Monday, January 30, 2006

Framing the Federal Budget

Daily Kos links to an interesting article about the new federal budget by Brian M. Riedl of the Heritage Foundation, a right-wing corporate think tank. Mr. Riedl is not happy with the budget, because it is written based on unrealistic assumptions. By law, it can't allot anything towards the war expenses in Afghanistan and Iraq (and Iran?), and it also assumes that the Bush tax cuts will be discontinued:

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projects a balanced budget by 2012. A number of CBO's assumptions underlying this projection are, to say the least, problematic. For example, CBO's projections assume that all of the President's 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, as well as all other temporary tax cuts, are allowed to expire and that the Alternative Minimum Tax is not fixed before it digs further into middle-class incomes. CBO is also required by law to assume that there will be no more appropriations for the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan and for Gulf Coast reconstruction; that the pending reconciliation budget will have no effects; and that discretionary spending will not grow at all, in inflation-adjusted terms. With all these caveats in place, CBO's budget baseline is extremely unrealistic.

The Heritage wants the tax cuts to be kept, naturally. They are the whole point why Bush was made the president in the first place, at least from the corporate angle. But this desire makes the budget even more unrealistic, and the solution is to cut, and cut so severly that the budget will bleed. The poor are good bleeders, you know.

Mr. Reidl writes his proposals about how and what to cut using beautiful wingnut framing: All the things the poor get are "runaway" or "out-of-control". Real problems are treated curtly and in simple sentences of negation. Examples:

"Tax revenues are not the problem."
"Runaway spending is the problem"
" Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are out of control"
"The 2009 deficit is not the issue"
"Until entitlements are brought under control, the annual deficit will grow and rising net-interest costs will accelerate that growth"

Then there are the omissions in the article. Nothing about the war spending being out of control, for example.

But we are seeing the stage being set for the next round of cuts. They will be in pensions and in health insurance for the poor and the elderly. These are clearly the people who are out of control... It is not surprising, then, that the way Bush will solve the health insurance crisis in this country is by cutting the coverage. No coverage, no worries about its size, see?