The budget of a nation is the reflection of its public policy commitments from its political leaders for its citizenry. It’s the most important financial document for a nation. The proposed federal budget (2006-07) has a deficit of $400 billion without the Iraq/Afghanistan war expense, which will be another $100 billion supplemental budget to be added to the deficit separately later on – making total deficit to about $500 billion. Additionally, our nation has a debt of $8500 billion – it’s mind-boggling – no nation ever had such a high debt. Bad news is that Bush administration has increased the debt ceiling to $9000 billion, so that more money can be borrowed if needed. If an individual had been doing this type of messy financial activities, he would be out of business long time ago, with a big time bankruptcy judgment.
The proposed Bush budget has two major crises: First, revenue is declining because rich and big corporation are not giving the fair share of their income to support the system. There had been a systemic erosion of our society’s commitment to progressive tax system – you earn more, you pay more. Burden of tax should be higher on the rich than on poor. The very basis of equitable distribution of wealth – which is basis of American core value – is being challenged.
A stable and happy society guarantees meaningful profits for the business community. Profit for the sake of profit (if no good is done to the society) will destroy a society in the long run. When you build a house or a school, contractors and builders make profit but it also provide a service for our society. When a company makes expensive war toys it does not provide any service. Profit becomes for the sake of profit without bringing any tangible benefit for the society. This profit-making scheme is not helping society to its fullest level. That’s what has been happening in America. We are making things, which we don’t use; and using things that we don’t make. The tools for war takes away tools for surviving; if it is overdone, and if we don’t balance the politics of ‘butter and gun,’ we may end up in a vicious circle, which may deter the advancement of our society in fundamental way.
The second crisis is on the expenditure side. We are literally wasting money. The Iraq war, huge defense expenditure, and security related budget expenditure is draining a big hole in our economic competitiveness. American economy is less that 20% of the world economy but her defense expenditure is more than 50% of the world. It just does not make sense.
A national budget reflects a society’s priorities. Our national budget priority indicates our leaders are not dealing with real issues of our real world. Our leaders are either not interested or incapable in solving the problems that the citizens are facing – jobs, health care, poverty, education, retirement, and gas price etc. The focus of a national budget should be the maximum benefit for the maximum citizens – not the maximum benefit for the minimum citizens.
In the dawn of the 21st century, American citizens deserves a budget which takes care of the their concern first. I don’t see the budget is addressing the need for 45 million Americans who live under poverty. I don’t see it addressed the issue of health care for every citizen. I don’t’ see it addressed the issue of decent job, retirement and high gas price. If anything most of the items which affect common people positively are under-funded in the proposed budget. It’s a budget by the big boys for the big boys. Military Industrial Complex of 60s has been replaced by Security Industrial Complex of our time.
If America wants to be America, it needs to fix its budgetary problems. A wrong budget with wrong priority year after year will have catastrophic impact in the long run. We may not realize that American competitiveness and economic superiority is being challenged by many upper mobile nations every day. We will indeed pay price for our mistakes and miscalculations. My concern is that we are already getting behind in the race. Arrogance and ego need to be substituted by wisdom and common sense.
Dr. Nasir Ahmed is a professor in the Public Administration Department.