The White House has been spinning reporters all day with the claim that the new budget holds non-defense spending down, and in some cases even cuts some domestic spending from 2006 budget levels.
To test the claim, I've compiled below the proposed fiscal 2008 inflation-adjusted growth rates for spending in the non-defense Cabinet-level agencies compared to the 2006 budget:
|Real Proposed Change in 2008 Non-Defense Cabinet-Level Agency Budget vs. 2006 Budget Level|
|Health and Human Services||8.5%|
|Housing and Urban Development||-0.2%|
All told, there are five agencies that receive a cut in real dollars: Agriculture, Education, HUD, Justice, and the Environmental Protection Agency. Yet even by the White House’s own numbers, all of these programs combined will still grow beyond the 2006 levels by 4 percentage points above inflation.
Still, we need to wonder: What does this standard really tell us?
Not much. The 2006 budget levels were already bloated after a six-year Republican spending spree. What’s actually interesting to see is how much these agencies would grow — after adjusting for inflation and assuming Congress rubber-stamps the president’s new budget — when compared to budget levels on the day Bush assumed office:
|Real Proposed Change in 2008 Non-Defense Cabinet-Level Agency Budget vs. 2001 Budget Level|
|Health and Human Services||35.6%|
|Housing and Urban Development||8.3%|
To put it another way: Bush’s new budget still does next to nothing to strip away most of the massive budget increases in domestic programs he signed into law since 2001. It’s the fiscal equivalent of a recovering alcoholic patting himself on the back for merely drinking six beers a day instead of eight.