Sunday, February 4, 2007

War as an Instrument of Budgetary Policy

Leave it to Al Jazeera to cut to the chase in their analysis of Bush's weekly radio address. Bush is not just fighting the enemies of democracy. He is also fighting to save the United States from the horrors of being a welfare state:

Bush said: "Controlling spending also requires us to address the unsustainable growth of entitlement programmes such as social security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

"Spending for these programmes is growing faster than inflation, faster than our economy, and faster than our ability to pay for it."

This latter battle needs to be fought on the budgetary front. So the basic strategy is to spend the money elsewhere:

George Bush, the US president, is to ask congress for $245bn to fight the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan - while proposing curbs in spending on the US health care system.

In other words the "necessity" of the war budget provides the justification for cuts in the Medicare and Medicaid budgets. How big will those cuts be? The word from the White House is $70 billion, but the analysts over at The New York Times see it as closer to $100 billion.

Over the last few weeks one of the most heavily used clichés has been that Congress has "the power of the purse." We have also heard a lot about the fact that it is time of clean up the health care mess and that Congress should be taking the first steps. In his Saturday address Bush has basically drawn a line in the sand between the White House and the Congress. Now we have to see how responsive (and responsible) our representatives in both houses of Congress will react in terms of their duties to their constituents.

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