Towards A Good Samaritan World

Friday, January 14, 2005


I invested a lot of hope and youthful idealism in Bush this past year. In "Bringing Neoconservatism Home" I wrote:

George W. Bush, like Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy, is a man on whom privilege has had a salutary effect. He is able to stand taller, think bigger, see further, to rise above the mud-slinging media and keep his eye on America's ideals...

I was even more enthusiastic in "George W. Bush for President":

"Transformational" is the word for George W. Bush. His has been a transformational presidency—transformational for the economy, transformational for foreign affairs and the world order, and transformational of George W. Bush himself... Bush has accomplished plenty, if anything, too much. After a landmark tax cut, a new prescription drug bill, an important education reform, and two wars to overturn totalitarian regimes, the public is gasping for breath...

Bush's principles—freedom, opportunity and accountability—are simple, yet their consistent application is so revolutionary that even after four years of Bush a vote for him is a venture into the unknown.

So far, I'm thrilled with my choice. Bush is on a roll.

This Tech Central article reviews the Bush economy in the past four years. While you've probably figured out by now that the weak economy was smoke-and-mirrors, but it's nice to read the details. This news about unemployment was especially interesting:

As one can plainly see from the following chart, unlike the data depicted by the Establishment Survey [which shows an increase of 2.2 million in 2004, reversing the job losses early in the first Bush administration], the Household Survey shows an increase of 2.5 million jobs since Mr. Bush took office, and a 4.5 million rise from the January 2002 recession low.

So, why the huge disparity in these reports? Well, since the Establishment Survey only includes people who are employed by companies or governments, it fails to address -- as the Household Survey does -- those who work for small businesses, or are self-employed, consultants, or independent contractors. For instance, mortgage brokers, insurance agents, accountants, beauticians, manicurists, lawyers, etc. This is why the Establishment Survey is actually understating employment by about 8 million workers. Consequently, the jobs picture in our nation is much stronger than has typically been reported.

This suggests that the apparent high unemployment may have been a side-effect of changing economic structure, a shift towards more self-employed and more contractors-- a change for the better. Meanwhile, the deficit is shrinking on the strength of strong economic growth.

Bush, meanwhile, is headstrong, bold, and right. In a recent interview, he mentions two big issues to push on the domestic front during his second term:

At home, I'm really excited about working on some big issues: Social Security and immigration reform, policies to keep the economy growing.

Wow! He couldn't have picked two better issues to focus on. The odd thing is that they're both, at bottom, left issues. Or should be. Social Security is funded by the most regressive tax in our system, and distributes money mostly to the middle class, including many with incomes over $75,000. And immigration is one of the rare issues where freedom (from fear, to work) and equality (it helps the poorest people in the country) are on the same side. And on both issues he is challenging public opinion: Social Security is the legendary "third rail" of politics, and immigration touches on sensitive issues on sovereignty and the privilege of birth in a rich country.

Bush could end up in the same position as Tony Blair, standing for lofty principles of freedom and justice in the face of a skeptical and hostile public, and facing down revolts within his own party:

Tancredo, who heads up the 71-member House Immigration Reform Caucus, said he is determined to block the legislation and is arguing for stronger policies to block illegal immigration.

"Why is this so important to the president?" Tancredo was quoted as saying. "Is it just the corporate interests who benefit from cheap labor? Do they have such a strong grip on our president so that he is actually willing to put our nation at risk, because open borders do put our nation at risk? Is it petulance, because we were able to stop it in the last Congress? Why is it so important to give amnesty to people who have broken the law?.”

Because it is right, Mr. Tancredo. Because it is just. Because we must treat our fellow human beings with respect, particularly those who are less fortunate than we are, but who are trying to improve their lot through honest labor. Because Bush is a man of conscience.

All I can say is: O Captain my captain!


  • I have to say, I'm not usually very excited when I hear Bush quotes (you know me), but this one gave me an emotional rush. Yes!! Yes!! Social security reform needs to be done, and though it could be done wrong or right, I'm glad Bush is tackling it (though the regressive tax cuts make me question his efforts somewhat). But naming immigration reform as one of two main domestic agendas--Hallelujah! This is such a basic issue of injustice, so deeply ingrained in our greedy, nationalistic (often racist) society--for George W. Bush to stand up and say, "Let's let these Mexicans (or whomever) have a decent living, legally," is such a beautiful thing. May God give him the grace to follow through, and may He change hearts throughout the Capitol to bring about greater justice for foreigners in the US. (Which, after all, is mostly a nation of once-despised immigrants.)

    By Blogger Seth Wilson, at 6:00 AM  

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