WASHINGTON – President Bush (search) was selling his budget to the American public on Tuesday in Detroit, where he was laying out his vision for a slimmed-down federal government.
Meanwhile, Office of Management and Budget Director Josh Bolten (search) was on Capitol Hill, trying to sell to lawmakers the $2.5 trillion plan, which aims to hold down government spending but may still produce a record budget deficit once next year's costs in Iraq and Afghanistan are figured in.
Treasury Secretary John Snow (search) also testified Tuesday at a separate congressional hearing.
Bush on Tuesday was speaking to a crowd at the Detroit Economic Club, where he said Congress must bring discipline to the federal budget and cut failing or unnecessary programs even if they have laudable goals.
"It is essential that those who spend the money in Washington adhere to this principle — a taxpayer dollar ought to be spent wisely or not spent at all," Bush said.
Bush sent Congress a $2.57 trillion budget Monday that drastically cuts or eliminates 150 federal programs, including subsidies paid to farmers, health programs for poor people and veterans and spending on the environment and education.
Bush said every program on the chopping block is failing to meet its goals, duplicates other available services or is not an essential priority for the federal government. Bush singled out farm subsidies, which he said are providing government checks of up to $360,000 a year to individual farmers.
"I think that no farmer should get $250,000 a year in subsidy," Bush said. He said cutting the subsidies will save taxpayers $1.2 billion over the next decade.
Bush also cited Even Start (search), a 16-year-old literacy program for poor families. Bush said everyone wants poor people to learn to read, but three evaluations have made it clear that Even Start is not working.
"Congress needs to join with me to bring real spending discipline to the federal budget," Bush said to applause from automotive executives and other Michigan business leaders jammed wall-to-wall at tables in a large room at Cobo Hall. "Spending discipline requires difficult choices. Every government program was created with good intentions, but not all are matching good intentions with good results."
Bush's slimmed-down budget proposal is just one of the conservative fiscal policies he plans to push in his second term as he tries to continue expanding the economy and improve the slowly recovering job market. Bush also wants tax cuts, deregulation, free trade and more modern training for the work force.
White House press secretary Scott McClellan said Bush also wants to build the economy by making his tax cuts permanent, reducing jury awards in malpractice lawsuits and expanding free trade. Those ideas face opposition from Democrats and labor unions.
"I don't think that the series of proposals that he's putting forward are responding to the very unbalanced and stagnant economic figures from the point of view of working families," said Ron Blackwell, chief economist at the AFL-CIO (search). "He's responding to his friends in business — they want the lawyers off their back, they want tax rates lower, they want less regulation."
Questions about the health of the jobs market dogged Bush throughout his first term and was a hot-button issue in the presidential campaign. Ultimately, the jobs situation and the economy wasn't enough of a concern to deny Bush a second term.
Employment figures released last week provided a reprieve to the White House. While the addition of 146,000 jobs was small, it gave Bush a net gain of 119,000 jobs during his first term and allowed him to escape being the first president since Herbert Hoover to have a net loss of jobs on his watch.
"We have overcome a series of challenges to our economy," McClellan told reporters Monday. "We must continue to act to build upon the results we have achieved."
Can't Get Everything You Ask For
Even Republicans have a stake in some of the programs Bush wants to cut, and Bolten knows a lot of them won't go along.
"Are we going to get everything ask for? No. Get all program cuts wanted for? No. Going to get all spending increases No. Don't expect that," Bolton said Monday. But "I think we'll get a lot of them ... it will be a cooperative process."
Bush wanted to cut 128 programs in last year's budget; Congress agreed to 24, but Bolten said lawmakers didn't go over the budget limit the president set. They did that by making across-the-board reductions that drew some criticism. Bolten said he's optimistic Congress will stay within the president's overall limits again this year.
Critics are complaining about the president's priorities and charging that the budget is more notable for what has been left out.
Republican lawmakers generally praised Bush's budget for 2006 while Democrats heaped scorn on the proposal.
Sen. John Kerry, Bush's defeated Democratic presidential opponent, said Bush had reached "new lows of fiscal irresponsibility" by proposing a spending plan that "takes cops off the street, hurts veterans and punishes school children while saddling future generations with record budget deficits and mountains of debt."
Bush defended the spending blueprint, saying, "It's a budget that focuses on results."
He told reporters that "the taxpayers of America don't want us spending our money into something that's not achieving results."
Focus on Results
Bush sent his massive multivolume set of spending documents, trimmed in bright blue, to Congress on Monday, saying the new budget focused on his priorities while targeting 150 government programs for either outright elimination or drastic reductions, including Amtrak passenger train subsidies and grants to communities for hiring police officers.
Bush proposed giving nine of 15 Cabinet-level agencies less money in 2006 than they are getting this year. Overall non-security domestic spending — excluding such automatic benefit programs like Social Security and Medicare — would be reduced by 0.7 percent next year.
"I understand that sometimes it's hard to eliminate a program that sounds good," Bush said Monday. "I'm saying to members of Congress, show us the results as to whether or not this program is working."
House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., called the administration's plan "a good starting point for the Congress to begin its work."
Senate Budget Committee Chairman Judd Gregg, R-N.H., conceded that "obviously this is a budget that is going to create some significant angst among my colleagues." But he praised the administration for producing a budget of "fiscal responsibility" that would call Republicans "back to our roots."
Democrats, however, accused Bush of budgetary sleight of hand to keep some huge costs out of the budget.
FOX News' Wendell Goler and The Associated Press contributed to this report.