Friday, April 09, 2004

Kerry should distance himself from Bush on spending 

Kerry seems to be playing the same game as Bush when it comes to his promises on spending and the deficit. Sure, he would repeal the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy and use that money on health care and education. But other than that? He promises to "cut the deficit by half within four years" (versus Bush's five years) and restrict increases in "discretionary spending" to the rate of inflation (Bush wants to cap discretionary spending increases at 4% per year). In other words, except for the issue of the tax cuts, they're both making essentially the same promises. And since health care and education spending will eat up the revenue gained from repealing the tax cuts, neither candidate really has an argument as to why he would be better able to deliver on these promises.

What I'd really like Kerry to say is that he'll reverse some of Bush's unreasonable increases in defense spending. This administration has increased defense spending by a shocking 26 percent over the past three years, and there's another 7-percent increase in the FY 2005 budget. These figures don't even include spending in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Much of what goes on at the Department of Defense is outdated. The Cold War has been over for fifteen years. We're not going to be fighting a major conventional war anytime soon. The period of conventional war in Afghanistan and Iraq lasted weeks at most, while guerrilla war and low-intensity conflict have stretched on for more than two years in Afghanistan and over one year in Iraq. To his credit, Rumsfeld is trying to modernize and reform the military. But that shouldn't just mean endless budget increases. Outdated programs need to be cut. I wish Kerry would stand up and say that defense spending is out of control -- it's something he used to believe in, at least -- but maybe that's just too much to ask of a candidate afraid of being painted as "weak on defense."
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