Oh Say Can You See the 2009 Budget?


On January 23, the Congressional Budget Office released an update on spending for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, for reconstruction, and for "war on terror" associated projects.

CBO put the combined costs at $691 billion, of which nearly two-thirds–$440 billion ­has been poured into Iraq. CBO estimates the current monthly expenditure for war-fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq comes to $11 billion, but the administration’s 2008 requests are said to be at least $193 billion. This translates into a significantly higher monthly "burn rate"–more like $16 billion.

These numbers may be old hat to many of you, but unless you can roll the big ones off your tongue without thinking twice–or that the national debt now stands at $9.6 trillion, up from $5.3 trillion when Bush started his first term in office, or that the minimum raid on the Treasury to pay for the "economic stimulus package" will be another $150 billion–you must not feel in your bones just how much damage this president has done to the country.

But there is some "sorta" good news. The administration will not rent a truck this year to haul 537 copies of the President’s 3,000 page Budget Request for Fiscal Year 2009 to Capitol Hill so that each member of Congress can have a copy. The Office of Management and Budget will post the entire budget on the White House Internet URL.

The notice of the change appeared first on the White House Internet portal, from where the Wire Services and CNN picked it up. The person who posted the notice pointed out that a number of trees had been spared from the woodsman’s axe to grow at least one more ring. However, the approximate number of trees that were spared remains unknown as of this posting.

I have my own theories as to why the White House is not providing Members of Congress with a hard copy of the Budget:

-not enough money in the Treasury to pay for the ink and paper;

-not enough mature trees still standing to convert into paper;

-no available credit to buy gasoline for the truck–assuming they can find someone willing to loan them a truck;

-the truck driver is a union member;

-should they miscalculate again, they can change the figures or, in extremis, claim they lost another batch of e-mails.

In the end, the White House did offer an alternative: a Member could get a printed and bound copy of the budget from the Government Printing Office for $200. How long this might take is unclear, however, as the traditional source for quills–Canadian geese–all seem to have flown north ever since the buying power of a "loony" (the nickname for Canadian dollars) surpassed that of the American eagle.

Col. DAN SMITH is a retired U.S. Army colonel and a senior fellow on military affairs at the Friends Committee on National Legislation. Email at dan@fcnl.org.



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