In a recent interview with Ann Curry, President Bush claimed that the poor performance of the economy had more to do with building too many houses than with spending on the Iraq war. He claimed that military spending was creating jobs, ignoring the fact that home construction likewise creates jobs. His statement also showed a severe lack of moral judgment elevating work to destroy life and property over work to create a basic need for people. As the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq marks its fifth anniversary, we have become all to familiar with this sort of convoluted morality from the president. His current budget request before Congress demonstrates more of the same.
Ethics is the application of philosophy; morality is philosophy (or theology) in action. Thus, budgets are moral road maps. They prescribe how one wants to put one's thinking into action. As Jesus said, “you shall know a tree by its fruit.” So what is the fruit of the president's budget? It will mean more spending on war, less on health care and children, and less revenue collected from those most able to afford to give it.
The president is requesting an 11% increase in military spending. While some of this will be blamed on the war, just as in previous years, there will be supplemental requests for funding specifically for the war. The amount of money consumed by this war, already nearing one trillion dollars, will continue to spiral out of control. Nobel prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz has estimated that including the hidden costs of caring for injured soldiers and the rise in the cost of crude oil, among other factors, the true cost of this war is in the neighborhood of three trillion dollars.
Meanwhile, the necessary cuts in spending will affect the most vulnerable. The Children's Defense Fund reports that the budget would decrease funding for Medicaid, the frontline program that makes health care accessible to the nation's poorest citizens. And while the President did propose a larger five-year increase in the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) than he did last year, it is still not enough even to cover all currently enrolled children, much less make program improvements or enroll any of the more than 9.4 million uninsured children in America—whose numbers have increased by over one million in the past two years.
Despite increased sacrifice required of the most vulnerable among us, the President has again called for the tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 to be made permanent. If that happens, The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reports that over the next ten years the top 1 percent of households would be beneficiaries of more than $1 trillion in tax cuts. What is the ethical defense of asking the poorest Americans to suffer while the wealthiest benefit? Adding to this injustice is the tragedy of continuing to pay the price in both money and lives for a misguided war. Mr. President, your professed beliefs should have led you to create a very different budget, one that translates those beliefs into moral action.