Bush's "New Deal" is Bad for America
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina's devastation, President Bush seems to have come to the conclusion that $200 billion of reckless spending may go an awfully long way towards bolstering his sinking popularity. "Why, if we can't earn their approval the old fashioned way through performance, we'll just buy it" I can hear Karl Rove telling him. Let's look at the numbers for a second as an important backdrop to Bush's New Deal. According to the latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, Bush's job approval is just 40%, the lowest of his presidency. On the foreign policy front, the poll also finds that only 37% of respondents approve of his handling of the Iraq war, 55% want to reduce the number of troops, and 75% now believe the U.S. is unprepared for a nuclear, biological or chemical attack. Domestically, polls show just 38% approve of his handling of the economy, and 53% think the country's headed in the wrong direction. And regarding the crisis in the Gulf, since his address to the nation last week, just 35% approve of Bush's response to Hurricane Katrina, and 37% of blacks believe that the administration would have acted with greater urgency had the affected areas been mostly white suburban communities. And to pay for the reconstruction, 45% believe we should cut Iraq war spending, followed by 27% who want to repeal tax cuts, 12% who want to cut federal spending in other areas, 8% who want to increase the deficit and 7% who want to raise income taxes.
At his speech last week, Bush declared "it'll cost what it costs" to rebuild the region, adding it'd have to come at least in part from cuts of other government budgets (i.e. health, education, transportation). But in the days since, it's become quite clear to frustrated lawmakers on both sides of the aisle that saying he'll cut and actually cutting are two very different things. Remember, this is a president who never met a spending measure he didn't like. And now he's got delusions of being FDR, complete with his own New Deal and WPA, helping the poor and displaced in the Gulf. It's a very thinly-veiled ruse to stem the ratings tide and demonstrate leadership. But nobody's buying it. In fact, his ratings are lower since the speech.
Bush has got to start making some hard choices. His new Medicare benefits program will cost $1.2 trillion over ten years. Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) believes the government can save $40 billion if the program is delayed just one year. Or what about the bi-partisan proposal to cut parts of the new highway/transportation bill that could save $25 billion? Bush could also reverse the tax cuts for the wealthiest 1% of America and save another $37 billion. Or how about retaining the estate tax, which would keep $280 in the Fed's coffers from 2010-2015? And let's not forget the war, which is burning about $1 billion per day.
We're at an economic crossroads here. The current budget deficit is at $353 billion, and should rise to an historically high $520 billion by 2008, according to the very conservative Heritage Foundation. Such reckless spending--for national disaster recovery, public works or just plain pork--without the appropriate offsets from other budgets, is both irresponsible and dangerous to America. How much debt can we rack up before the bubble bursts and sends the economy spiraling into full-blown recession? And is there a limit to the amount of debt we should saddle future generations of children with? I don't normally agree with Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), but he's 100% correct when he says: "It is inexcusable for the White House and Congress to not even make the effort to find at least some offsets to this new spending." And Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) criticized Bush for his lack of "presidential leadership" in being able to make difficult economic choices. These are Republicans talking! And with great cause. The GOP has its eye trained on the mid-terms next year, and will fight tooth and nail not to go down with a sinking ship. Bush, for the very first time in his presidency, is lost in a political Bermuda Triangle trying to stay afloat amid the Perfect Political Storm. And this time I think he's going down. Andy