Higher and Deeper
The conservative war on the US government is proceeding steadily. BushCheney’s tax and spending policies are implementing the long term conservative strategy of destroying the government with debt and zero income. The past four years have seen Bill Clinton’s budget surpluses eradicated in favor of record deficits. It should be clear to all by now that BushCheney and the people that back him have no interest in managing the US government to benefit the national community. Rather, BushCheney, and his friends at the Federalist Society, Americans for Tax Justice and the Project for a New American Century are far more interested in using federal tax dollars to support wasteful, ineffective military adventures and unnecessary weapons systems while limiting domestic government to a very few basic functions. I think they support a national currency.
This rant springs from yesterday’s Washington Post report on the long term impact of BushCheney’s budget policies. The increased cost of the prescription drug benefit (from $400 to $800 billion) is only one of several initiatives where projected costs were lowballed to Congress using budgetary smoke and mirrors like delayed and partial implementation. Now that the prescription drug benefit is up and running, their full costs become apparent, creating a “budgetary landmine” for the next president.
“Congress and the White House have become adept at passing legislation with hidden long-term price tags, but those huge costs began coming into view in Bush's latest spending plan. Even if Bush succeeds in slashing the deficit in half in four years, as he has pledged, his major policy prescriptions would leave his successor with massive financial commitments that begin rising dramatically the year he relinquishes the White House....
...By the time the next president comes along, some analysts said, not only will there be little if any flexibility for any new initiatives, but the entire four-year term could be spent figuring out how to accommodate the long-range cost of Bush's policies....”
By the end of BushCheney’s term, government will be so mired in debt that it will have no ability to act on behalf of the community that created that government, except maybe to issue currency (which is likely to be of decreasing value) and provide for some form of national defense (although the steady depletion of US forces in Iraq and future BushCheney wars may not leave much else for defense). Federal programs in many areas–transportation, education, environmental protection, workplace safety,health care and others that benefit the population at large–will no longer be an option for addressing serious problems. Instead, those issues will be left to the various states and local governments. Although state and local governments play an important role in the US federal system, they often lack needed funds because of limited revenue sources. The federal government, able to draw on the wealth of an entire nation, is an important contributor to many state and local initiatives. In addition, effective programs and solutions often require national scope and authority in order to succeed. Without national leadership, necessary planning and coordination is lacking, states and localities can bid away environmental, labor and individual protections competing for business and industry.
Which, in the end, is what the conservatives want. They have never hidden their hostility to government that constrains private capital and corporate decision-making. No matter that these private decisions often have serious public consequences. To these ideologues, government is just plain wrong. For years their hostility was based on animosity toward the New Deal and they complained mainly about government spending and deficits. Beginning in the 1960's the conservatives began organizing seriously to dismantle the New Deal and within 20 years scored their first major successes with Ronald Reagan. Reagan was their wet dream come true: lower taxes, more military spending and actions, less regulation. The deficit, which had been at the center of conservative complaints for decades, became a non issue in the 1980's. In those years the deficit became a weapon to hamstring future presidents and Congress. Reagan did not answer all of the conservatives prayers but he did saddle the government with more debt than any of his predecessors.
Bush Cheney is the culmination of that conservative wet dream. Compared to BushCheney, Reagan was an ineffective piker whose legacy was a deficit that could actually be tamed by a Democratic successor. BushCheney is not going to make that mistake. Massive tax cuts, ever increasing military spending, questionable reforms and fiscal sleight-of-hand will leave the US government with a mountain of debt that will burden this nation for decades to come. In the meantime, well connected businesses and crony capitalists reap billions in profits while BushCheney mortgages this nation’s future.