President Bush released his budget request last Monday. In addition to being the first budget in U.S. history to top three trillion dollars with a projected deficit of 409 billion, there were some other items of note. Members of the Washington Office comment on some of the issues.
Global Climate Change (Kat):
One of the most striking contrasts about Bush’s budget is that it requests less money for environmental measures and more for nuclear weapons and nuclear energy.
Despite the fact that Congress last year refused funding for the “Reliable Replacement Warhead” (RRW) program and a nuclear bomb plant, Bush requested funding for both. The budget requests $10 million for the RRW and $100 million to begin construction on a facility that will make plutonium pits, the core of atomic weapons.
To reduce our dependence on oil, Bush is going nuclear, requesting a 79% increase in funding for the Nuclear Power 2010 program – $106.6 million more than the current year. He’s also requesting a 27% increase in funding for the DOE’s used nuclear fuel management program.
In contrast, Bush cut the budget of the EPA once again, this time by $330 million making a total of $7.14 billion in cuts; his budget eliminates funding for a new national registry to track global warming pollution and cripples environmental clean up of polluted water ways.
Other environmental cuts include $410 million budget taken from the Department of the Interior, $104 million taken from the Land and Water Conservation Fund (which acquires lands for parks and wildlife refuges), $800 million taken from the Army Corps of Engineers Civil Works Program, and 183 million taken from the Bureau of Reclamation.
Sexuality Education (Grace):
President Bush has once again asked for an increase for federal funding for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs. The president asked for $204 million in abstinence-only-until-marriage funds; $141 million for Community-Based Abstinence Education (CBAE), $50 million for Title V abstinence-only funding, and $13 million for the Adolescent Family Life Act. His request increased CBAE funding by $27.7 million from Fiscal Year 2008. These programs have been proven to be ineffective in decreasing sexual activity among teens and do not help to reduce the amount of unprotected sex.
Apparently, the President feels that it is more important to promote his religious views about sex than to take the advice of numerous studies and 16 governors and fund comprehensive sexuality education programs which would decrease the rate of unintended pregnancies and STI’s. Last year President Bush also requested increases for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs which the House approved but the Senate cut back to be equal to the previous year. Let’s hope that this year the House and Senate step up and deny all funding for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs.
Economic Justice (Lisa):
Bush proposes to significantly reduce or eliminate 151 programs. The Urban Indian Health Program, which provides healthcare for 100,000 Native Americans, would be one of the programs eliminated. You can send an email from the National Council of Urban Indian Health’s webpage to oppose the elimination of this important program. The budget would also severely cut programs such as Indian Health Professions, which provides scholarships and loans to students. Overall, the proposed budget puts a stop to recent growth in funding for Native American programs.
On the other hand, Bush has selected border security as one of the few domestic areas to receive increased funding in 2009. He has proposed a budget increase for immigration and border security enforcement of nineteen percent. Additions to border security are to include 2,200 new border patrol agents and 1,000 new detention beds for immigrants caught crossing the border illegally. $775 million dollars will go to fencing and border-enforcing technology along the U.S.-Mexico border. By now we know that fences and detention beds do next to nothing to fix our broken immigration system. They serve only to spread fear and distract citizens and lawmakers from real solutions, like a path to legalization for the 12 million undocumented who are already living within the United States.
And finally, the President has proposed cutting 77% of the funding for the World Trade Center Medical Screening and treatment program—the program that provides healthcare for the workers and volunteers who responded to the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. Bush wants to cut the program from $108 million to $25 million. These workers put their lives on the line to help fellow citizens and their country. Many of them are now sick as a result of inhaling toxic dust at Ground Zero, and now the government is pulling funding from their treatment, which—as you’ll know if you’ve seen the story of one Ground Zero worker’s abysmal medical care in Michael Moore’s documentary Sicko—was flawed to begin with.
If you can bear to read more about how Bush’s proposed budget for 2009 will hurt American workers and the economy, check out ALF-CIO President John Sweeney’s take on Bush’s proposed budget for 2009.
President Bush asked Congress to give the Dep of Defense a whopping $515 Billion plus an extra $70 Billion just for Iraq and Afghanistan for a grand total of $585 Billion. For those of you playing at home, that means a full 24% of our nation’s spending will go to the military.
While 24% does not seem like a whole lot of money, keep in mind this is the largest military budget the United States held since World War II. It is also 5% of our nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). For every $100 spent in the United States, $5 goes towards developing and executing war.
Traditionally, the United States has dedicated only 4% of its GDP to the pursuit of war. This increase of 1% is unheard of.
Allies of the United States will traditionally spend half that on their military. And other large nations, such as Germany, spend only 1.5% of their GDP on military exercises.
One thing is for certain, American hegemony is super expensive.