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Bush's binge

THE FEDERAL government is borrowing to cover a third of its spending apart from Social Security. Next year's deficit will grow by $500 billion. Now President Bush wants $87 billion more for Iraq. And the very richest Americans are enjoying a huge windfall from his historic tax cuts - all funded by borrowing.

By now, it's obvious that the president's tax-cut binge - at a time of recession, war and unrestrained domestic spending - is digging a frightening financial hole.

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But a study released this week by the nonpartisan Citizens for Tax Justice even more sharply highlights this folly by comparing citizens' gains from the tax cuts with the growth in the national debt, to which the cuts greatly contribute. The study found:

From 2001 through 2006, the $1 trillion tax cuts give every citizen an average of $3,593, but the per-capita national debt will grow by more than $13,000. That's $1 in tax cuts for about every $3.60 in new debt taken on by the government.

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This per-capita ratio of tax savings to new government debt varies greatly by income levels. For example, the saving-debt ratio is worse for middle-income earners because they're receiving lower-than-average tax cuts. Only the top 1 percent of taxpayers - with average household incomes exceeding $1 million - will receive more in tax savings than the growth in per-capita debt.

To those who decry mortgaging the nation's future to aid its very richest, the president has been quick to blame the rising deficit on the recession and the war on terror. His administration claims to have a plan to halve the annual deficit over five years, but it has been much more explicit about making permanent the temporary tax cuts.

Fact is, even though Mr. Bush's tax cuts come on top of considerable government deficit spending, these cuts will account for about 40 percent of the deficit's total growth in his first term, according to Citizens for Tax Justice. And that's expected to expand to about 60 percent later this decade.

In all, over the next six years, the government is expected to add $87 billion more in debt every 51 days. By then, total federal debt relative to the size of the economy is expected to approach levels not seen in 50 years, and debt interest likely will exceed the costs of all discretionary domestic programs (education, law enforcement, etc.).

So, want to fund Mr. Bush's request for $87 billion to support America's efforts in Iraq? How about canceling his tax cuts? That would bring in $275 billion just next year - funding the war and making a good start on turning around the nation's deteriorating finances.

Mr. Bush's tax-cut agenda has been a trickle-down gamble at best. Its supporters now find it hard to argue that the cuts will so stimulate the economy that the nation won't continue sliding into deep debt. While it may be necessary to borrow to see the nation through tough times or war, it's absolute lunacy to borrow in order to further widen the yawning gap between America's very richest and everyone else.


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