The Corner

Bush’s Budget Defense

Joshua Bolten, Bush’s budget director, defends the administration’s fiscal record in today’s Wall Street Journal. He argues that Bush is bringing domestic discretionary spending–that is, spending excluding defense, homeland security, and entitlements–under control. That category of spending is rising more slowly than it had been rising in the late Clinton years. But what’s the justification for excluding entitlements? Bolten uses the old line that entitlements are not under the control of the president and Congress, which is a fiction. It may be politically difficult to change the entitlement laws to reduce spending–okay, that’s an understatement–but if Congress and the president really wanted to do it, there would be no obstacle to their doing so. This president has just signed a massive expansion of Medicare. It’s absurd to argue for his spending restraint by simply ignoring that act.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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