PRESIDENT Bush loves to say things like, "When an American president speaks, he better speak with authority, clarity, and certainty. And when he does speak, he better mean it." If he means it about a recent memo, there are mean days ahead for millions of Americans if he is reelected.
Last week The Washington Post reported that it had obtained a May 19 White House memo that directs officials of domestic programs to brace for cuts in 2006. The reason is transparent. Bush's invasion and occupation of Iraq has so badly blown up in his face that the only way he can keep his tax cuts to the wealthy and face his fellow conservatives on overall spending is to rob other programs.
In February Bush stated that his three top budgetary priorities were the war on terror, homeland security, and economic growth. "In addition," he said, "we will continue to strengthen the domestic institutions that best express our values and serve the basic needs of all: good schools, quality and affordable health care, and programs that promote hope and compassion in our communities."
There is no question that Bush will strengthen his top priority. For fiscal 2006, spending on defense would increase by 5.2 percent, to $422.7 billion. Spending for the Department of Justice would go up by 4.3 percent, to $19.5 billion.
To get those kinds of increases for bombs and jails yet hold overall discretionary spending to an increase of just 2.7 percent, Bush has given another message to domestic program officials. They have been warned that if they proposed to increase funding for any programs, "it must be offset within your agency by proposing to decrease funding below that level in other accounts."
Thus, despite Bush saying in his 2002 State of the Union address that "we need to prepare our children to read and succeed in school with improved Head Start and early-childhood development programs," he would cut $177 million from Head Start, 2.5 percent of its budget, in 2006.
In virtually all his recent speeches about the economy, Bush brags about the rise in homeownership. "We want more people owning their own homes," Bush has said. "When people own something, they have a vital stake in the future of our country." But in 2006, Bush proposes a $53 million cut in a homeownership program, canceling out two-thirds of a $78 million increase for 2005.
Even for veterans Bush cannot place his money where his mouth is. Last year Bush said on Veterans Day: "Our veterans from every era are the finest of citizens. We owe them the life we know today. The command the respect of the American people and they have our lasting gratitude." But after proposing an increase in 2005 -- before the election -- of $519 million for the Department of Veterans Affairs, he will cut -- after he is reelected -- the department by $910 million cut in 2006. The agency would actually receive less in 2006 than it did in 2004.
If reelected, Bush would take back $1.5 billion of the $1.7 billion of proposed discretionary funding for the Education Department. He would cut the Women, Infants, and Children nutrition program by $122 million. He would cut the Environmental Protection Agency by 2.6 percent and the Interior Department by 1.9 percent. Bush is blowing a hole so big in the budget with his bombs that he cannot even adequately fund his second-most important stated priority. This year Bush celebrated the first anniversary of the office of homeland security by saying: "From the president to the secretary to the newest employee, all of us here are tasked with a single, vital mission: to secure the American homeland and to protect the American people. There is no duty more important."
Yet Bush would take back $1 billion from homeland security, dropping it to $29.6 billion. Is it possible that Bush is now so maddened by his fixation on quelling the chaos in Iraq that he would risk reopening holes in our security at home?
What is maddening is that The Washington Post story of the memo comes just as domestic program officials are running around the country touting programs for police and health care that Bush has proposed to kill, either in the past or for 2005.
White House officials, in response to the Post story, say do not worry, it is only a guide. The fact that the White House has already received $166 billion for Iraq, a total that is likely to soar to over $200 billion before the end of next year (equal to half the total budget for domestic programs), means there is plenty to worry about. The May 19 memo means that children, mothers, veterans, would-be homeowners, and ironically even those trying to protect us from the next terrorist attack will pay for Bush's disastrous Iraq policy and tax cuts to the wealthy.
Bush has staked his presidency on his "clarity." The clarity of the details this far before the election make it a certainty what will happen if Bush is reelected.
He began his presidency claiming to be compassionate conservative. The May 19 memo marks the end of any pretense of compassion.
© Copyright 2004 Globe Newspaper Company.