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August 16, 2002
4:03 PM   Subscribe

Earlier this week, Bush blocked $5.1 billion in emergency spending, which most visibly included denying a couple hundred million earmarked for firefighters and emergency services. While he claims the block was to curtail wasteful spending, the biggest waste that keeps getting quoted is the new insect collections room at the smithsonian, even though his office specifically requested the money for his budget request for fiscal 2003. If the only example of wasteful spending was something he requested previously, what was the point of blocking the funds? [more inside]
posted by mathowie (18 comments total)

I heard about this earlier today and was surprised it wasn't discussed on MetaFilter to date, especially given the number of "F.D.N.Y." stickers I see on cars around town. How on earth could he deny firefighters money?

I've looked and looked, and I can't find a detailed run down of what spending was included in the $5.1b figure, or what the president means by wasteful spending (aside from the insect thing). Is this just a big political demonstration to make (democrat controlled) congress look bad? Is this anything more than partisan politics as usual?
posted by mathowie at 4:06 PM on August 16, 2002

"I chose not to spend the $5 billion because, one, we didn't need to and, two, it is important for this country to be fiscally disciplined as our economy begins to recover," Bush said.

I just don't understand why he's suddenly talking tough on fiscal issues, when he fought for a $28.9 billion emergency spending bill to support such spending.
posted by mathowie at 4:09 PM on August 16, 2002

I think it's a political move with an eye towards the future. In two years, when re-election rolls around and no one remembers that he requested these funds (if, in fact, people even know it now), he'll be saying "Remember back in 2002, when the Democrat-led Senate tried to spend $5.1 billion just as we were coming out of a recession? That's the sort of wasteful spending I have been working to control ever since I took office. If you want to blame someone for our current debt, blame them." hell, with America's attention-span as short as it is, he may well trot this line for this year's election.
posted by Shadowkeeper at 4:32 PM on August 16, 2002

Spin. Spin. Spin. Mr Bush's new found respect for fiscal discipline comes from being beaten up for turning our budget surplus into a deficit. His choice of using the bug facility as an example of porkbarrel politics sort of backfired. Don't worry, I'm sure he'll want to spend at least $5.1B more on the war against terror.

I'm glad I learned that the Smithsonian's bug collection is a bomb ready to go off and it's located right on the mall.

If our president had some cajones he would tested the constitutionality of a line-item veto by vetoing only what he considered pork. That way if the Supreme Court said he couldn't do that, he would be a good guy for helping out the firefighters.
posted by birdherder at 4:36 PM on August 16, 2002

...he would still be a good guy for helping out the firefighters.
posted by birdherder at 4:37 PM on August 16, 2002

"I just don't understand why he's suddenly talking tough on fiscal issues"

Because that his style - Talk tough on everything. Reality be damned. Previous statements be damned. He's a compassionate tough talker. In other words - A walking contradiction bot.

The crazy part will come as he ties to keep this shell game going for another three years. Remember he and Chaney are failed businessmen who want to run the government like a business.
posted by y6y6y6 at 4:38 PM on August 16, 2002

Sen. John McCain tracks pork barrel spending and covers some of the items in the bill Bush rejected.
posted by hockeyman at 4:53 PM on August 16, 2002

Here is the legislation passed August 2. Things like the Smithsonian funds were written with a clause that the money would only be disbursed if the President declared an emergency (under the Gramm-Rudman Balanced Budget act). It's a kind of pocket veto of appropriations. Here are the President's own remarks on the (non-)action.

But a lot of that money has nothing to do with national emergency, and I'll give you one example: a new facility for storing the government's collection of bugs and worms. I made my opposition clear. We were pretty plainspoken about the supplemental. But those who wrote the bill designed it so I have to spend all $5 of the extra billion dollars or spend none of it. That's how they wrote the supplemental. Those are the rules they placed upon my administration. I understand their position, and today they're going to learn mine. We'll spend none of it. (Applause.)

He only mentions Democrats once:
Now that both Republicans and Democrats have come together to pass a sound corporate responsibility bill....

I think this was just a nose-thumbing at Congress regarding the emergency provisions; he could have been a lot more partisan if he'd wanted.
posted by dhartung at 5:26 PM on August 16, 2002

"Fuck science! We got ourselves a war on!"

Sigh. It just seems like the administration entirely fails to look at issues from more than one perspective, even if that perspective is constantly shifting. And jeez, if they hadn't gone all willy-nilly in the cookie jar with the budget surplus, we wouldn't be in such a mess (blanket statement, but it's mostly true) and they wouldn't seem like such hypocrites.

Also, here's the quote of the day, from Richard N. Perle, a former Reagan admin, in response to the idea of NOT going to war: "The failure to take on Saddam after what the president said would produce such a collapse of confidence in the president that it would set back the war on terrorism." (NY Times login: mefi/mefi). Priceless. So that's the BEST reason he could give for launching a major war? So the other kids on the playground don't think we're wussies?
posted by The Michael The at 6:12 PM on August 16, 2002

Note that Bush has presided over the largest government spending increase since the New Deal. This, while cutting taxes, extensively for the upper tax brackets. There is now talk of cutting the capital gains tax. There is also war with Iraq, which most do not want, that will be very expensive. Farmer subsidies, and now no new help for firemen and emergency services. All the while he pats them on the back.

Please, do not vote for Bush next election.
posted by plexi at 7:51 PM on August 16, 2002

It's possible that Bush's people specifically requested the Bug addition in order to veto the bill. For talk radio fans, they are currently applauding Bush sticking it to the Bug museum, while some firemen are planning to boycott any Bush involved September 11th ceremonies because of this Bill.
posted by drezdn at 8:17 PM on August 16, 2002

5 billion is a thimble full of money compared to raging torrent that was the farm bill. Bush is spending your tax money at a frightening rate. And just wait for the trillion dollar war he has in mind.

You all just wait, all this government spending, and cheap money is going to add up to the highest inflation rates in years.
posted by pejamo at 8:32 PM on August 16, 2002

The wiggly lines emanating from around my eyes indicate rage, hatred and contempt.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 8:33 PM on August 16, 2002

If you've read Silence Of The Lambs, you'll recall that the insect collections at the Smithsonian save lives! :::wink:::
posted by SenshiNeko at 9:16 PM on August 16, 2002

When Bush talks about 'a new facility for storing the government's collection of bugs and worms', I wonder if he'd describe this as a facility for storing the government's collection of old paper, or this as a facility for storing the government's collection of old metal.
posted by riviera at 2:23 AM on August 17, 2002

Senshi, ya beat me to it. The Smithsonian insect folks are heroes too!
posted by runtina at 7:23 AM on August 17, 2002

bush needs the money to fund his secret plan to sell michigan's upper peninsula to canada, move the nation's capitol to texas and turn most of the area west of the rockies into a presidential oil reservoir by the end of his third term. what really shocks me is that david bowie and carlos santana appear to be in on it. here's proof.
posted by quonsar at 8:00 AM on August 17, 2002

"I chose not to spend the $5 billion because, one, we didn't need to and, two, it is important for this country to be fiscally disciplined as our economy begins to recover," Bush said.

I'm no economic genius, but I always thought that if you want to boost the economy (raise the GDP, lower unemployment, etc), you throw money at it. You increase, not decrease spending. Isn't that why the fed, when the economy is hot, raises interest rates, thus making it harder for businesses to buy new stuff (with the goal of preventing inflation) and when it's slow, they lower interest rates (making it easier to spend money)?

Is there something that I'm missing that justifies a policy like Bush's statement outlines? Anyone with econ skillz?
posted by gsteff at 12:44 PM on August 17, 2002

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