The Note: Follow The Money

Economist Thomas Saving (!) makes the case for entitlement reform in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, projecting that current programs will ultimately be underfunded by $74 trillion. Not that he's pushing for personal accounts, as his well-edited last paragraph makes clear.

Bush agenda:

A new regulatory reform push from the Bush Administration is in the works, the Wall Street Journal's John McKinnon reports.

"The stated aim is to improve the overall climate for U.S. manufacturing, a sector hammered by recession and overseas competition during much of President Bush's first term."

"OIRA gave what some experts regard as a preview of the regulatory-review effort in December, when it published several lists of rules for which either the administration or business and other private-sector groups had sought overhaul. Much of the new initiative is expected to focus on industry-nominated changes. But an OMB official said yesterday only that the agency was finalizing plans to release its report on rules to be revisited. OMB will take into consideration the recommendations it received but "won't necessarily implement all these," the official said."

The New York Times' Todd Purdum Notes that even Democrats like Sen. Edward Kennedy give President Bush some credit for the transformational developments in the Middle East and quotes a White House official who urges caution over triumphalism. LINK

The 's Jim VandeHei re-caps the President's comments yesterday at National Defense University that democracy is the antidote to terrorism. LINK

The President made it clear he's not backing down from his push to bring democracy to the Middle East, writes USA Today's Richard Benedetto. LINK

Who knew the process for selecting a White House chef could be so political? LINK

(The answer: all Note readers!!!)

Big casino budget politics:

The Washington Post's Shailagh Murray (Welcome!) and Jonathan Weisman curtain-raise the House and Senate budget and tax packages to be unveiled today, Noting that tax cuts remain part of the deal despite steep spending cuts -- over the nervousness of some moderate Republicans who understand the symbolism of the action, and partly because the House will fight to cut taxes. LINK

"The push for more tax cuts will only complicate those spending fights, conceded a senior Senate GOP leadership aide, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the budget has not yet been unveiled. There is growing skepticism, on Capitol Hill and among lobbyists, that a budget can be achieved."

"'We just don't know where the votes are, but the first step is to get it out of the committee and get it to the floor,' the aide said. 'It's kind of the Wild West out there, and I just don't know how it's going to come out.'"

Potpourri:

You know by now that Steve Elmendorf, former Chief of Staff to Rep. Dick Gephardt and deputy cam . . . oh heck, he's just "Elmo" . . . and Jack Oliver, former deputy chair of the RNC and BC04 fundraising czar, are partnering to become the leaders of Bryan Cave LLP's public policy and governmental affairs strategy group.

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