[Homestead] Bush second term

Tvoivozhd tvoivozd at infionline.net
Sat Sep 4 15:08:13 EDT 2004

Here's a real optimist.  A 180 degree reversal is possible for someone 
who cannot go for a third term and who has been harboring thoughts about 
leaving a legacy of some permanent value beneficial to the average citizen.

Well, not 180 degrees, maybe about 100 degree change in direction.  
There will certainly be no Bush-directed change in environmental 
destruction, none in a rational energy policy, and nothing that would 
reduce healthcare costs by half in a Universal National Healthcare 
system as proven in every other major country.

And getting through any of his reversed objectives through a 
GOP-controlled Congress would be like pushing a grand piano through a 
giant vat of glue.

 The New York Times
September 4, 2004
Bush's Second Term

White House aides like to say that George W. Bush is a transformational 
president. That's an exaggeration, but if he's elected to a second term 
and acts on the words he uttered on Thursday night, he just might be.

He's already gone a long way to transform the Republican Party. This was 
a party united by the idea that government is the problem, that it 
should be radically cut back. On Thursday night, Bush talked about 
government as a positive tool. "Government must take your side," he 

He went on to propose a sprawling domestic agenda. Many of his proposals 
are small or medium-sized, and media rebutters have complained that not 
all of them are new (which is a ridiculous way to measure a policy 
idea). But cumulatively, they really do amount to something.

Bush proposes to build community health centers, expand AmeriCorps, 
increase the funds for Pell Grants, create job retraining accounts, 
offer tax credits for hybrid cars, help lower-income families get health 
savings accounts, dedicate $40 billion to wetlands preservation, and on 
and on and on.

This is an activist posture. As Karen Hughes said on PBS on Thursday 
evening, "This is not the grinchy old 'Let's abolish the Department of 
Education or shut down the government' conservatism of the past."

The biggest proposals, which could really make history, were only hinted 
at. But Bush understands the crucial reform challenge: "Many of our most 
fundamental systems - the tax code, health coverage, pension plans, 
worker training - were created for a world of yesterday, not tomorrow. 
We will transform these systems."

In his speech, he redefined compassionate conservatism. The faith-based 
initiatives are now only a part of a much bolder whole. Bush declared 
that government should move energetically to help people get skills and 
to open opportunities. "Government should help people improve their 
lives, not run their lives," he said. That is the essence of the party's 
new governing philosophy.

The Bush agenda has been greeted with a wave of skepticism from my 
buddies in the press corps. How's he going to pay for all this? Why 
didn't he do more of this in his first term? Why was he so vague about 
the big things? Won't he sacrifice it all on the altar of tax cuts?

But, of course, he's not going to tell us at the peak of the campaign 
season about painful spending decisions. He's not going to specify who 
is going to get gored by tax simplification. No competent candidate has 
ever done that, and none ever will. That doesn't make the policy ideas 

The fact is, it would be bizarre if a re-elected Bush didn't have a 
magnified domestic agenda. Periods of war are usually periods of 
domestic reform because war changes the scale of people's thinking. It 
injects a sense of urgency. You can see this evolution in the 
president's own thinking.

When he ran in 2000, it sometimes seemed that he was running for 
governor in chief. But now he is thinking like a president, and his 
domestic notions are growing to match his foreign policy ones.

Obviously, the administration will have to make some tough decisions. 
First, it will figure out which of the many proposals it wants to do 
first. The obvious thing is to do tax simplification first because 
fixing up the tax code lets you eliminate distortions in health 
competition, saving patterns and a bunch of other areas.

Second, the White House will probably have to choose between reforming 
entitlements and making the tax cuts permanent because there isn't 
enough money to do both. This is an easy call. Sacrifice the tax cuts. 
If entitlement programs aren't reformed, we'll be looking at a lifetime 
of tax increases. Modernizing the welfare state is a much bigger deal 
than some three- or four-point cut in the top marginal tax rate.

It should be said that I do have a voice in my head that says this is 
all a mirage - that all the reform ideas will be tossed aside for the 
sake of favors for the K Street crowd. But one can sense a tide in the 
affairs of government.

Republicans who embrace this limited but energetic government philosophy 
are in the ascendant (look at the convention speakers). Many Republicans 
and Democrats are coalescing around these ideas (in truth, several of 
Bush's ideas are lifted from centrist Democrats). Besides, Bush may 
flesh out and promote this big agenda, if only to spite his media critics.

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