.

“As the nation’s first-ever $3 trillion budget, it goes without saying there are many places where I believe we can and should spend much less. As the process moves forward, Republicans look forward to playing a prominent role in that important debate.

“The president’s budget request represents the start of a long, and at times, treacherous process that governs the way government spends taxpayer money. It’s now up to Democrats to demonstrate their commitment to spending that money in a manner that’s worthy of the hard-work and thrift it took everyday Americans to generate it in the first place. A good start would be crafting a sensible budget plan of their own, something they failed to produce last year.”

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