President Bush's brand of compassionate conservatism, as implemented by the Republican Congress, was put on display last week when lawmakers voted to cut programs for the nation's most vulnerable citizens while reducing taxes for the wealthiest Americans.
Memo to Iraq and other developing democracies: That's how we cut the deficit around here.
In two votes Friday, one in the House and one in the Senate, the presidents' congressional foot soldiers showed that their view of responsible budgeting begins with the needy and stops short of the rich. On a 217-215 vote, the House of Representatives cut $50 billion from the federal deficit by 2010 by reducing spending on Medicaid, food stamps and student loan subsidies. The Senate, by a margin of 64-33, passed $60 billion in tax breaks over the next five years, which will outstrip the savings achieved by the program cuts.
That math, of course, doesn't compute. Yet the White House warned the Senate that it might veto the tax-cut package -- not because it had come to its senses and realized it can't balance a budget by spending without limit in Iraq while also cutting federal taxes. The Bush administration was upset that the bill contained a provision that would mean a $4.3 billion tax increase to a key constituent, oil companies.
Although the president has said the war on terror will require Americans to sacrifice, collecting more revenue from the oil industry, which recently reported stupendous profits, is evidently not what he had in mind.
Better to wring those dollars out of Pell grants that help the working poor send their children to college; the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program that helps people with little money keep the furnace running; Medicaid, which is becoming the health insurer of last resort, while Mr. Bush and Congress do nothing about the growing problem of un-insurance; and food stamps, which help bridge the cash gap for people trying to move from dependence to work.
Someone should tell the Republicans to get a new slogan. Compassionate conservatism is an oxymoron (downright lie) and just doesn't work for them anymore.