Whitney Houston Explains the Bush Budget

President Bush's new federal spending plan is the first to top $3 trillion. We turn to a classic recording from Whitney Houston to break it down.

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As you look back at the week in news - buried between the Supers, Bowl and Tuesday, that is - was a super-huge fiscal proposal presented by President Bush. It's the first federal budget ever to top the three trillion - with a T - dollar mark. But the president hailed it as the epitome of restraint. Here he is unveiling the budget on Monday.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: It eliminates 151 wasteful or bloated programs, saving the taxpayers $18 billion. It also takes a hard look at entitlement growth over the next five years and provides specific recommendations to save $208 billion over those five years, and at the same time the budget achieves balance by 2012. This is a good, solid budget.

RACHEL MARTIN: Not bloated.

STEWART: That's the word of the week. Sorry, Rachel.

MARTIN: Of course this is just the president's proposal. Congress also has to approve it, a process that's likely to involve months of negotiations and politicking, as you might imagine. Democrats already voicing their displeasure and the Associated Press says the proposed budget would produce record deficits.

STEWART: So what's exactly in the thing?

MARTIN: Well, we can't show you pie charts on the radio and reading numbers is pretty dry, so we're going to try to give you an audio measure of who gets what in this budget. Every second of music we're going to play for you will equal $10 billion for the department or project in question. Kind of like an audio bar graph and we're going to use the same song each time for comparison purposes. Now, we obviously can't cover every part of the budget, but we'll pick out a few key points. Put your thinking caps on.

Okay, first up, immigration. That's a real hot button issue these days and a lot of folks favor building a fence along the U.S.-Mexico border. President Bush apparently agrees; he's allocating $775 million for fencing and other border securing technology. Now, remember, one second of audio equals 10 billion - with a B - dollars.

So how much would President Bush spend on the fence?

(Soundbite of music)

STEWART: Okay, wait a minute, play that again. What $775 million sounds like?

(Soundbite of music)

STEWART: I thought that was actually a mistake

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: That's what it is. All right, environment and energy is another big issue. The president wants to cut funding for energy efficiency and renewable energy, such as wind and solar. And he proposes cutting projects designed to clean up water waste. He's going to cut it down to $555 million, about half of what it was two years ago. So here's what 550 bucks million sounds like.

(Soundbite of music)

STEWART: Oh, it's so sad.

MARTIN: Really?

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: Okay, let's move on to some bigger ticket items. How about education? President Bush wants to cut education spending by about $4 billion dollars, although some well-known programs like No Child Left Behind would get modest increases. So total education spending, $60 billion.

(Soundbite of music)

MARTIN: Wow, okay. So, we're getting a little song in there now.

STEWART: There we go.

MARTIN: That's how much Whitney, 60 billion.

STEWART: Well, it's more than the border fence, for sure. Let's move on to the department near and dear to our hearts, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. NPR gets a bit of its funding through CPB, so we're pulling for them. All right, let's see what we got. Come on, baby. Mama needs a new pair of shoes and headphones.

(Soundbite of music)

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: I'm not getting shoes or headphones...

MARTIN: So pathetic. A very powerful measurement.

STEWART: Okay. So the president's budget proposal is cutting funding for public broadcasting in half over the next two years. Anybody want to buy a $400 million tote bag?

MARTIN: No, no.

STEWART: One request almost certain to be rejected since Congress has rejected it every other time it's been proposed is paying for increased airport with a 50 cent surcharge on airplane tickets. I don't think technology allows us to play you 50 cents worth of audio on our current radios. One big feature of Bush's State of the Union Address was his economic stimulus package; that's factored into the budget for about $150 billion. What does that sound like?

(Soundbite of music)

STEWART: The budget calls for big cuts in Medicare and Medicaid, and a near-freeze in discretionary spending. But even with all those cuts, the administration still projects a $407 billion deficit next year, close to a record in dollar terms. The president says his plan will balance the budget by 2012. But his proposal leaves out future wart spending, among other things.

And that brings us to the Pentagon. The administration is seeking $515 billion for the Pentagon's day to day operations, more than the total combined military spending by every other country in the world. It's a seven percent increase from last year, but it doesn't even include the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. If those costs continue on their current pace, total defense related spending for fiscal year 2007 balloons to $750 billion dollars. Hit it, Whitney.

(Soundbite of music)

STEWART: I'm just going to warn you, this goes on for a minute and 15 seconds. That's how much money the Pentagon is getting, a minute and 15 seconds worth of Whitney Houston.

MARTIN: That's a lot of Stealth bombers.

STEWART: If the Pentagon were an independent country, it would be the tenth richest in the world.

(Soundbite of music)

MARTIN: Oh, wow. We even get this part?

STEWART: The Pentagon got falsetto on top of it, and it just keeps going.

(Soundbite of music)

STEWART: Well, we were going to try to illustrate the entire U.S. budget for you in song. But apparently, we've had play "Free Bird." We figured a minute 15 of Whitney Houston and the Pentagon budget was enough.

(Soundbite of music)

STEWART: And there you go. Take that, Wolf Blitzer; who needs pie charts?

MARTIN: We got Whitney.

STEWART: Right here on the BPP.

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