Friday, April 21, 2006

The Ship of State Sinking in a Sea of Red Ink

Is Mark Hyman attempting to be “fair and balanced,” or is he simply joining the increasing number of Republican rats scuttling off of a sinking ship?

For the second day in a row, Hyman takes a swipe at Republicans, although, like yesterday’s editorial, it’s vague and misguided.

This time around, Hyman laments the lack of fiscal constraint among Congressional Republicans and the White House. He claims Bush hasn’t “met a spending bill he didn’t like,” and points out that Congress allocated $27 billion in “pork” projects last year.

Hyman is right in a sense, but wrong on the big picture. Yes, spending has swelled under Bush and the Republican-dominated Congress, with record deficits and a titanic national debt as a result. But this isn’t the result of mere pork barrel spending; it’s the result of the basic priorities of Bush and his fellow Republicans.

As large as it sounds, $27 billion is barely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to federal spending and debt. To put it in perspective, it’s only slightly more than the amount of
money estimated to have been lost annually in lowered tourism revenue from Arab travelers dissuaded from coming to our shores since 9/11. If you sliced out every one of the programs Hyman labels “pork,” the nation’s fiscal situation would be exactly the same. Whining about pork barrel spending is simply rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

If Hyman truly wanted to take on his fellow Republicans, he’d go after the fact that Bush’s regressive tax cuts sunk the nation into debt, after years of surpluses, and did so without doing anything for the economy. Rather than putting money in the pockets of middle America, Bush’s cuts targeted the wealthy, and in fact shifted more tax burden onto the middle and working classes.

He’d also take the president to task for waging an elective war in Iraq, sold to the American people on false pretenses, that has already cost a quarter of a trillion dollars, with no end on the horizon.

And despite what Hyman says, Bush has met spending bills he doesn’t like. In fact, the Bush administration
has cut lots of programs. The problem is that these programs are ones that actually help people, such as education, environmental protection, and support for small businesses, along with many “lifeboat” programs that are there to help those in dire straits.

Perhaps this is why
historians are already labeling George W. Bush the worst president in the history of the Republic. According to the most recent FOX News (!) poll, a growing number of Americans are coming to the same conclusion, with the president’s approval rating plunging to an abysmal 33% approval rating.

If Hyman wanted to help out the country’s finances, perhaps he should work to get a Democrat in the White House in 2008. It wasn’t that long ago that
President Clinton was announcing record budget surpluses. Even a brief glance a comparison of the Clinton and Bush terms in office reveal what a falling off was there when Dubya took office.

And it goes beyond Clinton and Bush.
Numbers from the OMB show that Reagan/Bush/Bush II administrations have all gone against the conventional wisdom that allowed all other post-war presidents (all Democrats and fiscally moderate Republicans) to keep the national debt moving down when compared to GDP.

But acknowledging the structural problems that created our current debt-ridden state would mean challenging some of the sacrosanct assumptions of modern conservatism, particularly that tax cuts for the wealthy and increased defense spending are philosophical and moral goods, regardless of the practical consequences.

Unless Hyman can shake these beliefs, his neocon heart will go on and on.

And that’s The Counterpoint.

Hyman Index: 3.70


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