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Bob Gard rightly asks: "Where did you see reference to a 45% increase in defense spending? Next year's increase of $48B may be excessive, but it's orders of magnitude less than 45%". It came from a commentator, who must have been mixed up. Dealing in billions does befuddle us. Paul Simon comments on the budget and discusses charges that it does not help poor countries, a hot topic at the recent meeting of the World Economic Forum: "There was an approximately . 900 million increase in foreign aid this year; this is the first increase in years. It is less than 1/10th of one percent of the budget.The military got a very large increase and the President has indeed asked for 48 billion more. US servicemen got a (well-deserved) 4.6 percent increase, regardless of where they were stationed. Foreign service officers stationed abroad got 3.6. Hardship differentials at many very difficult Foreign Service posts like Phnom Penh were cut. The State Department's operating budget went up $300 million, the largest increase in many years. $200 million is for increased security; there is almost enough funding to build ONE new Embassy or consulate to modern security standards. Over 200 require upgrade or replacement. $100 million is for new hiring, mainly additional visa line officers, diplomatic security agents, and building specialists".

My comment: Following congressional haggling over the budget and related matters is a bewildering experience, trying to figure out what is really involved. I watched the opening session of a subcommittee looking into the Enron scandal. The time was largely taken up with an argument among subcommittee members as to whether witnesses should be sworn in. It became clear that the Republican chairman and his party colleagues wanted to prevent this so as to protect witnesses defending Enron. the number of Americans following these matters must be minuscule. How many follow the intricacies of the budget?

Ronald Hilton - 2/4/02