CBO Predicts Bigger Deficits

Even before the cost of Hurricane Katrina is added to the federal ledger, a Congressional Budget Office study commissioned by Democrats predicts that President Bush will fail to keep his promise to cut the deficit in half by the time he leaves office.

The study by the nonpartisan CBO assumes that Congress will heed Bush's call for new tax cuts and for making those passed in 2001 and 2003 permanent. It also assumes a big slowdown in spending on the Iraq war, tight caps on domestic agency budgets and new individual Social Security accounts.

The study was requested by Rep. John M. Spratt Jr. (S.C.), the ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee. He says it reflects a likelier budget scenario than CBO's official estimates, which do not foresee new tax cuts.

The study predicts that the $331 billion deficit projected for the current budget year would rise to $370 billion by 2009, the year Bush has promised to cut the deficit at least to $260 billion. Bush promised to cut the deficit in half based on a projection in February 2004 of a $521 billion deficit for 2009.

By 2015, the deficit would hit $640 billion under CBO's study.

"Under CBO's new analysis of the Bush administration's policies, every vital sign of the budget grows decidedly worse over the next 10 years," Spratt said.

The White House Office of Management and Budget predicts a 2009 deficit of $162 billion.

Abuse of 9/11 Loans Targeted

Congress will investigate the "flagrant abuse" of a federal loan program designed to help businesses recover from the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and will make sure such a problem doesn't occur with Hurricane Katrina relief, a key Senate Republican announced yesterday .

Sen. Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine), chairman of the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, announced the investigation in response to an Associated Press report Thursday that showed the federal program is so loosely managed that it gave low-interest loans to companies that did not need terrorism relief or even know they were getting it.

"The apparent widespread abuse of loans provided through the Supplemental Terrorist Activity Relief Act is nothing short of an outrage," Snowe said.

U.S. Killed 2.7 Million Animals

The government killed more than 2.7 million "nuisance" animals last year, including wild turkeys and chickens, black bears, coyotes, and wolves, but primarily starlings, troublemaking birds that destroy crops and contaminate livestock feed. They were killed mainly because they threatened livestock, crops or people in airplanes.

Wildlife Services, an Agriculture Department program, kills black bears that like to eat campers' food in public parks and birds that congregate near airports and could get sucked into aircraft engines.

The number of animals killed, an increase of 1 million over 2003, drew criticism from environmental groups. "The toll on ecosystems wrought by this one agency is jaw-dropping," said Wendy Keefover-Ring of Sinapu, a Colorado-based advocacy group for wolves and other predators.

-- From News Services