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The Daily Tar Heel

Bush's Budget Plan Earns Mixed Reviews

While political pundits agree President George W. Bush appeared personable and well-organized during his first televised speech before Congress on Tuesday night, they disagree on the merits of his budget plan.

The plan, dubbed "A Blueprint for Progress," was formally presented to Congress on Wednesday and includes a $1.6 trillion tax cut, while increasing spending for education and defense.

But the proposal calls for reductions in the budgets of several top government departments -- including justice and transportation.

UNC political science Professor George Rabinowitz said he believes criticism over the tax cut centers on its size and concerns over who would benefit most from the plan. "I think one of the main concerns is the extent of the tax cut and the extent to which the tax cuts benefit the wealthy as opposed to the lower income," he said.

Bush's plan calls for reducing taxes in all tax brackets, which now range from 15 percent to 39 percent. Each would be lowered by roughly 5 percent.

Opponents have argued the cut would disproportionately benefit the wealthy, despite the similar percentages.

Rabinowitz also said he questions Bush's use of 10-year projections in outlining his budget plan and said he thinks it is better to re-evaluate the economy every two years. "It makes more sense to have a short-term horizon," he said.

But Chad Cowan, director of communications for the fiscally conservative think tank Americans for Tax Reform, said he believes Bush's call for a tax cut is a step in the right direction and said he does not understand the concerns of opponents to the plan.

"How someone could say that the plan the president is proposing is unfair -- I don't know how they could say that."

Cowan said he believes the tax cut will provide relief for all Americans and might eventually lead to a flat tax rate.

William Galston, a University of Maryland political science professor, said he believes the unpredictability of the economy is another reason Bush should not rely on 10-year projections, saying that many people did not predict the current budget surplus a decade ago.

"I don't know how many people are very confident in 10-year projections," he said.

But Galston, a former policy adviser to President Clinton during his first term, said he believes Bush's speech served as a way to relieve any skepticism over his capability as president. "I think it was presented in a way to disarm his critics," he said.

Galston also said he believes that while Bush is attempting to set a bipartisan tone to his presidency, he still needs to address the concerns of his critics over the proposed budget to ensure its passage in Congress. "The president will succeed in the extent that he is willing to compromise," he said.

But Sean Tuffnell, manager of communications for the right-leaning National Center of Policy Analysis, said it is hypocritical for critics to challenge the president's use of 10-year projections in his budget planning because he said that is the typical method of presidents, including Bush's predecessor.

Tuffnell said he favors the proposed tax cut because it will help relieve the burden of taxpayers. "I think it's entirely appropriate to have a tax cut when the average tax burden is higher than it has been (since World War II)."

Tuffnell said he believes Bush's speech outlined his priorities as president and attempted to set a bipartisan tone.

"I think one of the main strengths is he was able to clearly articulate his priorities, and he didn't stray too far from the platform he campaigned for," Tuffnell said. "Also, he didn't alienate the other side."

Overall, Bush's speech showed the public that he is able to handle the responsibilities and criticisms of the presidency, Tuffnell said.

"I think he's been off to a fantastic start, better than anyone thought he'd be able to."

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