Today's Opinions, Tomorrow's Reality
Not Bad, For a President
By David G. Young
Washington, DC, May 29, 2001 --
Four months after becoming president, George W. Bush has managed to usher in a surprising number of positive changes. So many, in fact, that I've been a bit embarrassed that my regular agreement with his actions will earn me the title of -- heaven forbid -- supporter.
Could this possibly be? Could George Bush II turn out to be the kind of president a libertarian like me could appreciate, especially given the deplorable record of the first president George Bush, whose administration gave us more government, higher taxes, recession and war?
Chief among the junior Bush's accomplishments would have to be the tax cut bill passed over the Memorial Day weekend. The $300 I can expect to get back this year may not be huge, but it is at least noticeable. And someone in my bracket will even get a reduction of three percent off his income tax bill when the lowest rates go into effect five years in the future.1
The best thing about the cut is that with the money back in taxpayers' hands, a spendthrift congress will have a much smaller surplus to misdirect to pork programs and federal bloat. The specter of deficit spending may not have worked well to keep government small in the past, but it was far more effective than the tempting sight of a big fat surplus.
Bush's other positive accomplishments rest largely in the military sphere, where his role as commander in chief has allowed him to move quickly without the need to involve congress. He quickly killed the insane Clinton policy of requiring the American military to be able to fight two simultaneous regional wars -- major conflicts the size of Korea and Iraq. This policy change instantly removes the justification for retaining the unreasonably huge size of the American military -- a combined strength of 1.4 million men and women.2
Secondly, Bush has moved to focus a larger part of the defense budget on missile defense. This expenditure is unusually appropriate for the defense budget, because -- unlike other military expenditures -- it might actually lead to a system that would defend the taxpayers who pay for it.
Of course, this policy change has created a fair amount of ill will for America by governments around the world. Between this and Bush's undiplomatic pull-out from the ridiculously flawed yet sadly popular Kyoto climate treaty, governments and citizens around the world are exhibiting a great deal of intense anti-bush sentiment that could degrade quickly into anti-Americanism.
And there are countless other Bush mistakes, ranging from his embarrassing choice of Attorney General to his support for increasing the federal education bureaucracy, and his congressional bullying that (for better or worse) will soon lead to a Democratically-controlled Senate.
Am I a Bush supporter? Of course not. The tax cut is miniscule compared with what it should be. Any proposed military cuts only begin to scratch the surface of what should be done, and thousands of American troops remain stationed in Germany with nothing to do while the taxpayers are increasingly vulnerable to a missile attack. Bush's positive actions are relatively meaningless, and to be fair, it's not entirely his fault. Rarely do politicians cause important positive developments.
So why do I show any appreciation for Bush? Because it is just so rare to see a president actually doing something positive -- no matter how small -- rather than making patronizing speeches or seeking politically aggrandizing policies. In this way, Bush took me a bit by surprise. Clinton had at least one good act at the beginning of his first term -- the imposition of the "don't ask don't tell" policy in the armed forces, but he quickly descended into the destructive populism of Hillary's medical socialization campaign. With Bush's tax cut passed and the Senate in the laborite hands of Sen. Tom Daschle (D-SD), legislation to finally shatter my remaining hope for the Bush presidency can't be far behind.
1. The Washington Post, For Many Taxpayers, a Check Will Be in the Mail, May 21, 2001
2. Defense Almanac, Total Active Duty Military, September 30, 1998