Homeland security isn't Washington's only bloated budget. After the president warned that he'd nix any highway bill with a price tag over $284 billion, a bipartisan Senate last week did him $11 billion better. Conservatives gasped at what the Club for Growth called a "fiscal monstrosity" --even the more modest House version includes 4,000 pet projects, like $4 million for footbridges across a Louisiana canal--and insisted that Bush finally brandish his carving knife. "If Bush can't hold the line on the transportation bill," asks Stuart Butler of the Heritage Foundation, "how can he look at people and say we need to massively change Medicare?"
Indeed, whether Bush stands firm on road spending is largely a symbolic matter. But fiscal hawks point to the highway bill as another sign of Washington's return to the bad old days of free spending and win-win deal making, warning that such behavior will most likely take a huge toll as a swelling deficit and mounting national debt threaten to scare off foreign investors, goose interest rates, and send the economy into a tailspin.
(5-30-05 issue, U.S. News & World Report