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.
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.
I don't even see anything bad about entitlement programs, in the abstract. They are something to be debated, discussed, weighed and otherwise judged. Part of this process is figuring out how to pay for them. Is the XYZ program important enough to raise taxes?
Right now there seems to be little discussion, least of all about payment.
You cannot expect anything less from this rag.
I was in the grocery store earlier today,and a tabloid headline caught my eye...something about (and I am paraphrasing) "the pressures of hurricane Kartina & Iraq are driving Bush back to drink."
Leave it to The Enquirer. I wanted to grab every issue of those tabloids & throw them in the trash on my way out. (But,then I weouldn't be any better than the leftists,now would I?)....I quelled my urge and grumbled to myself as I walked out of the store,satisfying myself with just putting a copy of another magazine over top of it.
I'm just a poor "working grunt" who is pleased with the transition of "Clintonianism" to "Bushism"(if you insist on making it a one person issue) which has shown to be a transition to enough is enough from we will just get along.
The maintaining of market value in dire times created by 9/11, the bull by the horns attitude to take the war from our own turf to a front overseas, the line drawn to maintain political and judicial sanity, and the well formed political agenda which struck at the heart of liberal "fanaticism" to finally after 50 years to put it on the decline.
The list isn't big, however it is a profound and effective one with strength to endure.
Ask any true liberal what their attitude is of George W. Bush is and the answer obtained will prove to show the progress achieved in itself.
He!!, when was the last time in your life that just the right of "conceal and carry" was at the front of media coverage?
A doom and gloom attitude will promote just that.
Doom and gloom.
Well said, JOE and to further that ideal, the Legislature IS voted into office, not appointed....
That is a very good point. If program XYX really is so vital to our nation, then we shouldn't have a problem raising taxes to pay for it. As you point out, these discussions never even take place.
This is very similar how many people have a problem seeing credit card spending as "real money". With a credit card, they spend money on all sorts of things they don't really need and certainly wouldn't buy if they had to use cash.
"real enemies ... the legislature. America doesn't have a king, it has a president."
Well put. "Enemies" isn't the word I'd use for Congress, but I would say they're cowardly and are the larger part of the problem. Bush has failed to lead on spending issues, that's for sure. But Congress is the main problem.
You should. Here's why:
I don't see much doom or gloom from where I'm sitting. Many, many people I know are doing a whole lot better than just a few years ago. The days of high six figure bonuses are back on Wall Street. Unemployment is low. Crime is down. Etc. etc.
But, I don't know how much of that is due to legislation.
None of the people who you are arguing with is proposing that the legislature bears no responsibility for spending. But you seem intent on ignoring the constitutional responsibilities of the President in regard to this.
Then what is it due to?
Logical fallacy. The enemy of your enemy is not always your friend. A famous example would be Nazi Germany and the Soviets.
The goal shouldn't be to upset liberals or leftists but to enact solid fiscal responsible measures. The GOP has failed miserably on that.
Do you believe that economic activity can only follow from government spending?
Joe, your stuttering....
It could be due to a lot of things. Homes have appreciated in value and people are pulling money out of equity to buy stuff. A huge influx of foreign money into the U.S. markets. Some geek sitting in his basement wrote a computer program that anticipates market changes more efficiently.
Then again, it could be due to the new tax laws, lower interest rates, and increased free trade.
Or, it could be a combination of all those factors.
It hasn't been the goal but it did.
It's not clear how Bush cannot be responsible for the spending bills since he has signed everyone of them without any reservation.
No, I'm not ignoring the Presidents responisibilties, i'm saying the ELECTED LEGISTLATURE is tha main problem.
There is no stuttering in that. God Bless all our people in uniform and America that they defend!
You will get no argument from anyone here that the GOP congress, especially the senators have been a huge disappointment.
That being said, congress has given Bush everything that he has asked for except in the area of judicial appointments. Bush would probably prefer spending bills that did not have so much pork, but he hasn't cared enough to veto one, threaten a veto or even complain about it.
He has also called for new entitlements that were his idea and did not originate in congress.
Thank gawd this, as of yet, hasn't become a function of government.
When the line of government assistance crosses the line to government dictation, when it comes to personal finances, then all freedom is lost.
People still have the right to be stupid with their finances and this maintains an atmosphere of person freedom.
And at the same time creates classes of the "haves" and the "have not's".
He has with a majority of support to do so from most American people! : )
There's going to be a lot of "haves" on Wall Street this year. I've never seen so many 28 year olds already spending those half million dollar bonuses.
How does that make him socialist?
There's the difference between him and Kerry. Kerry would have tripled my taxes.
Personally, I have never conveyed such an attitude toward GWB.
My understanding is that, more than ever, spending bills are not single issue/topic spending and designed to aviod a veto (especially with there being no line item veto). Bush is definitely not one to be negative, but the most appropriate place to put pressure is on Congress.
Why don't you just say you don't like President Bush. I'm not defending him, I'm defending his office. This is not personal it's AMERIACA. Why don't you see if you can take on 535 guys by yourself.
I trust you don't consider that to be a bad thing?
Your being "conservative" in your statement aren't you. ; )
Since I have no dog in that particular fight, I judge it to be a source of amusement. There are few things more interesting than a 28 year old running around Manhattan with a half million dollars burning a hole in his pocket.
I don't dislike him. I do dislike the spending that the GOP has engaged in and President Bush has been a prime mover in the effort.
My allegiances are not a man or his career, but to the nation and the constitution. The spending that President Bush has signed into law is bad for the nation so he should be taken to task on that matter. This is not a small issue either.
It is not clear why creating new entitlements that we do not have the money to pay for is a good thing if a person with an (R) next to their name proposes it.
"In any case, it's still a gross exaggeration to call the President's extravagance 'socialism'."
The word "socialism" is one of the most misused and misunderstood terms on these kind of boards. Almost any spending is "socialism."
Also remarkable is for five years Bush has done what he has yet people still mark him as a victim.
Fact is he is a corporate conservative. If the corporation profit from government assistance, he gives it, if they want to profit from decreased regulation, he gives in the name of "free markets."
Bush made his money as a corporate conservative - the Arlington stadium subsidies.
Until "conservatives" call Republicans on a balanced budget and figure out that the hints they might do something about social issues like abortion are insincere we will continue to see these bizarre discussions wherein Bush is a paragon of conservatism and if conservative principles are not evident he's a victim.
To a small degree the deficits are not his fault. To the budgets he proposes Congress adds about another 5% of pork - so he's responsible for about 95%.
In reality Bush has endorsed a program that is one of the most socialistic in US history - his Social Security reform plan (what we know of it.) He wants to take surplus funds from treasury notes and convert them into stock - a massive governement ownership of the "means of production." The verbal trick hiding the socialism is calling the scheme "private accounts."
"Why don't you just say you don't like President Bush. I'm not defending him, I'm defending his office. This is not personal it's AMERIACA. Why don't you see if you can take on 535 guys by yourself."
Having the ability to take on 535 guys by himself is one of the requirements of the office of President.
That would require a "black and white" mindset.
It's much easier to say nothing at all at 100 words a minute via conversation, when the liberal "gray thinking" is used as an approach to confronting realism.
This way it is much easier to debunk the truth.
"There's going to be a lot of "haves" on Wall Street this year. I've never seen so many 28 year olds already spending those half million dollar bonuses."
Big year for them and their partner lobbyists. CAFTA, drug company subsidies posed as charity, reducing the bankruptcy rights of the middle classes, etc.
Rational economic profit strategies dictate better efficiencies by giving political parties campaign money to change laws than making and selling products.
If a credit card company lowers your minimum payment but triples your bill, are you really ahead?
The tax cut was a very good thing but should have been followed up with spending cuts. As the deficit gets bigger and bigger, the tax cuts will be blamed rather than the spending and it will poison the public against future tax cuts.
Deficit spending is a de facto tax increase. The money that is borrowed has to be paid back, with interest.
It all makes sense now. You live in a black and white world were President Bush must be 100% correct on all things or 100% wrong.
I'm a realist....
It can all turn on a dime and frequently does, though most people don't believe that.