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The $70 Billion Hand-Off Bush's New War Budget

Bush’s New War Budget

by FRANKLIN C. SPINNEY

The President’s FY 2009-13 budget plan, which he will submit to Congress next week, includes $70 billion to cover only the cost of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq through the first four months of Fiscal Year 2009, which begins next October 1. This budgetary legerdemain is indeed a fitting memory pill encapsulating both Bush’s reckless philosophy of governance and his callous disregard for the sacrifices of the troops he asked to fight his wars.

By asking for $70 billion to pay for only that part the of war that remains during the last four months his tenure (October 2008 thru January 2009), the "war" component of Bush’s Fiscal 2009 defense budget request is understated by at least two-thirds or $140 billion. This is like funding only the first four months of the missile defense program and is logically inconsistent with the other parts of his defense request, especially high-pork wish list of cold-war inspired weapons programs, which I can assure you are all fully funded for full 60 months between Fiscal 2009 and 2013, which is the time that will be covered by his budget message to Congress.

Bush’s four-month "war budget" is also logically inconsistent with the entire federal budget that he is submitting to Congress next week, not to mention Bush’s economic assumptions and deficit projections, all of which assume a full five years or 60 months of expenditures between FY 2009 and 2013. These long term projections lie at the heart of Bush’s budget message to Congress. They are intended the tell the Congress and the American people what the future consequences of his current policy decisions would be if his program was put into place. The future consequences of Bush’s "decisions" may be expressed in dry statistics, but in fact, they are the definitive statement of tradeoffs embodied the self-styled "Deciders" practice of decision making. Put another way, these tradeoffs are the definitive statement of the values he holds dear and wants to see perpetuated as his policy legacy.

How these future consequences are stated is also central to the principle of accountability that is the bedrock of our Constitution.

So, what does this partial funding decision of the war budget say about the "Decider’s" values. Logically, it tells us one of two things: Either

(1) Bush has a plan to end the war and terminate all expenditures by early February 2009 or

(2) that Bush care nothing about the war or the sacrifices of the troops he asked to fight it and intends to dump the whole mess on the next administration without even providing the funding needed to carry out his legacy.

Option 1 is obviously impossible. Moreover, there have been recent reports of an effort by Bush to forge a long-term mutual defense defense pact with Iraq in a way that would not require the consent of Congress — itself a grotesque usurpation of the treaty making powers assigned to the Congress by the Constitution. So, one must conclude by process of elimination that Bush’s values include the "value" to walking away from a mess of his own making and possibly a cynical political value setting the stage for shifting the blame for failure, should the next President fail to "fully fund" the victory Bush is bequeathing, which may include the cost of the open-ended military presence of an unconstitutional mutual defense pact.

Bear also in mind, that this is but a one example of the kind of "values" which are reflected by the shortsighted recklessness that landed America in its current mess skyrocketing debt, a collapsing dollar, and a horrific trade balance, while it was perfectly clear during Bush’s entire presidency that long-terms trends needed to be addressed by a real deciders making real decisions (eg., soaring entitlements, crumbling infrastructure, deteriorating schools, a growing medical insurance crisis, an aging population, and a mass of shameful social statistics that are often among the worst in the "developed" world).

Bear also in mind, that Bush is also calling for a "short-term" $150 billion stimulus package consisting of targeted tax cuts and increased government spending over the remaining 8 months of this fiscal year (FY 2008) to deal with the clear and present danger of a recession. But these "stimuli" will increase the deficit and raise requirements for borrowing while the Fed is making dollars less attractive to lenders by lowering interest rates and indirectly putting pressure on the price of the dollar, the effects of which will surely spill over into the next fiscal year.

But, don’t worry, because, as Bush incessantly says incessantly to the troops, "I appreciate your sacrifice."

FRANKLIN C. SPINNEY is a former Pentagon analyst and whistleblower. His writing on defense issues can be found on the invaluable Defense in the National Interest website.