(by Monisha Bansal, Feb. 5, 2008, CNSNews.com) – Even before the White House released the largest budget proposal in American history on Monday, critics took issue with spending cuts in domestic programs.

President George W. Bush sent his fiscal 2009 budget proposal to Congress, asking for $3.1 trillion. While the overall budget has grown, proposed discretionary spending has been cut for several agencies, including the Departments of Transportation, Justice and Labor.

“This is another budget where a lot of critical domestic needs are being sacrificed to cover the costs of the Iraq war,” said Scott Lilly, a senior fellow at the liberal Center for American Progress.

He told Cybercast News Service that nearly two-thirds of the budget is mandatory spending, with about $1 trillion in discretionary spending, and more than half of that goes to the Defense Department.

“I certainly wish that we were spending the money that we spend on defense in a wiser and more constructive manner than we are,” Lilly said. “Domestic discretionary spending – which is somewhere around 15 percent of the total federal budget — is everything that most people encounter as far as their government is concerned, and that is where most of the cutbacks have been proposed.”

He noted that spending to improve infrastructure and other domestic programs such as the National Park Service has been cut.

However, Brian Riedl, a senior budget analyst with the conservative Heritage Foundation, said the budget is “similar to last year’s budget proposal.”

“The president offers a 4.9 percent discretionary spending increase, which is generous given the large discretionary spending increases we’ve seen in previous years,” he told Cybercast News Service. “Overall, domestic discretionary spending would increase by one percent.”

Riedl added that “non-defense discretionary spending has grown 55 percent under President Bush.” According to the Office of Management and Budget’s historical data, spending has increased in every category from fiscal year 2001 to fiscal year 2009.

“These programs can afford to go a year without another large budget increase,” Riedl said. “Education spending has grown 10 percent annually under President Bush. Anti-poverty spending now tops three percent of GDP for the first time in American history. Since 2001, education, health and anti-poverty spending have seen record increases.”

Dan Mitchell, a senior fellow at the libertarian Cato Institute, agreed that domestic spending has expanded under Bush, whether measured in real dollars or as a share of Gross Domestic Product.

“Bush is not sincere about cutting domestic programs,” Mitchell told Cybercast News Service. “We desperately need to rein in the growing burden of government. We should be abolishing departments, such as Education, that Bush has radically expanded.”

Lilly, noted that the actual spending may change as Congress reviews the budget. “There was a huge fight last year, and Congress said you have to spend about $20 billion more than what has been requested for these domestic programs if you want to keep things headed in the right direction.”

With this being Bush’s final budget, Congress could also delay passing the budget until after a new administration takes office next year.

Toby Chaudhuri, communications director at the liberal Campaign for America’s Future, called the proposal “dead on arrival.”

“The president’s budget cuts vital services for everyday Americans to pay for more tax cuts to the most well off, expanding our deficits and increasing the strain on states already confronting budget problems as a result of the economic downturn,” he told Cybercast News Service.

“The president’s budget illustrates the exhaustion of the conservatism that has dominated our politics for over a quarter century. The right’s economic agenda has been largely adopted – tax cuts, free trade, deregulation, privatization, scorn for government and a cult of the CEO. And they got it wrong,” he said.

All original CNSNews.com material, copyright 1998-2008 Cybercast News Service. Reprinted here with permission from CNSNews. Visit the website at CNSNews.com.


1.  How much is President Bush’s 2009 proposed budget?

2.  In what areas of discretionary spending has the budget been cut?

3.  a) Approximately how much of the budget is discretionary spending?
b)  Of that amount, how much goes to the Defense Department?
c)  Do you think that the Defense Department should receive a large portion of the discretionary budget?  Explain your answer.

4.  What does Scott Lilly (from the liberal Center for American Progress) say about domestic discretionary spending?

5.  a) What does Brian Riedl (from the conservative Heritage Foundation) say about the amount of discretionary funding in President Bush’s proposed budget?
b)  By how much has non-defense discretionary spending grown under President Bush?
c)  What does Mr. Riedl note about education, health and anti-poverty spending?


NOTE: There are two types of government spending – discretionary and mandatory:

  • Discretionary spending, which accounts for roughly one-third of all Federal spending, includes money for things like the Army, FBI, the Coast Guard, and highway projects. Congress explicitly determines how much to spend (or not spend) on these programs on an annual basis.
  • Mandatory spending accounts for two-thirds of all government spending. This kind of spending is authorized by permanent laws. It includes “entitlements” like Social Security, Medicare, and Food Stamps – programs through which individuals receive benefits based on their age, income, or other criteria. Spending levels in these areas are dictated by the number of people who sign up for these benefits, rather than by Congress. (from wikipedia.org)

The President, according to the Budget and Accounting Act of 1921, must a submit a budget to Congress each year. In its current form, federal budget legislation law specifies that the President submit a budget … [by] the first Monday in February. … The House and Senate Budget Committees begin consideration of President’s budget proposals in February and March. Other committees with budgetary responsibilities submit requests and estimates to the Budget committees during this time. The Budget committees each submit a budget resolution by April 1. The House and Senate each consider those budget resolutions and are expected to pass them, possibly with amendments, by April 15. … (from wikipedia.org)

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