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.