Bush Budget Puts Security First

'Lean' proposal trims or ends hundreds of domestic programs


President Bush on Monday sent Congress a nearly $2.6 trillion federal budget that would boost spending for defense and national security while scaling back or eliminating hundreds of domestic programs.

The 2006 spending plan calls for the biggest cuts in domestic expenditures since the Reagan years, but would still result in a $390 billion federal deficit.

Many Americans would feel a direct impact from the president's proposed cuts.

Airline passengers would pay $3 to $5 more each way to help cover the cost of improved airport security.

Train passengers would face higher ticket prices or reduced service because Bush would end federal subsidies for Amtrak. Farmers would lose about $587 million in agriculture subsidies. Military veterans would pay more for prescription drugs.

Agencies targeted for some of the biggest cuts include the Environmental Protection Agency and the departments of Education, Health and Human Services and Housing and Urban Development.

The president called his spending proposal a "lean budget" that funnels tax dollars to the most vital government programs.

Overall spending for discretionary government programs covered by the annual budget process would increase by about 2.1 percent -- slightly below the projected 2.3 percent inflation rate -- but the money would be allocated unevenly.

Programs that aren't related to defense or homeland security would get a 1 percent cut.

About 150 programs would be eliminated or dramatically reduced, but administration officials declined to list them, and Congress is sure to have different ideas.

Bush targeted 65 programs for elimination last year; all but four survived.

However, expenditures for Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other so-called mandatory entitlement programs that are essentially outside the annual budget process -- and that constitute about half of all federal spending -- would continue to grow at rates well above most other government programs.

"Our priorities are winning the war on terror, protecting our homeland, growing our economy. It's a budget that focuses on results," the president said at a White House meeting with his Cabinet.

"I fully understand that sometimes it's hard to eliminate a program that sounds good."

The administration's refusal to provide a list of programs slated for elimination was a tacit acknowledgment of the political difficulties that Bush's budget faces in Congress.

Joshua Bolten, director of the Office of Management and Budget, said the cuts were necessary to restore fiscal discipline and to achieve the president's pledge of halving the budget deficit by 2009.

"Every individual member (in Congress) will be disappointed about something in this budget, I am sure," he said.

"Overall, I think they understand in the aggregate the need to restrain the federal government spending appetite, and I'm hopeful we're going to get some good support.

"Our expectation is that we're still on a good path. We don't know yet what additional spending is likely to be outlaid in 2006 and adding to the deficit number, but ... a year from now at this time I think we will see that declining path coming true and looking very solid out through the course of the budget window."

Although Bush said he was on track to cut the deficit in half by the time he leaves office, his projections don't include spending in Iraq and Afghanistan beyond this year, the long-term cost of extending his tax cuts or any costs of his plan to let workers divert some of their Social Security taxes to personal investment accounts, which alone is projected to cost trillions.

Congressional Democrats called the president's budget a hoax that masks the true outlook for federal deficits.

"This budget continues the wrong choices and misplaced priorities that have created record deficits and rising debt over the last four years," said Rep. John Spratt of South Carolina, the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee.

"By any realistic accounting, the president's policies make the deficit problem worse, not better."

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