The President of the United States was pleased to sign H.R. 3222 into law today to fund Defense Department programs and projects. [WHPR] H.R. 3222 is the measure piled high with spending touted by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) that sends $28,040,000 to southern Nevada and another $58,980,000 to northern Nevada. [Reid] Later on the Senator’s press release page is a reaction to the President’s veto of the Health and Education appropriations bill, which President Bush dismissed as the product of “tax and spend” Democrats who are like “teenagers with a new credit card.”
Frankly, it isn’t hard to figure out which side of the aisle is behaving like adolescents with a line of credit cruising vehicle dealerships and electronics retailers. The President is quite happy to give the Pentagon a hefty increase for non-war spending, without including the cost of the occupation of Iraq and operations in Afghanistan in his requests.
“The $471 billion defense budget gives the Pentagon a 9 percent, $40 billion budget increase. The measure only funds core department operations, omitting Bush’s $196 billion request for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, except for an almost $12 billion infusion for new troop vehicles that are resistant to roadside bombs. Much of the increase in the defense bill is devoted to procuring new and expensive weapons systems, including $6.3 billion for the next-generation F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, $2.8 billion for the Navy’s DD(X) destroyer and $3.1 billion for the new Virginia-class attack submarine.” [AP] (emphasis added) No one should mistake this bill for “supporting the troops;” the increased funding “supports the munitions industry.” Add in the costs incurred for the President’s adventures in the Middle East and the “credit card” bill soars.
A Democratic staff report from the Joint Economic Committee states that “hidden costs” have driven the price tag for Iraq/Afghanistan to about $1.5 trillion, nearly double the $804 billion the White House has spent or requested. What the White House hasn’t included in its estimation of expenses are higher oil prices, care for wounded veterans, and the interest payments on money borrowed to pay for the operations. [AP]
The U.S. Department of Energy expects gasoline prices to climb about 20 cents per gallon by December, and could increase even more should OPEC not decide to increase production. [WSJ] A Congressional Budget Office study estimates that our veterans will require approximately $170 billion, in FY 2007, a significant increase from the $14 billion in 2001, and which excludes an estimated $1.6 billion in spending for medical care, disability compensation, and survivor’s benefits for veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. [CBOpdf] Then, there are the astronomical debt numbers to deal with.
Read this number? $9,111,327,515,399.53 This is the current national debt which includes $5,105,250,799,670.21 in public debt and another $4,006,076,735,669.32 in intragovernmental holdings. [Treas] The public and intragovernmental indebtedness of the United States on January 20, 2001 was a grand total of $5,727,776,738,304.64 — meaning that the Bush Administration has run up a public debt almost equal to the entire level of indebtedness when the President took office. As of this morning the accrued interest payable on our national debt is $51,770,000 for public debt and $66,148,000 on intragovernmental holdings. [Treas] Now, who’s the “kid in the candy store?”
House Appropriations Chair Rep. David Obey (D-WI) offered his opinion on the signing of H.R. 3222 and the vetoing of H.R. 3043: “The same President who is asking us to spend another $200 billion on the misguided war in Iraq and is insisting on providing $60 billion in tax cuts next year to folks who make over a million bucks a year, is now pretending to protect the deficit by refusing to provide a $6 billion increase to crucial domestic investments in education, healthcare, medical research and worker protections that will make this country stronger. “That is not responsible and it is not credible.
“This is a bi-partisan bill supported by over 50 Republicans. There has been virtually no criticism of its contents. It is clear the only reason the President vetoed this bill is pure politics.” [Obey-pdf] This is also the same President who preferred not to notice that some of the funding for the Departments of Labor, Education, and Health and Human Services was either for the direct benefit of veterans or supported programs for which they would be eligible when they return to their communities.
The President plans to veto H.R. 3043 which includes $228 million for veterans’ employment, $3.6 billion for job training for which veterans would be eligible, $23.6 million for programs to assist homeless veterans, $906 million for mental health services that might certainly be of use to veterans experiencing PTSD or other issues related to their service, and the $9.5 million in funding for research on Traumatic Brain Injury – the signature injury of the Iraq Occupation. [DB] [DB]
Majority Leader Reid issued a “we will work to over-ride the veto” statement today incorporating some of the points mentioned above: “It is unfathomable that on the very day the Joint Economic Committee released a report finding the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan could reach $3.5 trillion at the expense of America’s priorities at home, President Bush has vetoed a Labor-HHS-Education bill that addresses many of those critical needs. The bipartisan, fiscally responsible bill he vetoed increases funding for programs to improve K-12 student performance, makes college more affordable, supports life-saving medical research and provides relief for families struggling with rising home heating costs. And it provides money for veterans’ employment programs, homeless veterans, and research to help those suffering from traumatic brain injuries.” [Reid]
An over-ride may take some doing because H.R. 3043 made it out of the Senate on a 56-37 vote; with Reid voting in favor and Sen. Ensign (R-NV) voting “nay.” [rc 405] and passed the House 269-142 with Nevada Representatives Berkley (D-NV1) and Porter (R-NV3) voting in favor and Representative Heller (R-NV2) voting “no.” [GovTrack]
Frankly, the only way the President’s definition, (and presumably that of Senator Ensign and Representative Heller), of “fiscal responsibility” makes sense is if we ignore the expenses incurred by his adventurism in the Middle East and the occupation of Iraq, and if we adopt the view that tax and borrow is somehow more palatable than tax and spend. “Tax and spend” may make a nice epithetic bumper sticker slogan, but it also incorporates a fiscal perspective requiring that we take responsibility for our spending and not palm it off on our children and grandchildren or beyond, encumbering our nation with massive indebtedness. In regard to H.R. 3043, governmental responsibility requires that we acknowledge that our veterans are also citizens, who will return to communities in which they should be able to expect adequate job training programs, health services, mental health assistance, education, and job protections.