In a stunning move, President Bush on Monday signed a budget cuts package that included a stark slash in defense spending, some $300 billion, signaling the end of the war in Iraq and a retreat back into what he called “socially minded” spending.
In the Oval Office surrounded by Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., Democratic Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania and recently appointed Secretary of State Bill Clinton, Bush signed a sweeping reform initiative in public spending, sparked by what he called “a bad-war-in-Iraq awakening” he had six months ago. After being introduced in the Senate by Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire and in the House by Rep. Jim Nussle of Iowa, the so-called Human Dignity Spending Act of 2005 was walked through Congress by Republicans and Democrats alike in a nonpartisanship not seen since Sept. 12, 2001.
“I appreciate the hard work on both sides of the aisle on this sweeping reform spending initiative,” Bush said. “With the Iraq war behind us, and military spending now reduced to a fraction of what it once was, we can move our focus to domestic social issues.”
Not directly included in the bill is a growing consensus in Congress and in the White House, now led by Vice President Dick Cheney, that it is time to get out of Iraq. Last month, Cheney and Bush joined Murtha on the deck of the U.S.S. Fantasia off the coast of Cuba to call for a two-month timetable for troop withdrawal from Iraq. The two took off the deck in a helicopter together, dragging a “Seriously-Mission Accomplished” banner.
The hundreds of billions of dollars spent in Iraq since the American-led invasion in 2003 was not necessary, Bush said, admitting fault in the “boondoggle that has erupted there since we set our cowboy boots down in the sand.” He said that any budget package he signs in the future would be “socially minded” first, and “military-spending minded never.”
Also included in the 2006-07 budget package, which makes projections through the end of the decade, is what appears to the beginnings of a universal health care plan that some Democrats and all Republicans hailed as a landmark program in the United States. Bush also pledged to insert new spending for the implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act, which now has available to it new billions because of the spontaneous Iraq war cuts.
The K-12 and higher education communities issued statements of support for the military spending cuts and plans to funnel hundreds of millions into teaching training and support services, which almost guarantee funded plans for national benchmarks in learning.
“We don’t know how we got here, but we’re glad we’re there,” said David Pierce, chair of the Institute for Higher Education Policy in Washington, D.C. “The new funding will guarantee student loan programs and bulk up grant money, making it all affordable.”
Hurricane Katrina-affected areas and citizens, including those families that were displaced to places as far as Seattle, will receive not just $50 debit spending cards, but also will be asked to join in what former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin on Monday coined “the New, New Deal,” utilizing massive public works projects to rebuild a more stable New, New Orleans, the city’s new name, in reference to post-Great Depression spending.
“Finally, some foresight from Washington,” Nagin said. “We needed some goddamn help, and they came through. I have to respect that.”
Individual governors and state legislatures were seen on Monday clamoring to keep up with the changes to federal spending. In California, Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez announced a sweeping plan to curb continuing cuts to social programs, including health care and education, using new taxes, cuts to prison spending and “better accounting.” Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger issued a statement in support of the plan.
“I have for years tried to provide the impetus for social and education spending the great State of California,” Schwarzenegger said on Monday. “With President Bush in the lead, we can finally provide to people the entitlement programs necessary to really think in the long term, something Democrats have failed to do for years.”
A spokesperson for Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., declined to comment, citing an inability to comprehend what was going on. Back in December 2005, Murtha told ABC television’s “This Week” that he though “this administration (was) coming around.”
The op-ed piece you just read was a fictional account of something that will never happen. Ryan Denham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.