Skip to comments.Andrew Sullivan: Is Bush a socialist? He's spending like one
Posted on 09/25/2005 10:56:29 AM PDT by Uncle Joe Cannon
September 25, 2005
The Sunday Times
Andrew Sullivan: Is Bush a socialist? He's spending like one
Finally, finally, finally. A few years back, your correspondent noticed something a little odd about George W Bushs conservatism. If you take Margaret Thatchers dictum that a socialist is someone who is very good at spending other peoples money, then President Bush is, er, a socialist.
Sure, he has cut taxes, a not-too-difficult feat when your own party controls both houses of Congress. But spending? You really have to rub your eyes, smack yourself on the forehead and pour yourself a large gin and tonic. The man cant help himself.
The first excuse was the war. After 9/11 and a wobbly world economy, that was a decent excuse. Nobody doubted that the United States needed to spend money to beef up homeland security, avert deflation, overhaul national preparedness for a disaster, and fight a war on terror. But when Katrina revealed that, after pouring money into both homeland security and Louisianas infrastructure, there was still no co-ordinated plan to deal with catastrophe, a few foreheads furrowed.
Then there was the big increase in agricultural subsidies. Then the explosion in pork barrel spending. Then the biggest new entitlement since Lyndon Johnson, the Medicare drug benefit. Then a trip to Mars. 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.
Remember when conservatism meant fiscal responsibility? In a few years, few people will be able to. I used to write sentences that began with the phrase: Not since Lyndon Johnsons Great Society spending binge. . . I cant write that any more. Johnson the guns and butter president of liberalisms high-water mark was actually more fiscally conservative than the current inhabitant of the White House. LBJ boosted domestic discretionary spending in inflationadjusted dollars by a mere 33.4%.
In five years, Bush has increased it 35.1%. And thats before the costs for Katrina and Rita and the Medicare benefit kick in. Worse, this comes at a time when everyone concedes that we were facing a fiscal crunch before Bush started handing out dollar bills like a drunk at a strip club. With the looming retirement of Americas baby-boomers, the US needed to start saving, not spending; cutting, not expanding its spending habits.
This was one reason I found myself forced to endorse John Kerry last November. He was easily the more fiscally conservative candidate. Under Clinton, the US actually ran a surplus for a while (thanks, in part, to the Gingrich-run Congress). But most conservatives bit their tongues. Bush promised fiscal tightening in his second term and some actually believed him.
They shouldnt have. When Bush casually dismissed questions about funding the $200 billion Katrina reconstruction with a glib Its going to cost what it costs, steam finally blew out of some loyal Republican ears. When the house majority leader Tom DeLay told the conservative Washington Times that there was no fat left to cut in the budget and that after 11 years of Republican majority weve pared it down pretty good, a few conservatives lost it.
Heres the chairman of the American Conservative Union: Excluding military and homeland security, American taxpayers have witnessed the largest spending increase under any preceding president and Congress since the Great Depression. That would be correct. When you have doubled spending on education in four years, launched two wars and a new mega-entitlement, that tends to happen.
Heres Peggy Noonan, about as loyal a Republican as youll find, in a Wall Street Journal column last week: George W Bush is a big spender. He has never vetoed a spending bill. When Congress serves up a big slab of fat, crackling pork, Mr Bush responds with one big question: Got any barbecue sauce?
Heres Ann Coulter, the Michael Moore of the far right, a pundit whose book on liberalism was titled Treason: Bush has already fulfilled all his campaign promises to liberals and then some! He said hed be a compassionate conservative, which liberals interpreted to mean that he would bend to their will, enact massive spending programmes, and be nice to liberals. When Bush won the election, that sealed the deal. It meant the Democrats won.
Consequently, Bush has enacted massive new spending programmes, obstinately refused to deal with illegal immigration, opposed all conservative Republicans in their primary races, and invited Teddy Kennedy over for movie night. Hes even sent his own father to socialise with ageing porn star Bill Clinton. Ouch.
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 didnt deserve his Vietnam war medals. Social conservatives have just watched as the presidents nominee for chief justice of the Supreme Court pronounced that the constitutional right to abortion on demand merited respect as a legal precedent. This hasnt 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 presidents nominees to the court, or lose the Latino vote, the spending issue has become the focus of everyones discontent.
All I can say is: about time. I believe in lower taxes. But I also believe in basic fiscal responsibility. If you do not cut spending to align with lower taxes, you are merely borrowing from the next generation. And if a Republican president has legitimised irresponsible spending, what chance is there that a Democrat will get tough?
This may, in fact, be Bushs real domestic legacy. All a Democratic successor has to do is raise taxes to pay for his splurge, and we will have had the biggest expansion of government power, size and responsibility since the 1930s. What would Reagan say? What would Thatcher? But those glory days are long gone now and it was a Republican president and Congress that finally buried them.
You might want to brush up on the constitution if that is what you believe. The president has veto power over legislation submitted by the congress. The congress can override the veto with a super majority but Bush hasn't even tried to veto anything.
It is highly unlikely that congress would have overridden any veto as they certainly didn't with Clinton. If pork barrel spending truly offended Bush then he would have vetoed the bills and asked congress to resubmit them without the pork.
Heck, Bush wouldn't even have to let it get that far. He could even threaten congress with a veto while they are formulating the legislation. Clinton and Reagan did that all the time and it's very effective.
This also ignores that fact that Bush has actually pushed for a lot of the "socialist" spending by the congress.
He sounds like a Democrat politician in the making.
Bush has been feckless. Don't kill the messenger.
More like tossing bones to keep them at bay while progress is being made.
And it has been made!
Why would he need to throw members of his own party a bone?
Regardless, what progress has been made? It is not clear how expanding entitlements and actually creating new ones can be construed as "progress."
Ya don't suppose "agenda" is at the core of his article do you?
Sulivan is certainly no friend of socialism.
As always "single point" people with their agenda get lost in the forest and lose sight of the overall progression achieved.
Can you provide a run down on some of the progress made on domestic issues?
Then who or what is he a friend of?
I'd suggest that a number of them need to be replaced.
Where I vote, we're pretty much stuck with either picking the better of the 'Rats seeking the nomination or the 'Rat more/most likely to lose to a alternative party candidate. The 'Rat primary is essentially the election these days (just like in Alabama in the 50's and 60's).
Maybe you ought to wake up. Yes, he can veto and they can over rule him. The elected legislature is you worst enemy not the executive branch. The President, you pick him from George Washington to George Bush had the same problem. SHOV OFF MISTER!
Anyone who endorsed Kerry, as Sullivan did, is not worth listening to on any issue.
Andrew is a sadly confused man. I read his website daily for at least two years after 9/11. Now I read it rarely.
He's become almost a full-time Bush-basher, and that just isn't interesting, especially when the bashing generally comes from the left.
While Andrew's fiscal conservatism may be genuine, he's a fool if he thinks Kerry would have been an improvement over Bush, even on that score.
Huh? I already pointed out that vetoes can be overridden but that the situation would be highly unlikely.
Regardless, why hasn't he tried? Why hasn't he threatened to not sign legislation into law unless it was fiscally responsible? Why hasn't he at least tried a veto? Why has Bush called for (and received) more and more entitlements and international spending?
I think what Jeff is trying to say is: every debt comes due, eventually. And there is a whopper of a debt on our horizon.
"Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become a Law, be presented to the President of the United States; If he approve he shall sign it, but if not he shall return it"
So, if the President approves of a bill, he signs it. As the current President has signed every single bill placed before him, it is not inappropriate to conclude that he approved of them all, and to criticise on the basis.
Your saying that 'he can veto and they can over rule him' as if that absolves him from any responsibility is absurd. He hasn't attempted to do so.
Deficit spending is almost always a bad thing to do. There are exceptions such as for a military action, but military spending is not what is busting this budget - new entitlements are.
With the military action in Afghanistan, it was a perfect time to clear out the fat in the federal budget, but instead the GOP actually created new entitlements.
True. "Capitalist" also, and others.
I do think that the Bush administration is of the ilk to which I refer as "faux socialist." That is to say that they implement and support many policies and agendas that are essentially socialist, but only because it serves their petty interests.
Right now, W and crew are global Marxists, redistributing wealth from the American poor to the Mexican middle class. But they only do that because it is financially profitable to them in the immediate sense, and I believe they perceive a megatrend that they hope will be politically profitable to them in the long run.
Wake up guys and learn who your real enemies are, the LEGISTLATURE. America doesn't have a king it has a President.