Monday, October 24, 2005
The Savior of the Right?
I used to think David Brook, the conservative columnist at the NY Times, was reasoned -- even though I didn't agree with many of his conclusions. But he's jumped off the sanity wagon this week with his editorial about Bush and "new conservatism".
In the editorial Brook argues that Bush is really the savior of conservatism since he has "modernized and saved it". Central to his argument is that 90's conservatism was "adrift and bereft of ideas" and that voters preferred Democratic ideas on domestic and international policies issues by 20 point margins.
So what has Bush done to "save" the right? Well, he's adopted some of the rhetoric of the left with compassionate conservatism but left the job of implementing social and international policy to corporate America and "the market". We've seen the result of that: energy and pharmaceutical company profits are breaking records each quarter while the cost of drugs and oil continues to climb... Spending on homeland security has gone through the roof while we are demonstrably less able to cope with disasters at home than we were 6 years ago. His foreign policy -- well, bankrupt in a word... (didn't we just take 5 years to come to an agreement with N. Korea that is essentially the same as where we left off with Clinton?).
Far from saving conservatism (or the country) all he's done is spend twice the money on half the return. Just look at interest payment on the debt as expressed as a percentage of federal spending: It is climbing rapidly and will be likely be a huge problem for future administrations and a huge drag on the economy. Look at entitlement spending (prescription drugs). It has sky-rocketed but the benefit seems to have accrued to the pharmaceutical companies more than medicare patients.
Alternately, the long-help premise of non-interference in your private life -- a long held conservative value - has been abandoned. This administration feels that it is its duty to dictate morality from on-high.
What's Bush has figured out is that people want government to address our social problems -- but in a fiscally responsible way. By playing to that desire he was able to get elected. But once there, he's done less-than-nothing to address those wishes. I say "less-than-nothing " because he and his administration have a contempt for government involvement in the market and believe that unbridled capitalism is really the cure for what ails us. His policies exemplify this: give money back to corporate America and they (in the context of the free market) will address the public's needs. Bush uses the language of compassion, but governs with a laisser-faire attitude with a healthy dose of cronyism.
The result is a government that spends our money but has little direct accountability as to the results.
When this administration has "mobilized government", he's done it with a complete lack of sincerity and understanding of the agency's relevance: e.g. - Anyone that would put a Horse Association adjudicator in the top disaster preparedness organization in the country clearly has no interest in using government to address our problems. This is just the tip of the iceberg...
If Bush has saved conservatism, it would have been better for us to pull the plug. Failing that, we should shoot it and put it out of our collective misery.