CBO: Bush Proposals Could Boost Deficit

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WASHINGTON, March 7 (UPI) — President George W. Bush’s spending proposals for fiscal year 2004 would boost the federal budget deficit to $1.8 trillion over 10 years, according to congressional budget analysts.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office on Friday released an analysis of the president’s budget proposals for next year that determined that changes to the tax laws would significantly reduce revenues.


The CBO estimates that Bush’s proposals would reduce revenues by $35 billion and increase outlays by $4 billion. Between 2004 and 2013, analysts anticipate the proposals would reduce revenues by $1.5 trillion and increase outlays by $96 billion. The president’s proposals would add $621 billion to mandatory spending between 2004 and 2013, the CBO estimates, with Medicare and Medicaid, the federal-state healthcare plan for low-income individuals, accounting for 75 percent of that increase.

The news comes as unemployment figures for February were released showing 5.8 percent joblessness, up from 5.7 percent in January.

“The president views today’s unemployment report as an important message to the Congress to keep busy and focus on the domestic agenda, particularly the package of the president’s economic stimulus plan and job-creation plan. The president views this as an important matter for Congress to take up no matter what the international situation may be,” said White House press secretary Ari Fleischer.

The president’s approval ratings on economic policy have been wavering. A poll by the Pew Research Center last month showed that 43 percent of Americans approved of his handling of the economy, while 48 percent disapproved.

The polls showed Bush’s approval rating on tax policy was equally low, 42 percent, despite a high-profile campaign on behalf of his tax plan, the center said.

In his moves to strengthen the economy, the 2004 budget estimates that 92 million Americans will receive an average tax cut of $1,083 and that the increased economic activity will create 2.1 million jobs. Bush proposed spending $3.6 billion for “Re-employment Accounts” in 2003 and 2004 to give the unemployed a $3,000 fund to help them find work, and he is asking for $7.1 billion in 2003 to pay for a five-month extension in unemployment insurance.

Bush asked for nearly $1 billion in increased enforcement costs to protect shareholders from corporate crime. The Securities and Exchange Commission would receive $842 million, the Federal Bureau of Investigation $16 million — and there would be additional funding for U.S. attorneys’ offices to prosecute business crime.

He is seeking $400 billion to revamp Medicare, the health insurance program for seniors, so that it will include a prescription drug program. Last week he trotted out a three-level reform program that would allow seniors to stay in traditional Medicare, move into an enhanced program with choices of different health plans or to move into a managed care program. Bush has left it up to Congress to hammer out the details of the prescription drug plan.

Bush raised the Department of Defense budget by 4 percent, up $15 billion over last year, the highest increase since the Reagan administration, but one that still does not include the costs of military action in Iraq or in the North Korea nuclear crisis. But the Pentagon’s $379.9 billion does include assistance for several key partners in the war against terrorism, including Jordan, $250 million; Pakistan and Turkey, $200 million each; Afghanistan, $150 million; and Colombia, $463 million.

Copyright 2003 by United Press International. All rights reserved.