Sunday, September 18, 2005

Can't Buy Me Love, No, Everybody Tells Me So

[[M I S C.]] * If George W. Bush thought he could restore the public’s faith in his leadership and boost his approval ratings by throwing billions of federal dollars at America’s storm-battered Gulf Coast, and by asking for no parallel sacrifices from taxpayers, he miscalculated. Instead, his actions seem to have blown the top off an already deep well of skepticism regarding his stewardship of the U.S. economy.

“Whatever his other accomplishments, Bush will go down in history as the most fiscally irresponsible chief executive in American history,” writes Newsweek international editor Fareed Zakaria in the magazine’s latest edition.

Since 2001, government spending has gone up from $1.86 trillion to $2.48 trillion, a 33 percent rise in four years! Defense and Homeland Security are not the only culprits. Domestic spending is actually up 36 percent in the same period. These figures come from the libertarian Cato Institute’s excellent report “The Grand Old Spending Party,” which explains that “throughout the past 40 years, most presidents have cut or restrained lower-priority spending to make room for higher-priority spending. What is driving George W. Bush’s budget bloat is a reversal of that trend.” To govern is to choose. And Bush has decided not to choose. He wants guns and butter and tax cuts. ...

Bush is not the only one to blame. Congressional spending is now completely out of control. The federal coffers are being looted for congressional patronage, and it is being done openly and without any guilt. ...

The U.S. Congress is a national embarrassment, except that no one is embarrassed. There are a few men of conscience left, like John McCain, but McCain’s pleas against pork seem to have absolutely no effect. They are beginning to have the feel of a quaint hobby, like collecting exotic stamps.

Today’s Republicans believe in pork, but they don’t believe in government. So we have the largest government in history but one that is weak and dysfunctional. Public spending is a cynical game of buying votes or campaign contributions, an utterly corrupt process run by lobbyists and special interests with no concern for the national interest.
“Hurricane Katrina is a wake-up call,” Zakaria opines. “It is time to get serious.” Politicians need to stop prioritizing ideological purity over pragmatism, he argues, and give Americans back the government they expect: one that leads, rather than making excuses for its inertia; and one that recognizes the private sector can’t make up for the failings of public policy. “We already pay for [the federal government],” he concludes. “Can somebody help us get our money’s worth?”

* * *

A new Rasmussen Reports survey finds that Bush did indeed loose support as a result of his speech on Friday in New Orleans. The polling company says that 35 percent of Americans now believe the prez has done a good or even excellent job handling Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, down from 39 percent before his televised address. Rasmussen notes, too, that the recovery spending plan Bush sketched out “has not been well received by conservative voters--just 43 percent favor the huge federal commitment ... while 37 percent are opposed. This is especially striking given how supportive the president’s base has remained throughout his administration.”

* * *

Chief presidential adviser Karl Rove perfectly reflects the arrogance, lack of compassion, and absence of honest compromise that Bush exhibits. As The Huffington Post reports, Rove spoke during an annual gathering of notables (including columnist Robert Novak, CBS-TV chief Les Moonves, convict celeb Martha Stewart, and others) at the Aspen, Colorado, home of Teddy Forstmann, chief partner of the New York equity firm Forstmann Little & Company, and an ardent Republican booster. Rove’s utterances were supposed to be off the record, but some concerned soul apparently fed them straight to the Post. Among “Turd Blossom’s” statements: the only mistake the Bush administration made vis-à-vis the August 29 hurricane was in not overriding the legal power of Louisiana authorities; America’s antiwar movement is non-existent, and no serious politician would show his or her face at an antiwar gathering; and Bush’s plummeting poll numbers can be attributed to the administration’s failure to adequately explain the success of the Iraq adventure to the public. Oh, and in a snarky aside, Rove--who’s been accused of criminally leaking the name of CIA agent Valerie Plame to the press, as retribution against her husband, administration critic and former ambassador Joseph Wilson--told his audience that he and Wilson go to the same Episcopal church, “but Joe goes to the wacky mass.”

* * *

Truly Stupid Statement of the Week: “I just wish Katrina had only hit the United Nations building, nothing else, just had flooded them out. And I wouldn’t have rescued them.”--FOX News blowhard Bill O’Reilly.

* * *

Finally, congratulations are in order for The New York Times, which was established on this date in 1851 by Henry J. Raymond, a onetime colleague of newspaper editor Horace Greeley and a founding director of the Associated Press, along with his partner George Jones. Originally called the New-York Daily Times, the paper acquired its familiar slogan, “All the News That’s Fit to Print” in 1897, supposedly as a jab against two other Manhattan broadsheets, Joseph Pulitzer’s World and William Randolph Hearst’s Journal-American, which had gained prominence by appealing to the public’s appetite for sensationalism. The Times started out publishing six editions per week, but added a Sunday edition during America’s Civil War. Today, the paper boasts 16 news bureaus around New York, plus 11 national news bureaus and 26 foreign news bureaus. Although conservatives often dismiss the Times as too liberal (read: It thinks Bush is not doing a good job), it persists in being one of the best-read papers in the United States, with a circulation 1.12 million per day and 1.66 million on Sundays. For a timeline of Times history, click here.

READ MORE:Will Katrina Change What 9/11 Didn’t?,” by Kurt Andersen (New York); “President Bush to America’s Millionaires: I Will Keep You Safe from Katrina Sacrifices,” Ed Markey (The Huffington Post); “Money, Money Everywhere,” by Howard Fineman (Newsweek); “Clinton Rips Bush Fiscal, Tax Policies” (ABC News); “Message: I Care About the Black Folks,” by Frank Rich (The New York Times); “The Presidency Shines (for Twenty-Six Minutes),” by Tom Engelhardt (TomDispatch); “Beyond Contrition,” by Eugene Robinson (The Washington Post); “What’s Missing in Bush: Struggle, Sacrifice, and Suffering,” by Katie McKy (The Raw Story); “Where Does Following Party Line Stop?,” by Leonard Pitts Jr. (The Seattle Times).

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