Return of the ‘Washington Monument Ploy’

I am amazed that with all the realms of justified vitriol being poured on the Bush budget, no one has pointed out this budget revives the Washington Monument Ploy. Admittedly that's relatively traditional compared to:

  • being formatted like a campaign document with promotional photos,
  • cutting out projections for years 6-10 because they look so terrible,
  • cooking the numbers (“the budget assumes slower economic growth than CBO for 2005, and faster growth thereafter. By pure coincidence, this has the effect of raising deficit estimates for 2005 and reducing them later on, making it easier “to cut the deficit in half by 2009”),
  • projecting massive debt even in years 1-5, and leaving out masses of expenditure for Iraq and Afghanistan which are certainly capable of estimation.

The Washington Monument Ploy is an ancient device favored by executive branch budget makers. When required to meet some arduous budget number by producing cuts, the crafty bureaucrat proposes cuts to things that he knows Congress will never accept, such as closing the Washington Monument. Although this contributes nothing to good government, it does allow the executive branch to claim that the “budget-busting” comes from those irresponsible spenders in Congress.

How else to explain this?

Bush asks to cut decontamination research On the same day a poison-laced letter shuttered Senate offices, President Bush asked Congress to eliminate an $8.2 million research program on how to decontaminate buildings attacked by toxins.

Buried in documents justifying Bush's 2005 budget proposal released Monday is an Environmental Protection Agency acknowledgment that his proposed cut “represents complete elimination of homeland security building decontamination research.”

As far as I can tell, most of the stuff the Bush budget proposes to cut falls squarely in the Washington Monument category, except perhaps for the cuts that fall on the poorest Americans—there’s some chance that a Republican Congress might actually pass those.

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