WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Bush will send Congress a $2.9 trillion spending request Monday that seeks billions of dollars more to fight the Iraq war and tries to restrain the spiraling cost of the government's big health care programs...There are two realities about the $2.9 trillion number that must be addressed even before the ink on all those pages is dry: the Democrats are already complaining about all the "cuts," and Bush will add more, just like he has every year for the past three, for "emergency" expenditures. So the final budget number, when all is said and done, will likely top three trillion dollars.
The arrival of the massive four-volume set of green budget books, which will cover the budget year that begins next October 1, will be followed by months of debate in Congress.
Democrats charged that Bush wants to make painful cuts across a wide swath of government programs to protect his tax cuts and to keep funneling money to the unpopular Iraq war.
That's a lot of money, but I don't think the human mind can comprehend the money in toto, simply because none of us has a reference point. We have never seen a trillion of anything. We have seen three, and that's not so much. But three trillion is literally unfathomable.
So break it down a little: three thousand billion dollars. Nope, that doesn't help, since most of use have never seen a billion of something. How about three million million dollars? Maybe we're getting close, because three million million is enough make everyone in Kansas a millionaire this year, and we can all imagine ourselves being millionaires. How about three thousand thousand thousand thousand? Three hundred hundred hundred hundred hundred hundred?
There are three hundred million people in the US, give or take. Three trillion dollars works out to about $10,000 in government spending for each person. $20,000 for a married couple. $50,000 for a family of 5. It will spend $800, per month, on you and your spouse and each of your kids. And all the people you work with. And all the people you see on the highway as you drive to work. The government will spend this year on a family of five more money than half of them earn - and that's excluding state and local governments and off-budget accrued liabilities (promises like Social Security). That's a lot of freaking money, and the only saving grace about having $10,000 worth of government for every person is that we don't get our money's worth. That money could pay every fifth person in America $50,000 a year to make sure the other four obey the millions of obscure regulations the government dreams up to make your life better. Thank God they can't comprehend that much law any more than you can.
So where does it come from? It comes out of your paycheck before you take it home. It is added to every gallon of gas you buy. It is built into the price of every shirt or skirt or gallon of milk you purchase. It is built into your new tires, your telephone bill, your electric bill, your chewing gum. It is built into every cigarette, pot roast, glass of wine, can of corn, and bottle of nail polish you purchase. That money comes from you. $800 every month, $10,000 every year, from you and from everyone you ever see.
Bush's budget in 2001 was 2 trillion dollars, still a mind-bogglingly huge number, but 33% less than his latest. Putting it another way, this year's budget is 50% more than it was a mere 6 years ago. I wonder how many people who voted for Bush in 2000 realized that we needed half again as much government as we had then? I know I didn't; I have regretted that vote nearly every day since I cast it.