Bush slashes aid to poor to boost Iraq war chest
Ewen MacAskill in Washington
Tuesday February 6, 2007
President George Bush is proposing to slash medical care for the poor and elderly to meet the soaring cost of the Iraq war.
Mr Bush’s $2.9 trillion (£1.5 trillion) budget, sent to Congress yesterday, includes $100bn extra for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars for this year, on top of $70bn already allocated by Congress and $141.7bn next year. He is planning an 11.3% increase for the Pentagon. Spending on the Iraq war is destined to top the total cost of the 13-year war in Vietnam.
The huge rise in military spending is paid for by a squeeze on domestic programmes, including $66bn in cuts over five years to Medicare, the healthcare scheme for the elderly, and $12bn from the Medicaid healthcare scheme for the poor.
Mr Bush said: “Today we submit a budget to the United States Congress that shows we can balance the budget in five years without raising taxes … Our priority is to protect the American people. And our priority is to make sure our troops have what it takes to do their jobs.”
Although Democrats control Congress and have promised careful scrutiny of the budget over the next few months, Mr Bush has left in them in a bind, unwilling to withhold funds for US troops on the frontline. Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker, said the days when Mr Bush could expect a blank cheque for the wars were over but she also insisted the Democrats would not deny troops the money they needed. Democrats could block Mr Bush’s proposed cuts to 141 domestic programmes.
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