The Bush Deficits and 'the Responsibility Society'

Email Print
FacebookTwitterShare

On
Friday, you may have seen or heard the federal budget deficit
for 2004 should set a record at $455 billion. That is up from
the previous record, set last year, of $374 billion. Did you know
that the White House considers this "good news"? Well,
they do. According to Bush's budget director, Joshua Bolton, the
"improved budget outlook is the direct result of the strong
economic growth the president's tax relief has fueled." Say
what? The White House reasons that since they projected an even
worse deficit of $521 billion last February, the current figure
signifies progress in deficit reduction. Talk about spin. The
deficit is growing worse every year under this president, but
his people are telling us it is getting smaller. I want to know
how people like Bolton sleep at night. Is it that they never had
any intellectual and moral integrity in the first place, or did
they just sell it for a paycheck and a brief flirtation with power?

Later
that afternoon, scanning the radio as I was driving to a local
St. Louis County park for my daily run, I hit upon coverage of
the president's campaign speech that day in Springfield, Missouri.
Here was the president, his voice full of derision and ridicule,
running down John Kerry: "He's spent nearly twenty years
in the federal government, and it appears he's concluded that
it's just not big enough. (Laughter from the audience) He's proposed
more than two trillion dollars of additional federal spending,
and he's just getting started. (More laughter) The problem is
he hasn't told us how he's going to pay for it. We can figure
it out, can't we? (Yes!)"

I
almost drove off the road. Here is a president, under whom total
federal spending has increased at its fastest rate since the Nixon/Ford
administration of the mid 70s, accusing his opponent of being
a big spender. Is the president not aware that he is guilty of
the very thing he is accusing Kerry? He sure doesn't seem to be.
It may be that he is simply incapable of the kind of conceptual
or analytic thought needed to see the contradiction between his
record and his words – or perhaps he is just self-deceived; maybe
it's both.

Nevertheless,
his advisers and speechwriters have repeatedly blamed everyone
and everything except the president for this fiscal meltdown.
They have the blamed the 2000 recession. Yet it was relatively
mild and short, ending even before Bush took office. They have
blamed the war. Yet, under Bush, domestic discretionary spending
has increased at its fastest rate since Nixon/Ford too. They have
blamed Congress. Yet his own party controls both the Senate and
the House, and he has yet to veto a single bill, propose any reductions
in spending, suggest abolishing an agency or program, or submit
a balanced budget.

Bush
has very definite ideas about personal responsibility. In almost
every campaign speech, he takes credit for inculcating "a
culture of responsibility in America." I don't believe it
has happened, but listen to the president expound on this theme
in Florida last March. "It's a culture of a country that's
changing from one that has said, if it feels good, do it, and
if you've got a problem, blame somebody else, to a culture in
which each of us understands we are responsible for the decisions
we make in life. … If you're a CEO in corporate America, you're
responsible for telling the truth to your shareholders and your
employees."

Ok,
Mr. President, but is it telling the truth to suggest that the
deficit is getting smaller when it is getting larger? And why
don't you take your share of responsibility for the soaring deficits
and out-of-control spending under your administration? After all,
your own budgets have been full of new spending. In the same speech,
you said that "it is the president's job to confront problems,
not to pass them on to future presidents or future generations."
Does that include the ballooning deficits and the seven trillion
dollar national debt? Is it not the height of irresponsibility
and hypocrisy for you to increase government spending, and then
pass the bill to future generations?

The
president never misses an opportunity of accusing John Kerry of
wanting to raise taxes. When he does so, his audiences invariably
erupt into laughter and applause. Yet we are at war. It is not
a war that I support or think necessary, but the president
says that our security, our freedom, our civilization, and the
peace and progress of the world depend on an American victory
over "terror." Well, if it so important, why is the
president not asking the American people to pay for it? Is it
not the height of political and fiscal irresponsibility to fund
such a vital war purely by borrowing? In four years, he has not
asked the American people to make the slightest sacrifice for
a war the outcome of which he deems will decide the future of
civilization.

Adam
Smith said that war should be financed by a direct levy on capital.
He was right. If the choice is between high spending and huge
deficits (the Bush plan) and high spending and balanced budgets
(the Kerry plan), I have to prefer Kerry and fiscal responsibility,
even if it means slightly higher taxes. I hope all good Miseans
will agree with me.

August
3, 2004

H.
Arthur Scott Trask, Ph.D., [send
him mail
] is an historian.

Email Print
FacebookTwitterShare