Sunday, September 25, 2005

The socialism of George W. Bush

Is President Bush a socialist? In today's Sunday Times (of London, not New York), Andrew Sullivan, libertarian extraordinaire (more or less), makes the case that he is. Consider the facts: "When you add it all up, you get the simple, devastating fact that Bush, in a mere five years, has added $1.5 trillion to the national debt. The interest on that debt will soon add up to the cost of two Katrinas a year." That's a lot. But there's more: "LBJ boosted domestic discretionary spending in inflation-adjusted dollars by a mere 33.4%. In five years, Bush has increased it 35.1%. And that’s before the costs for Katrina and Rita and the Medicare benefit kick in." That's also a lot.

Clinton and the Gingrich-led Congress were far more fiscally responsible than Bush and his largely sycophantic Republican-run Congress. Remember those surpluses? Blame some of Bush's spending on 9/11 (and now on Katrina and Rita). But those unjust and irresponsible tax cuts? And that corporate-friendly Medicare package? And those agricultural subsidies? And all that pork?

Now even hardened, ideological partisans like Ann Coulter and Peggy Noonan -- two of my least favourite right-wingers -- have broken away from the Republican ranks and spoken out against Bush's fiscal nonsense. Sullivan:

Conservatives have been quietly frustrated with Bush for a long time now. Honest neoconservatives have long privately conceded that the war in Iraq has been grotesquely mishandled. But in deference to their own party, they spent last year arguing that John Kerry didn't deserve his Vietnam war medals. Social conservatives have just watched as the president’s nominee for chief justice of the Supreme Court pronounced that the constitutional right to abortion on demand merited respect as a legal precedent. This hasn't cheered them up. The nativist right, long enraged by illegal immigration, has been spluttering about foreigners for a while now. But since few want to question the war publicly, oppose the president’s nominees to the court, or lose the Latino vote, the spending issue has become the focus of everyone’s discontent.

Bush certainly isn't an old-fashioned socialist. He's not raising taxes and inflating government and redistributing wealth in order to establish greater economic equality. In fact, Bush's corporate cronies are getting richer even as poverty is getting worse. But in this sense Sullivan is right: "If you take Margaret Thatcher’s dictum that a socialist is someone who is very good at spending other people’s money, then President Bush is, er, a socialist."

President George W. Bush. He's a Republican, he calls himself a conservative, and his supporters, conservative or not, are blinded by partisanship.

Welcome to the new face of American socialism.

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