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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
Joel Kaplan
Deputy Director of the Office of Management and Budget

February 7, 2006

Joel Kaplan
Good afternoon, and thanks for joining me today to discuss the FY 2007 Budget. I've already received a lot of great questions, and I look forward to answering them.

Mrs. Dryden's 2nd Grade class, from Amarillo, Texas writes:
Were you good at math in 2nd grade? What do you like best about your job? Why did you want to work on the U. S budget? Are you frustrated when all the people come to ask for money? How do you decide how much money each area gets? Thank you

Joel Kaplan
I can’t really remember how good I was at math in the second grade, but I know I would not have been able to come up with as many good questions for “Ask the White House” as your class has. I know I liked to read a lot in second grade, and like you I had a really great teacher. Her name was Ms. Scecina, and she used to help me find good books in the school library.

What I like best about my job is getting to work with Logan Dryden—I think you know her Mom. I also like it when I get to go to meetings with the President of the United States.

I wanted to work on the U.S. budget because I get to learn about all of the different things the United States government does. I’m not frustrated when all the people come to ask for money—but I know they are frustrated when we don’t give it to them. It’s sort of like if your parents wouldn’t give you your allowance. We decide how much money each program gets by looking at what is most important to the American people and which things their government should be doing for them—like making sure the country has a strong Army and Navy. Then we try and figure out how much money it will take to make sure the American people get what they expect from their government.

Thanks for the good questions! Say hi to Mrs. Dryden for me.

Zhang, from China writes:
What is the biggest different of the budget between this year and last year?

Joel Kaplan
Thanks for the long-distance email, Zhang. This year’s budget is actually very similar to last year’s. It proposes to keep in place the tax relief that the Congress passed and the President signed, which has been critical to fueling strong economic growth in America. The President is also proposing again to hold discretionary spending growth below the rate of inflation, cut discretionary spending that’s not related to national security, and slow the rate of entitlement spending growth. Last year the Congress delivered on all three of these proposals for spending restraint – we’re hopeful we can do it again this year.

Jean, from Michigan writes:
With the new budget, medical research has been severly cut. You say you want to stay competitive with the rest of the world and make sure our citizens are well educated. How can we stay competitive if we aren't participating in research? My daughter graduated in November with a PHD in Chemical Engineering - Bio Medical Research. Several of the positions she would have been up for were cut because of the budget

Joel Kaplan
Congratulations to your daughter, Jean. Since coming to office, the President has increased funding for the National Institute of Health by more nearly 40 percent. This year, we are keeping funding level at $28.4 billion, reflecting a continued commitment to biomedical research and development. At the same time, to keep America competitive the President is proposing to double the Federal commitment to the most critical basic research programs in the physical sciences over the next 10 years.

Paula, from Michigan writes:
How is the new budget plan proposing to help with first-time homeownership, specifically with FHA and low-income households? Thank you.

Joel Kaplan
Thanks for your question, Paula. As a recent first-time homebuyer myself, I have a special interest in these programs this year. In fact, if you know a good moving company in Washington, D.C., please email me. This year’s budget includes reforms to reaffirm and strengthen FHA’s ability to help low- and moderate-income families, particularly minority families, become homeowners. Along with increases in the Budget for down payment assistance to first-time buyers and homeownership education, the FHA reforms will help achieve the President’s goal of creating 5.5 million new homeowners by 2010.

It’s also worth noting that under the President’s economic agenda, homeownership has reached all-time highs. This budget proposes to continue those pro-growth policies by making the tax cuts permanent and cutting the deficit in half by 2009.

Cindy, from Ohio writes:
Will we ever see all 141 government programs that President Bush has in his proposal? I am a college student and the "extra credit question" was to find out what they are. Can you tell me? Thank you...this is really cool (being able to ask a question) Cindy

Joel Kaplan
Hmm. When is your assignment due by? We’ll be publishing the list of 141 programs later this week at --I hope that’s soon enough for you to get credit. Last year the President proposed 154 major savings and reforms in his budget and the Congress delivered on 89. This year we are proposing 141 similar program terminations and reductions, saving nearly $15 billion. Many of these programs are ineffective, or are not a federal priority. We look forward to working with the Congress on these proposals in the year ahead.

Gary, from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania writes:
Mr Joel Kaplan My question is does the President's proposed budget fall in line with the balance budget ammendment? I have not heard anyone talking about the balance budget ammendment, perhaps it is balanced? Thanks, Gary

Joel Kaplan
Good question, Gary. Our long-term goal should be to balance the budget. And, in fact, our current deficit projections show us making progress in the near-term: By 2009 the deficit is projected to fall to a level that is about 1.4% of our Gross Domestic Product. This is well below 40-year historical average deficit, when measured as a size of the economy, and less than half of the projected high in 2004. In the long-term, balanced budgets will not be possible without slowing the unsustainable growth in what are known as “entitlement” or “mandatory” programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. The President has shown great leadership on these issues, proposing Social Security reform last year and savings in Medicare this year. If we don’t control the growth in these programs, we will have deficits that really threaten the economic and fiscal health of the country in the future.

Wes, from Norcross, Georgia writes:
I watched the news on Monday night and saw the Budget being sent out. It is HUGE.. It's bigger than most text books. How many pages is it? How much of it is verbage actually from the President? How can the US Senate and House review that many pages in a short time? Doesn't seem like a waste of paper for that much publication.

Joel Kaplan
Wes- The main budget book is 346 pages long, but all the volumes combined are over 2,000 pages. To reduce the number of copies we need to print, everything is also available online at I’ll bet not that many people read EVERY single page, but instead use it as a reference book when they want to look at a particular issue. If you do read the whole thing, please email me and let me know what you think. We may have a job for you at OMB.

While the entire budget is created based on the guidance the President gives Director Bolten and his cabinet, the only words that are in the Budget that are actually his are in the President’s “Budget Message.” To read the President’s 2007 budget message, click here:

Ben, from Menomonee Falls, WI writes:
Where is the majority of the budget percentage going to? Is the budget going to help our Homeland security, so we can defend ourselves against terrorist organizations like al-Qaida?

Joel Kaplan
Ben- This year’s budget includes an 8 percent increase in homeland security funding, as well as a 7 percent increase in Defense spending to make sure our troops and commanders in the field have what they need to win the War on Terror. This is the President’s highest priority, and he was very clear with my boss, OMB Director Josh Bolten, that our budget needs to fully support our troops and the other professionals on the frontlines of the War on Terror.

Adam, from Chicago, IL writes:
The President's goal is to cut the budget deficit in half by 2009, but half of a huge deficit is still a huge deficit. How do you justify this to the American people?

Joel Kaplan
Adam- You are correct that in 2004 the President pledged to cut the deficit in half by 2009. At the time of his pledge, the deficit was projected to be 4.5 percent of GDP that year. In the budget we released yesterday, the deficit is projected to be 3.2 percent of GDP in FY 2007, and just 1.4 percent of GDP in FY 2009, which is well below the 40-year historical average deficit. At these levels, the deficit should not threaten our economic health.

While we would always like to be able to have the budget in balance, we need to make sure we are meeting our national priorities, like winning the War on Terror and creating jobs for the American people. We have had big challenges as a country the last five years or so, and that has taken a toll on our budget. But the proposals in the President’s Budget will meet our priorities and keep us on track to cut the deficit in half.

In the long-term, we do face a fiscal crisis as a result of the unsustainable growth in our entitlement programs. We really do need to take action to bring the growth in those programs under control if we are going to avoid serious damage to the economy in the future. The President has demonstrated that he’s willing to take on these challenges in the entitlement programs, and we look forward to working with Congress to make progress.

Robert, from Snohomish in snohomish county wa. state writes:
Why is the VA being underfunded?

Joel Kaplan
As a former United States Marine (fyi, you’re allowed to say “former Marine,” but you’re not allowed to say “ex-Marine”), I can’t tell you how proud I am to work for a President who cares so deeply about the fighting men and women of this country. President Bush is committed to Americans who have served our country in uniform, and the 2007 Budget makes sure that the government continues to provide the same medical care that has set a national standard of excellence for the health care industry. As President Bush took office, the number of new enrollees unable to get an appointment was over 175,000 and last year it dropped to less than 23,000. The VA medical care system leads the pack in using high standards and technology to improve the quality of health care. Next year’s budget contains the largest annual discretionary increase ever requested by a President for the VA. I would also point out that since coming to office, the President has increased discretionary Veterans Affairs funding by over 67 percent. This increase in funding has helped us award disability claims faster and provide medical care to almost 100,000 returning Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom service members in 2005.

Joel Kaplan
Thanks everybody for all the great questions. While you’re online, don’t forget to go to our brand new website, “” where you can find information about which federal programs work, which don’t, and what we’re doing to improve them all. My colleague Clay Johnson, the Deputy Director for Management, is on “Ask the White House” on Thursday, and he can answer all your questions about ExpectMore. I hope you saved all your tough ones for him!