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Inside Politics

Top Democrat on budget panel slams Bush budget

Conrad: Bush passing on crippling debt to children and grandchildren


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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The senior Democrat on the Senate Budget Committee said Saturday that President Bush is "passing on a crippling and growing debt to our children and grandchildren."

Sen. Kent Conrad said, in the weekly Democratic radio address, that the budget Bush submitted to Congress "will push our deficits and debt even higher" with the country moving from "record surpluses to record shortfalls" in four years.

The president's latest budget, he said, omits high costs "to make the numbers look better."

"It leaves out any war cost past September 30th of this year. It leaves out the cost of fixing the Alternative Minimum Tax -- the old millionaires' tax that is rapidly becoming a middle-class tax trap," said Conrad.

"It leaves out the full cost of his tax cuts. And remarkably, his budget contains not one dime to fund his Social Security privatization plan.

"These growing deficits and debt threaten our nation's long-term economic security. As deficits climb, we are borrowing more and more money from Japan, China, and even South Korea. That makes us weaker," Conrad said, "not stronger.

"The Congressional Budget Office tells us by 2052, Social Security could meet only 78 percent of its obligations. Medicare is in even worse shape. The shortfall in Medicare is eight times the deficit in Social Security. But the president has no plan to deal with that. The truth is, we need to confront all these challenges sooner rather than later."

Conrad said Bush's budget makes it hard to deal with Social Security, and he criticized the private account aspect of Bush's Social Security plan.

"In the president's budget he takes trillions of dollars of Social Security money to pay for other things. Then he takes trillions more to create private accounts. Those changes only dig the hole deeper.

"Although the president doesn't talk about it, his plan would also cut Social Security benefits by 46 percent. Slashing benefits and hoping to make up the difference in the stock market is risky."

He said that the retirement of baby boomers will increase demands on Social Security and Medicare and "hard choices" must be made "to build our economic security."

"We must be honest about our deficits. We must return to budget discipline and prepare for the future. We've got to save and invest now to strengthen the economy for the future, keep Social Security and Medicare solvent, and prevent more difficult choices down the road."


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