Howard Dean said the spending of dollars earmarked for Iraq and Afghanistan – most of it for military operations rather than reconstruction – could accomplish much more beneficial projects in the United States.
“So far, 80 billion has already been spent on the war and its aftermath. The president is now asking for 87 billion more,” Dean said in a statement.
The additional $87 billion dollars US President George Bush has asked for could push the country’s budget deficit well beyond $500 billion.
Highlighting record job losses and economic uncertainty, Dean also claimed the president’s tax cuts were squeezing every area of the non-defence budget.
“Never before have our working men and women borne such a disproportionate share of the costs of war while the wealthiest are actually given huge tax cuts,” he added.
Bob Graham, another Democratic presidential candidate, sounded a similar note on a CNN talk show, Larry King Live.
“He’s talking about spending 87 billion… that’s more than the federal government will spend on education this year. That’s twice as much as the federal government will spend on our roads, bridges, highways and public transit system.”
“Just think what 167 billion could buy the American people. Just over half that amount could provide health care for every man, woman and child in America”
Prior to the new request on Sunday, the 2004 US budget was estimated to run a record $480-billion dollar deficit, according to forecasts from the bipartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) published on 26 August.
That represents around 4.3% of US gross domestic product (GDP).
In the fiscal year 2003, which ends on 30 September, the US deficit will be slightly above $400 billion, about 3.7% of GDP, the CBO said.
The last record deficit in the United States was in 1992, when it soared to $290 billion.
No quick solution
Bush has said several times that he has a plan to halve the budget deficit within five years.
But the administration has given no details of how it intends to finance the extra spending, especially as the president has made tax cuts a cornerstone of his attempts to revive the ailing US economy.
Borrowing from the US Treasury – and hence more debt – seems a likely choice according to Senator Joseph Biden.
The top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said Congress had little choice but to give Bush what he asked for.
“I think it has to come up. We have no choice,” he told CNN television on Sunday after the president’s speech.