Monday, June 09, 2003

Peter G. Peterson, a self-described life-long Republican and a founder of the Blackstone Group, has a powerful piece in yesterday's New York Times Magazine, indicting the current generation of Republicans and specifically the Bush administration. The charge: total fiscal irresponsibility that led us from the biggest projected surplus in history to the largest projected deficit, in just two years.

Abandoning the fiscal stewardship that was the overriding principal of the GOP prior to Reagan (remember "voodoo economics"), the party has become hooked on tax cuts as a cure for all evils -- or at least the prescription for continual re-election. Peterson writes:

"The numbers are simply breathtaking. When President George W. Bush entered office, the 10-year budget balance was officially projected to be a surplus of $5.6 trillion -- a vast boon to future generations that Republican leaders 'firmly promised' would be committed to their benefit by, for example, prefinancing the future cost of Social Security. Those promises were quickly forgotten. A large tax cut and continued spending growth, combined with a recession, the shock of 9/11 and the bursting of the stock-market bubble, pulled that surplus down to a mere $1 trillion by the end of 2002. Unfazed by this turnaround, the Bush administration proposed a second tax-cut package in 2003 in the face of huge new fiscal demands, including a war in Iraq and an urgent ''homeland security'' agenda. By midyear, prudent forecasters pegged the 10-year fiscal projection at a deficit of well over $4 trillion."

What a waste. The list of things this administration has squandered just keeps getting longer. The surplus. International goodwill following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The environment. Peace. Prosperity.

And, of course, "Homeland Security." Fred Kaplan writes that Ridge continues to be nickel and dimed in the face of very real threats such as a shoulder-fired surface to air missiles, like the one used to fire at an El Al flight recently (it missed). Meanwhile, the Bush administration dumps $9 billion per year in a missile defense program that not only hasn't proven will work -- or be necessary -- the Pentagon is cancelling future tests of the thing so as not to delay deployment.

Will it take a Hooverville in Lafayette Park to change the direction in Washington?

Speaking of steering the country back to pre-1934 days, I have always felt there is something messianic and even revolutionary about many members of the Bush administration, especially in the DoD. In their actions and public comments, they have a fire-breathing 'tude that reminds one of the former sixties leftists who have now become card-carrying members of the radical right, like David Horowitz. Having seen the other side and reformed, they now feel they are uniquely qualified to know the transperent wrong-ness of that side and are charged by god to testify to the fact. But even I was surprised to see the six-degrees of separation the Bush administration has from Leon Trotsky.


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