Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Some Decent Deficit News

The White House announced today that the projected budget deficit for the current fiscal year (ending September 30) will be a mere $333 billion. This would hardly be good news, except that earlier projections had the deficit up around $427 billion. The president noted that the current estimate puts the plan to cut the total deficit by half before 2009 "ahead of schedule," saying "These numbers indicate that we're going to cut the deficit in half faster than the year 2009 - so long as Congress holds the line on spending."

It's perfectly natural that the president would blame Congress for not "holding the line" on spending ... but in fairness to the legislative branch, they're hardly the sole bunch to blame. The president has never once utilized his veto power, even as bloated spending bill after bloated spending bill gets plunked on his desk. Think where the deficit might be if he stuck to his own budget blueprint and forced Congress to cut out some of the pork-barrel projects they slip into every spending bill they can get their mitts on. I can't blame them for trying - that's just the nature of the beast. But that's part of the reason why the president has that handy-dandy veto power, to make sure Congress doesn't spend "like drunken sailors," as John McCain recently put it.

These new estimates are reason for cautious optimism. But ongoing expenditures in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, not to mention the ballooning costs of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid (all of which will require substantial reforms to keep them solvent), may end up changing the budgetary picture dramatically, and probably not in a good way. I agree with Rep. John Spratt (D-SC), who said of today's numbers "We should not be lulled into complacency. Over the last three years, the Bush administration has posted the three worst deficits in history and though the deficit for 2005 has improved, it remains among the largest on record."

It's going to take both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue to improve the fiscal situation in the long term - and in the end, it might just require a veto or two.


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