Congressional Budgeters Project Higher Deficits

If President Bush gets his way on tax cuts and spending levels, the deficit will be $287 billion in 2003 and $338 billion in 2004, the Congressional Budget Office predicted Friday.

The total deficit over the next decade would total $1.82 trillion, declining gradually until it reaches $102 billion in 2013, the nonpartisan group announced. Two years ago, analysts projected the surplus would accumulated to $5.6 trillion within a decade.

The numbers were sure to generate considerable criticism of the president's tax-cutting plan, which now stands at $1.57 trillion through 2013, including his latest economic stimulus package, which proposes nearly $700 billion in cuts on dividend taxes and an acceleration of the marginal tax rates, child tax credits and marriage penalty cuts.

Already on Friday, Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, said the numbers demonstrate the president's inability steer the economy out of trouble.

"These deficit increases are continued evidence of the complete failure of the president's economic game plan ... The Bush administration's tax and spending policies don't add up, don't come close to adding up, and according to CBO's data, never will," Conrad said.

CBO said that if the president's plan is not adopted the deficits will add up to $246 billion this year and $200 billion in 2004.

The figures released by congressional budget analysts do not include the cost of war and are about $50 billion worse than projections made just two months ago.

The CBO's forecast is higher and projected further out than the administration, which said that any forecasts longer than five years is sure to be wildly inaccurate.  The president projected a $1.08 trillion deficit through 2008 when he released his $2.23 trillion budget for 2004 last month.

Democrats say the president is shortening the forecast to blot out revealing the compounding deficits projected in later years.

They add that the 2001 10-year, $1.35 trillion tax cut that Congress approved in 2001 is responsible for the return of deficits after four years of surpluses during the Clinton administration.

But Republicans say the faltering economy -- which started under President Clinton -- and the unforeseen costs for fighting a war on terrorism, created the deficits.  In addition, they argue that fighting that war and reviving the economy are more important than balancing the budget.

The White House and congressional Republicans also argue that the deficit projections are manageable because they are about 2.9 percent of the country's $10.5 trillion economy.  In 1992, the $290 billion deficit equaled 4.5 percent of the economy.

Conrad said that is a bogus argument.

"The fact of the matter is that bigger deficits, particularly these long-term structural deficits that the President's budget creates, will lead to higher interest rates, the crowding out of private sector investment and slower long-term economic growth," he said.

The House and Senate budget committees are expected to pass a budget resolution this month which gives a blueprint for spending for the coming year. Lawmakers begin that task next week.

Under pressure, House Budget Committee Chairman Jim Nussle, R-Iowa, said Friday that his blueprint will show a balanced budget within 10 years.  Don Nickles, R-Ohio, Nussle's counterpart in the Senate, said he plans to do the same thing.

The Democratic proposals will seek to draw up a more fiscally responsible budget plan that includes far smaller tax cuts than President Bush wants and more spending for schools, domestic security and other programs.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.