Critics Say Bush Budget 'Makes Problems Worse'

By Nathan Burchfiel | July 7, 2008 | 8:32 PM EDT

( - A group critical of the Bush administration said Monday President Bush's $2.9 trillion budget proposal would promote fiscal irresponsibility and increase inequality.

"In a sign of the president's misguided priorities, his budget puts extremely large tax cuts for the most affluent Americans ahead of the needs of low- and middle-income families as well as future generations," the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities said in a statement.

CBPP Executive Director Robert Greenstein told reporters in a conference call Monday that Bush's budget proposals "would make inequality worse and aggressively so."

He criticized Bush's efforts to extend his 2001 and 2003 tax cuts while "cutting" funding for social programs, saying it would help wealthy Americans by allowing them to keep more of their money while hurting middle- and low-income Americans who use the social programs that are being cut.

Greenstein estimated that the budget proposal would face strict scrutiny from the new Democrat-controlled Congress.

"Are most of these detailed proposals going to become law?" he asked. "I do think the answer is probably not, although some of them may be."

Greenstein doubted that there would be "serious negotiations about the big long-term budget problems in the next two years," because, he said, Bush seems unwilling to put his 2001 and 2003 tax cuts on the table for negotiations.

He urged the president to be "willing both to lead and to communicate to the public the need to make hard choices that do not at first seem very popular and [be] willing to say, 'Look, I'm willing to put some of my own favorite things on the table along with everything else to get the negotiations going.'"

In its statement, the CBPP said if accepted as is, the Bush proposal "would further widen the yawning gaps between the extremely wealthy and other Americans. It would essentially further enrich the most well-off at other Americans' expense."

But that statement is misleading, according to conservatives who support making the tax cuts permanent. It implies that money is taken from the poor to give to the rich, when in reality the cuts allow wealthy Americans to keep more of their money.

"It's just factually wrong for people to say that the rich benefited more than others from the Bush tax cuts," said Chris Edwards, director of tax policy studies at the libertarian Cato Institute.

"The new Bush budget numbers show that federal revenues are 18.5 percent of [Gross Domestic Product] this year," Edwards told Cybercast News Service.

"That is above the long-term historic norm of about 18.2 percent of GDP. So despite the substantial Bush tax cuts over the first four years, federal revenues are still as high generally as they've been in recent decades ... because we've had strong economic growth," he said.

Edwards said interest groups and politicians are criticizing the Bush tax cuts because they know that the president would veto any attempt to repeal them and that when the cuts are up for expiration in 2010, "even if a Democrat is in the White House, that nearly all of those tax cuts will be extended, because I think the impact on the economy will be clear even to [2008 Democratic presidential hopeful Sen.] Hillary Clinton's advisors."

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