The Neocons and Me

Who can say when the mood will strike? I have been absorbed in my stupid job for the last month or so, interspersed with an intense period of anxiety (with good reason, I might add, but nothing you need concern yourself with) and a couple of trips to Niobrara – one good, one bad (see anxiety, above). More later on that. Maybe.

Meanwhile, here’s a political article–screed?–I wrote the other day for the local newspaper but won’t submit to them because I know they’ll try to “stupidize” it under the guise of editing or, more likely, won’t publish it at all because it’s too RIGHT ON, man.

This is an example of how I write when I think people are listening (as opposed to here, where I assume no one is). Anyway, feel free to quote liberally from it in your own diaries, memoirs, novellas, e-mails to left-leaning friends, and the like.


It has been said that the Bush administration’s approach to governance is so far removed from the way America’s business had been conducted in recent decades that “conservative” or even “ultra-conservative” is the wrong appellation for its agenda. “Radical” is the term for policies that result in unprecedented deficit spending (a projected trillion bucks over the next two years alone); the systematic dismantling of a generation of clean air and water acts and other conservation efforts; a sea change in foreign policy resulting in America’s first “pre-emptive” war and the abandonment of traditional alliances; economic policies devoid of any strategy apart from tax cuts; and…

Well, you get the idea. Remember the “age of consensus” predicted by the pundits after the 2000 election debacle? Remember statements like, “Without a mandate, Bush will be forced to govern from the middle?”

One problem with radical governments is that they don’t tend to listen to reason, nor do they respond to evidence that shows their policies aren’t working. Think Castro. You may have noticed that Bush keeps repeating that he is “confident” that he made the right decision to go it alone in Iraq, he’s “confident” that his tax-cut strategy will strengthen the economy, he’s “confident” that the deficits will not be a burden on future generations, and so on. No doubt an admirable attitude in an individual, the downside of Bush’s confidence, for Americans, is that it is divorced from reality.

The facts are these:

  1. The Iraq war, still costing $1 billion a week, is not the war they sold us (which was a war to protect the U.S. from an Iraqi “smoking gun in the form of a mushroom cloud,” to quote chief scaremonger Condoleeza Rice). It may be, as Bush’s supporters claim, that Saddam “deserved” to go and the Iraqi people “deserve” liberation. But these notions, in terms of the war we bought into, are irrelevant. We’re not spending billions of dollars and sacrificing American lives to liberate other dictatorships. And that’s a good thing, because it would be a fool’s errand for us to spend untold billions in a Quixotic effort to save the world while our own country falters economically.
  2. The first tax cuts, in 2001, obviously did not turn the economy around. Insisting that more tax cuts are the answer is, to say the least, lacking in imagination. To say more, it is like cutting off your right arm to cure a cold because cutting off your left arm didn’t work.
  3. Deficits are now projected at about $1 trillion over the next two years. But let’s not soften that with an abstract word like “trillion.” The deficit is projected to be $1,000,000,000,000. That’s 1,000 billion dollars. Or, to put it another way, paying off such a debt at a million dollars a year would take a million years. And that’s not including interest. But it won’t be a burden to anyone—of voting age.

One of the defensive refrains from Bush supporters goes like this: Bush “inherited” the sour economy from Clinton, and 9/11 was the end result of malfeasance on the part of the previous administration. The popular argument here is one of “cleaning up someone else’s mess,” which understandably is more difficult than getting into that mess in the first place.

But here’s the problem with that – it is now late 2003. Pretty soon, we’ll be deciding who the next president will be. If we must base our assessment as to responsibility for the current state of the union on the policies and actions of an administration that left office almost three years ago, then our decision becomes quite complicated. In effect, it won’t matter whom we elect, because Bush’s present policies will just be kicking in around mid-2006.
Note to Democrats: keep this argument handy in case your guy gets elected and things stay bad until the 2008 election cycle ramps up.

Politicians campaigning for re-election either love or hate that Clintonian question, “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” It worked for Clinton in 1992 and, significantly, again in 1996. It may be simplistic, but it’s at least an objective measure people can use—as opposed to trying to gauge the “dignity” level of the White House—to decide who should lead them.

So are you better off? Are we? Is the world?

To paraphrase George Eliot, we can be forgiven if we sometimes mistake brazenness and confidence for actual ability. But we should eventually come around to a pragmatic view of things and put competent people in charge if they can be found. I consider myself a centrist—I have no party affiliation—but to me the situation is plain. We can do better than we’re doing economically because we have in the recent past; we can balance the budget because we have in the recent past; we can protect the environment for the future from those who do not consider the future; and we can find a way to safeguard this country while promoting peace and an open society—because although it’s a new challenge, it’s the right thing to do.

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