Since Bush's self-proclaimed goal is to halve the deficit in four years (after he allowed spending to balloon in his first four years -- not a single veto), the press should hold him as accountable on this as on his Social Security plan.
The Los Angeles Times says Bush isn't being all that austere:
"Even as President Bush proposes deep cuts in healthcare, farm subsidies and other domestic programs, his new budget makes one thing clear about the legacy of his first term in the White House: The era of big government is back.
"Bush's $2.6-trillion budget for 2006, if approved by Congress, would be more than one-third bigger than the budget he inherited four years ago. It is a monument to how much Republicans' guiding fiscal philosophy has changed over the 10 years since the GOP 'Contract With America' called for a balanced budget and abolition of entire Cabinet agencies."
The New York Times scoffs at some of the fuzzy math, saying that "the fine print indicates that the goal may be elusive. The budget is notable for including limits on spending that are unlikely to be enacted and for excluding expenses that are sure to be incurred. Here are the most important points:
"It assumes that all discretionary spending outside of military and domestic security -- everything from paperclips to space shuttles -- will be frozen for the next five years.
"It includes no spending for the war in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2006. Those costs are now running about $5 billion a month and are likely to continue at some level in the 2006 fiscal year and beyond.
"It omits the initial cost of Mr. Bush's Social Security plan, which would let people divert some of their payroll taxes to private saving accounts. Administration officials estimate the plan would cost $23 billion in 2009 and $754 billion over the next decade."
Other than that, no problemo!
This Baltimore Sun story makes the same point:
"The Bush administration's effort to limit spending increases in his new budget proposal will gut programs important to Maryland, state lawmakers and advocates say, including Chesapeake Bay cleanup and support for nonprofits that work in the state's poorest communities."
Slate's Tim Noah says the prez is breaking his pledge:
"We will not raise payroll taxes to solve this problem -- President Bush, answering a question about Social Security reform, Dec. 9, 2004.
"There are two ways to raise the payroll tax. You can raise the tax rate, or you can expand the pool of money that gets taxed. Bush probably tells himself that he's keeping his promise not to raise payroll taxes because he still refuses to consider increasing the payroll tax rate above its present level of 12.4 percent. But the Bush White House is clearly sending out signals that it is willing to expand the pool of payroll-taxable income by raising the current cap above $90,000. If that happens, people will pay more money in payroll taxes. I don't see how you avoid calling that a payroll-tax increase."
(Also, check out the section at the end with Vanity Fair writer Judy Bachrach at the inauguration.)