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Welcome to "Ask the White House" -- an online interactive forum where you can submit questions to Administration officials and friends of the White House. Visit the "Ask the White House" archives to read other discussions with White House officials.

Joel Kaplan
Deputy Director of OMB
February 4, 2004

Good evening/afternoon ... Joel will be here soon ...

Joel Kaplan
Good afternoon. It is great to be back on Ask the White House today and to continue discussing with you the President's FY 2005 Budget. I have already received many wonderful questions, so let's get started.

Rachel, from Cincinati writes:
Mr. Kaplan- Could you clarify for me President Bushs NASA increases and plans for the future? Im not entirely sure this is a part of the budget plan but if it is not I would greatly appreciate your directing me to a source that can help me with this topic. I am doing a persuasive speech and paper in my English class and I have selected the Presidents new NASA proposal as my topic. Also, is there bill or official document of some sort that I might access which includes the plan for this new funding. Thank you.

Joel Kaplan
Rachel, thank you for your great question. On January 14th, the President provided a bold, clear vision for NASA. He announced that we will retire the shuttle once the Space Station is complete and focus on a return to the moon by 2020 for the purpose of eventually exploring other parts of our solar system. The President's Budget provides $12 billion dollars for exploration over the next 5 years. Only about 1 billion - or an average of $200 million per year - is an increase over NASA's existing 5-year budget plan. The other $11 billion comes from redirecting resources from within NASA's budget. For more information on the President's plan you can visit this website: /news/releases/2004/01/20040114-3.html and for more information about the President's Budget for NASA you can visit this website: /omb/budget/fy2005/nasa.html.

Rob, from Waterloo writes:
How many years do you plan running a $500 billion dollar deficit?

Joel Kaplan
The President is committed to a path of reducing the deficit in half in five years, to a size that's less than 2% of the Gross Domestic Product, or GDP.

To do this and fund the President's top priorities of winning the war on terror, protecting the homeland, and strengthening the economy, the FY 2005 Budget holds non-defense, non-security spending to 0.5% and proposes to keep the economy growing by making tax relief permanent.

Dramatic reductions in the deficit will start in FY 2005, with a projected deficit of $364 billion, roughly 3.0% of GDP. By 2009, the projected deficit will be down to 1.6% of GDP - well below the 2.2% average deficit of the last 40 years.

Coralie, from Hornell, NY writes:
Dear Sir: We conservative republicans have been hearing a lot of complaints from our camp, about this administrations big spending. How can this segment of voters be satisfied and regain confidence in our present government?

Joel Kaplan
As Director Bolten explained on Monday, the President is committed to spending what is necessary to provide for our security and restraining spending elsewhere.

Over 75% of the increases in discretionary spending since September 11, 2001 have been directly related to the War on Terror, enhanced homeland security, and our response to the attacks.

Under President Bush, annually appropriated spending unrelated to security has come down every year from 15 % in the last year of the previous Administration (FY 2001) to 6% in 2002, then 5 percent the following year (FY 2003), 4 percent for the current fiscal year (FY 2004), and in the President's FY 2005 Budget he transmitted on Monday, to one half of one percent.

Conservative Republicans - like all Americans - should be confident that the President will do what it takes to defend America, strengthen the economy, and dramatically improve the budget situation.

Bob, from Moorestown, NJ writes:
Do you currently use dynamic or static estimates of tax collections to make projections of budget surpluses or deficits? Why not do it both ways?

Joel Kaplan
Bob - good question. We use static scoring for all revenue forecasts shown in the Budget, meaning that we do not take into account the economic benefits of, or extra revenues associated with the tax cuts.

It would be useful to show the dynamic, feedback-inclusive effects in the Budget for information purposes, but at this time we lack the modeling capability to produce reasonably reliable dynamic estimates.

There is a substantial "feedback" effect on the economy from the President's tax cuts - we just don't know yet how to calculate and display it with confidence.

The Administration is studying how we might develop such a capability, but the effort is complicated by the broad lack of consensus among economists about how the economy works and how it reacts to changes in tax policy.

Rosa, from Berkeley, California writes:
Does the budget for Transport mean that Amtrak will have to stop its long-haul routes like the California Zephyr, Southwest Chief, etc.?

Joel Kaplan
Hi Rosa - how is California? I'm sure the weather there is much warmer than in DC today!

The President is committed to ensuring the safety and economic effectiveness of the roads, railways, pipelines, airways, and waterways upon which the Nation's economy depends.

The FY 2005 budget seeks $900 million for Amtrak, which is sufficient for Amtrak to continue service on all of its routes. The President has proposed the Passenger Rail Investment Reform Act which would allow states and local communities to decide how to integrate intercity passenger rail into their transportation plans.

Under the Passenger Rail Investment Reform Act, Amtrak would split into a private infrastructure company and train operating company, effectively separating the Northeast Corridor infrastructure from long-distance train operations. Outside the Northeast where Amtrak does not own track, individual States and interstate compacts could negotiate with the freight rail companies to develop new routes.

This should lead to the development of short corridor routes between major population centers. After a transition period, States would bid contracts for infrastructure maintenance and train operations among the former Amtrak companies and other private companies. States would cover train operating subsidies.

Federal matching grants would help pay for infrastructure, which is similar to the Federal-State cost sharing arrangement of other DOT transportation programs.

Nick, from Notre Dame University writes:
Hello Joel, I read a few articles concerning President Bush's budget for the fiscal 2005 year and all I could find was information about programs receiving more money. In trying to be an informed citizen, could you tell me where I could find out what programs will be undergoing cuts? Or better yet, how can I see the budget itself, along with previous ones? Thanks for your time.

Joel Kaplan
Good afternoon, Nick. The President has proposed cutting the deficit in half in the next 5 years. In order to do this, we must control Federal spending.

Our team, in creating the President's FY 2005 Budget faced some difficult challenges and many tough choices had to be made. The President has adopted a results-centered approach to federal programs - one that focuses on outcomes.

Being responsible with the people's money not only means funding key national priorities and controlling other spending, but also terminating or reducing programs that are wasteful, duplicative, ineffective or have simply accomplished their mission.

This approach benefits all of us - both the taxpayers and the recipients of government services. This year's budget includes the termination of 65 programs and cuts of $30 million or more in 52 programs.

To look at the budget, you can access the OMB website at Many hardworking and dedicated OMB employees worked together to fulfill the President's vision for the FY 2005 Budget, and Director Bolten and I thank all of them.

David, from Vienna, Va. writes:
Would you please trace homeland security spending from 2001 to now, explain the request for FY 05 and tell us where you see it going for the rest of the decade?

Joel Kaplan
David - thanks for joining me on Ask the White House today. Over 2 years have passed since the terrorists attacked American soil, but the threat of another terrorist attack continues.

One of the President's most important priorities is protecting the homeland, and this Budget fully funds this priority. The President created the Department of Homeland Security, merging 22 separate entities into a cohesive department with the primary mission of protecting our homeland.

Since 2001, the President has proposed a near tripling of FY 2001 funding for homeland security. The President's FY 2005 Budget will increase homeland security funding by over 9.7% over FY 2004 - not including the homeland security funding included in the budgets of the Department of Defense and Project BioShield.

As the President has said, he will continue to provide the resources we need to protect the homeland and win the war on terror.

Michael, from Powell, TN writes:
I read the President's State of the Union speech last night. I am curious to know where the money for the programs he wants to start or increase spending will come from?

Joel Kaplan
Hi Michael - thanks for joining us this afternoon. The President's State of the Union was great, and I am glad you are taking the time to read it.

When the President's Senior Advisors advise him on budget matters, they understand that the President will be announcing new initiatives in his State of the Union Address. Money is set aside for these new programs and included in the budget.

Even with these new programs, however, the President's Budget holds the growth in non-defense, non-homeland security related discretionary spending to one-half of one percent, and puts us on a path to cut the deficit in half within five years.

In his State of the Union Address, the President announced new initiatives to strengthen economic growth, further reform education and job training, address the rising cost of health care, and make America a more compassionate Nation.

One of the new items that the President proposed is his Jobs for the 21st Century Initiative. The President announced more than $500 million for a series of measures to better prepare current and future workers for jobs in the new millennium.

Another part of this initiative includes $100 million to help striving readers and $120 million to improve math education - this part of the program will help prepare the Nation's middle and high school students for success in higher education and the job market.

Derrick, from Paducah, Kentucky writes:
Will President Bush slow down his spending, while continuing to push for tax cuts? How do tax cuts affect the budget?

I believe that tax cuts are stimulating the economy, and would like to see more of my tax dollars returned. I am not for social programs, expanding government, or general spending increases.

Joel Kaplan
The President has consistently reined in non-security discretionary related spending.

As I explained in an earlier answer to Coralie in Hornell, while that spending grew by 15% in the last year of the previous Administration (FY 2001); it grew by only 6% in President Bush's first budget, by 5% the following year, and by 4% in the current year.

The budget the President is proposing for FY 2005 holds the growth in non-defense, non-security discretionary spending to one half of one percent, less than half the rate of inflation. The growth in total discretionary spending is reduced to just 3.9% in the President's 2005 budget.

With the Congress' cooperation in the spending restraint proposed by the President, we will cut the deficit in half within five years. I agree with you about the tax cuts (and more importantly, so does the President!).

The President's tax cuts have been critical to strengthening the economy and creating jobs. With all of the positive indicators in the economy, we think we will see even stronger job creation in the months ahead - if Congress doesn't let the tax cuts expire, which would mean tax increases on the American people.

As the economy recovers, tax receipts will increase, helping to reduce the budget deficit.

Daniel, from Great Barrington, Massachusetts writes:
In the president's budget released on Monday, where does he propos cutting spending? Thanks for giving people a chance to talk to policy setters.

Joel Kaplan
The President's budget advances our three highest national priorities -- defeating the terrorists, strengthening our homeland defenses, and supporting the Nation's economic recovery -- while restraining spending elsewhere.

The budget proposes to cut or terminate a number of programs because they are either duplicative, too narrowly focused, not demonstrating results or no longer necessary because their mission has been accomplished.

For example, the budget proposes ending the Commerce Department's Advanced Technology Program, which duplicates efforts more efficiently performed by the private sector, and significantly reducing the Energy Department's Oil and Gas Research and Development program, a significant portion of which lacks a rigorous peer review process and tends to duplicate private sector research and development. In total, the President's Budget proposes cuts and terminations that result in a savings of $14.4 billion in 2005.

Joel, from New York City writes:
What has the President systematically backed-off his "compassion" agenda for the less fortunate -- both domestically and internationally -- in order to continue to press for ever-bigger tax cuts for the mega-rich?

Joel Kaplan
The President is firmly committed to transforming Federal programs and increasing funding to programs that support a more compassionate America.

For example, the President and the Congress recently enacted reforms that provide Medicare beneficiaries with low incomes additional assistance for prescription drugs.

As part of the fiscal year 2005 Budget, the President has proposed a four-year, $300 million Prisoner Re-Entry Initiative to help ex-offenders rebuild their lives and stay away from crime.

Additionally, the Access to Recovery Drug Treatment Vouchers initiative provides broader access to drug treatment and social service providers. They allow individuals a choice of where they will be served, including at faith-based and community organizations.

Congress funded half the President's request of $200 million in FY 2004 and the FY 2005 budget requests full funding.

Furthermore, the 2005 Budget requests an increase of $52 million, more than double current funding, for the Compassion Capital Fund, which provides funds to public/private partnerships to support charitable organizations in expanding or emulating model social service programs.

Rachel, from Florissant, MO writes:
First thing I noticed about you Joel is that you do not resemble Peter Frampton at all. But speaking of Peter Frampton, what do you believe his best song is? I'd have to go with "Do you feel like we do." You?

Joel Kaplan

I've been really working on trying to look like Peter. For instance, I purchased one of these shirts the other day :

As for my favorite Frampton song -- I would go with "Show me the Way" or "Day in the Sun."

Kyle, from New York writes:
Do you think the bush administraition is spending to much money on homeland security compared to other issues. Example: Enviorment

Thanks Kyle

Joel Kaplan
As President Bush said in the State of the Union, it's tempting to believe that the danger we witnessed on September 11, 2001 is behind us, but the there are still those who would do our Nation harm.

The President takes seriously the responsibility to prevent attacks within the United States, reduce America's vulnerability to terrorism, and minimize damage from attacks that might occur.

That is why the President's budget continues to provide the resources necessary to protect the homeland -- including targeted first-responder grants for high-threat areas and a biosurveillance initiative that will bring together information across the Federal Government to improve our ability to identify a bioterrorist attack.

The President's budget also includes funding for key environmental programs. For example, the budget proposes $45 million for Great Lakes clean-up, nearly a five-fold increase over previous levels, and expands Superfund long-term clean-up resources by nearly 50% to tackle the tougher hazardous waste sites remaining on the National Priorities List.

At the same time, we are providing funding for other important priorities, such as strengthening the economy and implementing needed education reforms.

Joel Kaplan
It has been great to be back on Ask the White House today. I appreciate all of your great questions. If you have some free time - you should read the President's Budget - it is some easy, light reading!

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