Monday, September 19, 2005
Republican House Majority Leader Rep. Tom DeLay has declared an “ongoing victory” in spending cuts. He stated that the federal government was running at peak efficiency and that there was nothing left to cut from the U.S. federal budget. DeLay supports additional deficit spending for Hurricane Katrina relief efforts, on top of the this year’s existing $331 billion federal budget deficit.
DeLay’s position has drawn criticism from some fiscal conservatives, including a few fellow republican representatives. Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Arizona) commented “I wonder if we’ve been serving in the same Congress.” The majority of congressional republicans still support DeLay’s view, and feel that their fiscal policies have been more sound than the democrats were in the past.
American Conservative Union Chairman David A. Keene claimed that federal spending was “spiraling out of control” before Katrina, and suggested fiscal conservatives were “losing faith” in the Republican congressional leadership. Mr. Keenes stated that “Excluding military and homeland security, American taxpayers have witnessed the largest spending increase under any preceding president and Congress since the Great Depression.” Specifically, aside from military and security spending, federal spending increased by $303 billion per year from 2001 and 2005, and the acknowledged federal debt increased more than $2 trillion since fiscal year 2000. The estimates used by the American Conservative Union predict that the 2003 Medicare prescription drug bill will increase the government’s unfunded obligations by $16 trillion.
Tom Schatz, president of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) claimed “there are plenty of places” to make budget cuts, especially an estimated $20 billion to $25 billion in pet projects that make their way into must-pass spending bills each year. His group expects to release a list of $2 trillion in suggested spending cuts over the next five years. In particular, CAGW and the Heritage Foundation believe that some 6,000 projects in the recently passed highway bill are not essential and should be cut. Such projects include the planting of flowers along the Ronald Reagan freeway in California and the controversial $230 million Ketchikan bridge project, which is estimated to cost federal taxpayers at least $28 per vehicle trip, without a toll. Mr. DeLay previously described these projects as “important infrastructure” and stated that eliminating them might harm the economy.
The debate was sparked by controversy over spending on relief and reconstruction in the wake Hurricane Katrina; which some fiscal conservatives have humorously labeled “Bush’s New Orleans Deal.” Liberal criticism of the reconstruction effort has focused on the awarding of reconstruction contracts to perceived Washington insiders.