Friday, September 16, 2005

DeLay's budget vision more a hallucination Editorials: "DeLay's budget vision more a hallucination"

The effects of Hurricane Katrina are being felt far beyond the Gulf Coast. In Washington, they have changed the legislative priorities of President Bush and some Republican congressional leaders.

Congress has already approved $62 billion in disaster relief aid. The White House is likely to request another $50 billion in coming weeks.

These costs are being piled onto the federal deficit, which is expected to reach $331 billion this year.

As an aide to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist told the Wall Street Journal, "Events have consequences."

The administration had hoped to push through an extension of the tax cut on dividends and capital gains. It also aimed to reduce the rapidly expanding Medicaid program by $10 billion over five years.

In Katrina's wake, a tax cut that largely benefits the wealthy and a reduction in health-care benefits that largely affects the poor are, for the moment, nonstarters.

What's a conservative budget hawk to do in this difficult situation?

If you are House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, you declare victory. DeLay, reported the Washington Times, said Republicans have done such a good job paring down wasteful spending and making the government run efficiently that there simply isn't any fat left to trim.

Evidently, he wasn't paying attention when Congress passed a new highway bill before departing for August recess. It contained more than 6,000 pork-barrel earmarks at a cost of $24 billion.

That's almost 21/2 times the reduction sought in Medicaid. Or, as columnist George Will noted, that's more than 10 times the amount required to build a hurricane-safe levee for New Orleans. And that's only one larded-over bill.


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