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THE PRICE OF EMPIRE

Bush budget cuts everything but war

All out March 19 to demand 'Money for people's needs, not Pentagon'

Published Feb 13, 2005 3:32 PM

After all the triumphalism, all the grandiose boasts about U.S. finance capital bringing "democracy" to the world on the tips of bayonets, here comes the bill. And it's a whopper.

Bush's proposed $2.57 trillion--yes, trillion--fiscal 2006 budget is no "guns and butter" financial plan, aimed at appeasing the home-front population while waging war for empire abroad. This even cuts out the bread.

"These budget cuts are a declaration of war on the cities of the U.S.--on the lives of working and oppressed peoples," Sara Flounders, co-director of the International Action Center, stressed to Workers World newspaper. "And they underscore the importance of mobilizing for protests on March 19--the second anniversary of the Pentagon-led war against the Iraqi people."

More than 150 government programs are on the chopping block. Those who will suffer the greatest are not in the Bush administration's conservative political base, although some of them may feel it, too.

Medicaid would be significantly reduced, capping federal payments for many who need it most. That health safety net faces $60 billion in cuts over the next decade. Other health coverage programs for the poor and disabled are in danger. And medical fees and a drug co-payment would be hiked for veterans.

Educational programs would lose $528 million, leaving 48 educational programs high and dry--including a $1.2-billion vocational-educational program. Aid that helps homeless children enroll in public school would be reduced.

The Environmental Protection Agency would take a $326-million hit in its funding for clean air, clear water and Superfund clean-up programs.

If implemented, this fiscal axe would cut deeper into domestic spending on social services than any administration since Ronald Reagan's. And why? To wage war in the economic interests of corporate and banking profits.

Follow the money

The euphemistically named defense budget, on the other hand, would enjoy a lavish 5 percent increase, and "homeland security" another 3 percent.

This spending blueprint doesn't even include the blank check Republicans and Democrats on the Hill are expected to endorse for continuing war against Iraq and Afghanistan. The Bush administration is about to ask for at least $80 billion more for that war chest--$75 billion of it earmarked for the Pentagon--but that massive sum will be listed under "supplemental funding."

Yes, Bush talked about a $55-billion reduction in planned Navy and Air Force spending. That would halt production of a submarine fleet and berth an aircraft carrier earlier than scheduled. And he did suggest shutting down production of the F/A-22 stealth fighter and the C-130J transport plane--a move certain to enrage Lockheed Martin Corp. and result in layoffs in Marietta, Ga.

But in reality, that's because the military machinery is getting an extreme makeover. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is ramming ahead like an Abrams tank with this costly overhaul.

"The $419.3 billion defense budget announced yesterday," explained the Feb. 8 Wall Street Journal, "hews to Mr. Rumsfeld's vision of faster, more-flexible fighting forces and high-tech weaponry at the expense of traditional aircraft and ship programs that were designed to fight conventional military forces, not guerrillas." Military-industrial complex bigwigs like General Dynamics Corp. stand to make out like bandits.

The Feb. 8 Financial Times added, "The White House is seeking more money for the elite special forces on which the U.S. has increasingly relied in the war on terrorism."

The White House also wants Congress to fork over another $18 million total in 2006-07 to the Department of Energy to complete research on a new generation of "bunker-buster" weapons that may be nuclear as well.

And when it comes to international "aid," client states that the U.S. counts on to keep a bootheel on their populations and their regions are at the top of the list: Israel, Egypt, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Colombia.

All out on March 19!

Of course, when it comes to proposed presidential budgets, there's many a slip twixt the cup and the lip. For example, the proposed near doubling of security fees for airplane passengers to fund airport screening has the industry in a tailspin.

This budget is certain to alienate some of the Bush administration's political base. He wants to lower agricultural subsidies by $5.7 billion over the next decade. This has already raised a hue and cry from Repub lican senators. Their political survival depends on delivering these financial supports.

While these subsidies have lined the already deep pockets of agribusiness, they've also helped the dwindling population of farmers in less populated states. These states get the same number of senators as those with large concentrations of workers, and have in recent decades helped skew U.S. politics to the right.

Most significantly, as the chant "Money for jobs, health care and social services, not war and occupation" rises in cities and towns, campuses and rural areas across the country, it has the potential to resonate for a larger segment of the population whose material reality is awakening them to the need for independent struggle.

After all, where does all this wealth that's being squandered on war and the pursuit of profits come from? The labor of workers and farmers, who have had no say--despite all the political trappings of capitalist democracy--over how their social surplus is spent. Their power can only be exercised through consciousness and organization--both of which have been at a low ebb.

That is what makes March 19 all the more important. More than 20 organizing centers, from the East Coast to the Midwest, are mobilizing to bring people to the protests--particularly the rally in Central Park in Manhattan. Car caravans and feeder marches are in the works. The list of endorsers is growing.

For national information contact the Out Now Coalition at (212) 633-6646.


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