By Gov. Howard Dean, M.D.
November 29, 2004
These are a few things which the spending bill contains:
Pell grants will become unavailable for 85,000 students that were receiving them and another 1.2 million students will have their Pell Grant funding decreased. On the other hand, the bill appropriates $2 million to buy a presidential yacht.
Farmers lose over $400 million of soil conservation money. On the other hand, the bill funds the American Cotton Museum in Texas.
The president's commitment to education remains underfunded by roughly $400 million from what the president promised in order to support local schools under "No Child Left Behind." On the other hand, the president has agreed to sign over $1 million for seafood marketing efforts in Alaska - home of Senate Appropriations Chairman Ted Stevens.
Even worse, the money for this bill does not exist. Every penny of these appropriations adds to the deficit. Why? Because two weeks ago, the Republicans passed and the President signed a bill authorizing nearly an additional $2 trillion dollars of borrowing, which our children and grandchildren will have to pay back with interest. Two weeks before that, the President signed a bill giving $139 billion to big corporations like oil and tobacco companies and even Chinese manufacturers of ceiling fans.
One of the most spectacular parts of this week's bill, added in by Rep. Ernest Istook, R Okla., allows the staff members of congressmen and senators to rummage through any American's tax returns. Fortunately, Senator Kent Conrad, D- N.D., noticed this while it was being rushed through Congress to get to the President's desk. As of this writing, this provision has not been taken out of the bill, so nosey congressmen, senators and their staffs will be able to pry through your tax returns.
Americans deserve a better government than this. I very much hope that Democrats will provide at least a strong opposition force to this kind of spending and to these kinds of gross invasions of personal privacy, which the President's party apparently thinks are justified.
I hope the Democrats and moderate Republicans in Congress will stand up for better priorities than this administration has, no matter how nice the words that the President says are. Nice words will not save our farmers, our environment and our schools. Nice words will not protect the privacy of our tax records. Leaders who understand the value of a dollar will protect us and our children, and leaders who respect Americans as individuals will give America back the kind of country we deserve.
I do not believe it is our job to support a philosophy, which can be summed up as "Borrow and Spend, Borrow and Spend". Loyal and patriotic Americans have an obligation to their country to stand up for fiscal policies which make America stronger, not weaker.
Howard Dean, M.D. and former governor of Vermont, is the founder of Democracy for America, a grassroots organization that supports socially progressive and fiscally responsible political candidates.
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