As the Senate Budget Committee began deliberations on the FY 2007 budget resolution, Senator Paul S. Sarbanes (D-MD) called the President's budget "fiscally reckless and not reflecting the values of the American people."
"The American people have a strong sense of fairness and equity," Sarbanes told his colleagues on the Senate Budget Committee. "There have been a number of events during the course of this [Bush] Administration which have underscored the necessity to come together as a Nation with this sense of fairness and equity: the attacks of 9/11, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the devastation of Hurricane Katrina most prominent among them. But to move ahead we must share the burden. And unfortunately, the President's budget continues to markedly affect the very wealthy, while leaving the majority of Americans to carry the burden."
Sarbanes noted the excessive tax cuts implemented by the Bush Administration which has turned a projected 10-year surplus of $5.6 trillion into a $3.5 trillion 10-year deficit. "Instead of offering a real plan in his budget to bring this national debt under control, the President continues his reckless fiscal course, in fact now calling for a permanent extension of his tax cuts for the wealthy, at a cost of trillions of dollars."
The Senate Budget Committee is slated to complete its work on the FY 2007 budget resolution on March 9, with Democrats expected to offer amendments to restore funding to critically needed programs that benefit working American families.
Sarbanes' full statement to the Senate Budget Committee follows:
"Let me briefly discuss the context in which we will be addressing this budget resolution. When President Bush came into office in 2001, he inherited a projected 10-year $5.6 trillion surplus. His first budget proposal, which included a very excessive tax cut for the very wealthy, asserted that, 'We can proceed with tax relief without fear of budget deficits.' The following year, with the budget already in deficit, the President advocated for yet another tax cut, promising that, 'Our budget will run a deficit that will be small and short-term.' In fact, the President's budget that year (2002) stated that deficits would be so short-term that today, the government would be back in surplus. That was the President's outlook for the future.
"And now look where we are today. When you take the President's budget proposals, and when you add in some of the other costs that we know are coming but which the President left out of his budget [AMT relief, Iraq war costs], we now have projections for a $3.5 trillion ten-year deficit - a reversal in our Nation's fiscal health of a staggering $9 trillion since the President took office. The debt of the country is projected to explode - rising to $11.8 trillion in 2011, and increasing to $15.4 trillion by 2016. This budget is not fiscally responsible, as the President claims - it is fiscally reckless.
"These debt figures are not meaningless numbers on paper, but real obligations that we - or more accurately put on our children and grandchildren - will have to pay off in the future, through higher taxes and a constrained standard of living. As the New York Times put it in an editorial entitled, 'The Pain that is Yet to Come,' earlier this year, 'America cannot escape the consequences of its debt indefinitely. The effects may be sudden or gradual, but either way, they mean a weaker economy than would otherwise be the case.'
"The debt has another troubling aspect to it as well. As long as we continue to run these large budget deficits every year, we are mortgaging our financial future to foreign lenders. Our international deficit - the so-called current account deficit - was nearly $800 billion last year - that is a record by far. Put another way, over the past year our country has relied on over $2 billion of foreign investment - the flowing of funds from abroad each and every day. We have become, as Blanche DuBois said in Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire, 'utterly dependent on the kindness of strangers.' This situation raises serious concerns about our ability to conduct our foreign policy in the future if we are constantly constrained by the need to keep our creditors willing to lend.
"The United States in roughly a quarter of a century has gone from being a creditor nation to now being the world's largest debtor nation. And I submit there is a basic contradiction between being the world's largest debtor nation and asserting that we should be the world's leading nation.
"Instead of offering a real plan in his budget to bring this national debt under control, the President continues his reckless fiscal course, in fact now calling for a permanent extension of his tax cuts for the wealthy, at a cost of trillions of dollars.
"At the same time, he has proposed severe cuts in programs that help the ordinary people in this country, claiming such cuts are necessary to help bring our budget back into balance.
"You give the tax cuts that greatly benefit the wealthy then you say you now have this large deficit - but in order to address the deficit we have to cut back on the programs. Well of course if you did not give such large tax cuts, you would not have such a deficit problem and you would not have to make such large cuts in programs.
* Federal education has been cut by the largest amount in the 26-year history of the Department of Education. This cut comes at a time when tuition and fee increases have placed a college education out of reach for many students. Since 2000, tuition and fees have increased 57 percent for public four-year colleges and 32 percent for private four-year colleges.
* Almost 46 million Americans are uninsured and an additional 16 million have health coverage that does not adequately protect them from catastrophic health care expenses. But, the President's budget proposes to cut substantially from Medicare, which provides health care coverage for 43 million senior citizens and from Medicaid, placing a greater burden on low-income families seeking health care.
* The HUD budget is once again marked by cuts in programs that provide housing, services, and a healthy home environment for millions of American households. The President has proposed a 20% cut to Community Development Block Grants, a 25% cut in elderly housing, and a 50% cut in housing for the disabled.
* Despite the essential services provided by our police and fire fighters, the budget proposes to cut funding for community police by close to $400 million, and cut the FIRE grant program almost in half.
"I could go on with this list, but instead, let me just say this: The American people have a strong sense of fairness and equity. There have been a number of events during the course of this Administration which have underscored the necessity to come together as a Nation with this sense of fairness and equity: the attacks of 9/11, the war in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the devastation of Hurricane Katrina most prominent among them. But to move ahead we must share the burden. And unfortunately, the President's budget continues to markedly affect the very wealthy, while leaving the majority of Americans to carry the burden.
"As we move forward with this budget process, we must ask ourselves, what are our priorities as a nation? I do not think that the President's budget reflects the values of the American people. It is neither fair nor responsible."