Monday, February 07, 2005

Feb. 4-6, 2005


By George, I think I’ve got it! It’s finally became clear what’s at the core of the neo-conservative agenda. It took me four years to sort it out, but I have now enough pieces of the puzzle to figure out the picture.

The core of the neo-conservative philosophy is that the federal government’s sole legitimate role is to provide for the national defense. Everything else is socialism. But, historically, that has been a losing fight. For two hundred years conservatives have fought virtually every move to expand federal reach into domestic issues.

Regulating interstate commerce is about the limit of what conservatives feel government’s role in business should be. And even there, they think the feds are still sticking their noses into places they don’t belong.

But the smoke really starts coming out their ears when they talk about the many ways government has expanded its reach through social programs.. or what they derisively call “social engineering.” This would include such programs as Head Start, Medicare, Medicaid, the Departments of Education, Health and Human Services and the granddaddy of social programs, Social Security.

So I suspect that Bush’s second term will be a full-throttle push to roll back as many of these non-defense programs as we let them get away with.

Of course, none of this slashing and burning will be sold in that way. Every program cut will be dressed as either a way to “save” an outdated program or an accounting change.

Need proof this is what’s afoot? Just look at the stories in today’s paper:

- President Bush will propose squeezing substantial savings next year from domestic programs, giving them less than the 2.3 percent increase they would need to keep pace with inflation, the White House budget director said Thursday.

- White House budget director Joshua Bolten provided no other figures or examples. But from his description, it was possible that such programs -- from buying parkland to training unemployed workers -- would get no more than the $391 billion the White House says they are receiving this year, or even less.

- Bush will propose combining 18 community development programs and cut their total spending by more than $1 billion. The largest is the $4.7 billion community development block grant, which assists more than 1,000 communities per year. Also affected are efforts for rural housing and economic improvements for Indian tribes.

- The administration projects it can squeeze $60 billion over the next decade out of the Medicaid program for the poor and the disabled, and funnel that money into other health projects.

- Bush administration officials laid out proposals on Thursday for deep cuts in spending on housing and community development … on 18 programs, which include the Community Development Block Grant, a lifeline for many impoverished urban neighborhoods. For the new program, Mr. Bush will request that funding for these programs be cut by a third.
Don Plusquellic, the mayor of Akron, Ohio, who is president of the United States Conference of Mayors, said: "It would be more honest if the federal government simply said, 'We don't care about these poor people." The White House responded that Mr. Bush believes that communities must not "rely on perpetual federal assistance."

Juxtaposed against those stories with this news flash:

Bush's favored programs at the Pentagon will grow by more than 2.3 percent. President Bush will seek $419.3 billion in U.S. defense spending for 2006, a 4 percent increase over the current $401 billion military budget.

Ronald Reagan was the first modern day Republican to reopen this federalist debate when he declared, “Government is not the solution to problems. Government is the problem." But Reagan’s attempts to trim domestic spending failed miserably. Neither Republicans or Democrats could not resist increasing spending on domestic programs that bought them easy votes back home.

Bush (or more likely Karl Rove) learned from Reagan’s mistake. That’s why the first thing they did in their first term was to strangle off the flow of money -- taxes. By cutting taxes by nearly $1.8 trillion, then starting a war, Bush left congress with little choice but to cut domestic programs, even as he asked them to increase defense spending. He knew that no member of congress – in either party – would want to be accused while running for reelection of caring more for homeless “bums” than hometown G.I.’s fighting in Iraq.

Bush’s first four years set the stage by creating the need for the massive military spending now required for the foreseeable future. He whacked that hornet’s nest and, as he knew would happen, all hell broke loose. Mission accomplished.

The tax cut and war set the stage for the real Plan A – getting the federal government out of the social work business. Federal programs that subsidize housing, healthcare, reproductive science and services, education and the arts will be cut and/or shifted to already hard-pressed states.

Bush calls his vision the “ownership society.” What he is expressing is his neo-conservative belief that Americans should not only own their own homes, cars and big-screen televisions, but should also their problems. If a person needs health insurance, well, go buy some, why should the government provide it? If a person wants a secure retirement, well, set up your own a retirement account. If you want a house, go to the bank, get a loan and buy one, for Christ sake. What business of the government’s is it, any way? And provide rent subsidies to the poor? That’s a problem for the states, not the feds.

That’s a rough draft of the neo-con version of an “ownership society.”

If you could go back to medieval England you would see where such a care-less form of central government leads. The wealthy owned lots of stuff. Meanwhile all the poor owned was misery, hardship, disease, squalor and despair. At the same time Merry ole’ England’s navy and empire grew – along with the number of nations, their resources and people England “owned.”

Of course it would be unfair to suggest that Bush believes that’s how his ownership society will turn out. In fairness he really does believe that, given the incentive to do so, most people will succeed in life and that all that is currently holding them back is the “soft bigotry of low expectations” -- supported and encouraged by federal government coddling.

We cannot blame Bush for holding such a naïve belief since he was a success the moment his big ears cleared the birth canal. If you want a rundown of Bush “business career” click HERE for a full dose. If not suffice it to say he was carried every inch of the way up the ladder of success by the Bush Family Texas crew.

If George Bush had been born in Detroit as George Whankeroski I guarantee you, he would have left no footprints in the sands of history. A few empty beer cans, maybe, but no footprints.

If the neo-cons are successful in gutting three quarters of century of domestic programs, what will emerge is America as Sparta. We will become a nation with youngsters eager to join the military because the only other alternatives are low paying service jobs without health coverage or a future. And we will become - may have already - a nation with an aggressive foreign policy that can best be summed up as “What are you looking at? You want a piece of this? Huh? Huh?”

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Friday that a U.S. attack on the Tehran regime is "not on the agenda - for now.”

I just wanted to share this thought so that, as his second term moves forward, you can run what he says and does through this filter. What is he really up to? Is he really trying to mend Social Security or end it? Is he really trying to fix Medicare, or just lure it behind the barn to shoot?

You be the judge.

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