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Bush and Spending – So Now President Bush Wants to Talk Fiscal Responsibility?

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Bush gets my vote for greatest amount of Chutzpah in 2006. Chutzpah, for the non-Jews out there, is most closely translated as unmitigated gall. The old tongue in cheek explanation is that a teen who kills his parents and then pleads with the judge for mercy because he is an orphan is displaying Chutzpah. This leads in perfectly to the topic at hand.

This President has presided over the most irresponsible fiscal record in history. His administration, along with his cronies in the Republican congress, turned several years of surplus federal government budgets delivered by the previous administration into massive deficits. This is the same President who thought it was a good idea to implement tax cuts at the same time he increased spending.

After six years of spending a lot more than the government was taking in, now Bush wants to tell the incoming Democratic congress that they have to be fiscally responsible (See this CNN report on Bush's remarks today, http://edition.cnn.com/2006/POLITICS/12/16/bush.address.ap/index.html ).

I often think that people like Coulter and Bush are going to one day call a press conference and tell people that everything they have been doing and saying was a big act, a joke, a science experiment, a hoax to see if they could get away with it without anyone calling them on it or impeaching them. I thought it could be sort of a psychology experiment writ large.

I mean, really, how could this be taken seriously? This is the same President who only a year ago signed into law the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU), which included $223 million for the Gravina Island Bridge in Alaska, also known as "The Bridge to Nowhere". Nor is the Bridge to Nowhere the only significant item of wastefulness in the bill.

I am guessing that President Bush wants us to forget the Billions of dollars wasted in both the Iraq and New Orleans reconstruction projects. An inspector general audit report that came out 11 months ago and was reported on CNN "Audit: U.S. lost track of $9 billion in Iraq funds" detailed over $9 Billion (yes, that is with a 'B') in unaccounted for Iraq reconstruction funds http://edition.cnn.com/2005/WORLD/meast/01/30/iraq.audit/ . The Katrina response was mishandled so badly with such a lack of oversight on money spent that an entire Katrina Fraud task force had to be formed by the Attorney General to address all of the issues, see http://www.usdoj.gov/katrina/Katrina_Fraud/index.html .

An MSNBC report on the subject, "Audits: Millions of dollars in Katrina aid wasted" last February detailed how bad just the facts that had come to light at that time were, http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/11326973/ including:

- The $2,000 debit cards issued to hurricane evacuees for emergency supplies were often used for purchases unrelated to disaster aid, including: adult entertainment, gambling, a $450 tattoo, a .45-caliber handgun for $1,300 and a diamond engagement ring for $1,100.
- There was little or no verification of the names, addresses or Social Security numbers of applicants registering by phone or the Internet for the $2,000 in aid, resulting in thousands of checks issued to those with duplicate or bogus information.
Duplicate payments were made to about 5,000 of the nearly 11,000 debit card recipients who received Katrina aid, first with debit cards and then again via electronic bank transfer.
- Although FEMA says it bought 114,341 trailers for $1.7 billion, discrepancies abound in FEMA's documentation of the number ordered, received and occupied, making it difficult to ascertain the exact units available or whether government-owned property was otherwise accounted for.
- FEMA may have bought too many temporary homes - 24,967 manufactured homes obtained for $857.8 million and 1,295 modular homes at $40 million - resulting in 10,777 such homes sitting empty in Hope, Ark., in sinking mud without proper storage. "It was unclear how the decision was made," the Homeland Security audit stated.


The above are just a small taste of the hundreds of examples in which the federal response was negligent in its oversight of the funds allocated to the rebuilding efforts.

Somehow, with all of this wastefulness and failure on his record, Bush thinks he has the authority to lecture the incoming Democratic congress. Here are some choice experts from his speech today on the topic:

- "When you decide how to spend your paycheck, you have to set priorities and live within your means. Congress needs to do the same thing with the money you send to Washington"

- "Over the past year, the republican congress succeeded in eliminating virtually all earmarks for three major Cabinet Departments"

- "This is a good start, but Congress needs to do much more. My administration will soon lay out a series of reforms that will help make earmarks more transparent, that will hold the members who propose earmarks more accountable, and that will help reduce the number of earmarks inserted into large spending bills"

- "I respect Congress' authority over the public purse, but the time has come to reform the earmark process and dramatically reduce their number. Reforming earmarks is the responsibility of both political parties"


As I said, how can anyone with the President's record say any of this with a straight face? It has to be some sort of joke. People do not act like this. Thankfully, two Democratic members of congress, Rep. David Obey, D-Wisconsin, and Sen. Robert Byrd, D-West Virginia, immediately had something to say about Bush and his lack of credibility on the issue. Byrd said, "We also must address earmarks in the tax codes which have resulted in huge loopholes for corporate America while middle-class America is left holding the bag," while Obey remarked "But it should be noted that all of the earmarks combined don't begin to match the increase in the deficit caused by the president wasting $50 billion in supersized tax cuts for those making more than $1 million a year while other Americans sleep on the streets". Both of these comments are far too nice. President Bush and congressional Republicans have no credibility on the issue of fiscal responsibility and Democrats in congress should stand up and say that in no uncertain terms.
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A political blogger for the International Business Times, Steve Leser is a hot national political pundit. He has appeared on MSNBC's Coundown with Keith Olbermann, Comedy Central's Daily Show with Jon Stewart and Russia Today's (RT) Crosstalk with (more...)
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