The biggest complaint of conservatives like us about the Bush administration has been its apparent lack of interest in reining in spending. Bush’s desertion of the small-government portion of his base has caused increased grumbling in recent months, and may have contributed to recent erosion of his approval ratings (along with his immigration proposal). Now the administration is moving to stop the hemorrhaging of federal money–or at least to appear to do so:
“Under fire from fiscal conservatives over record budget deficits, President Bush will propose limiting overall growth in spending not connected to defense or homeland security next year to less than 1 percent, administration officials said on Thursday. At the same time, Bush will propose boosting homeland security spending by approximately 9.7 percent in his fiscal 2005 budget, which will be sent to Congress on Feb. 2, officials said.
“A less than 1 percent cap on non-defense, non-homeland security discretionary spending would be the tightest budget proposed by Bush so far. That compares to projected growth of around 4 percent in the same discretionary programs in the current 2004 fiscal year.”
That four percent figure is controversial, to say the least. The problem, for me at least, is not deficits per se, but rather the explosion in spending which reflects far too activist a federal government. This issue has only begun to play out; I’m a solid supporter of the administration, but it will take a lot more than this kind of announcement to convince me, after three years of evidence to the contrary, that the adminstration is serious about controlling spending. If non-defense/security spending is to be held to a 1% increase, there will have to be considerable cuts somewhere. Whether the President, the Congress or the voters have the stomach for cutting anything remains to be seen.
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