Towards A Good Samaritan World

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

John Dickerson complains that:

Bush was harsher and more partisan than last year, when he was hoping to persuade some Democrats to support his signature proposal...

Tonight he framed the choices in more starkly political terms, as he did during his 2004 election year State of the Union speech: "We will choose to act confidently in pursuing the enemies of freedom—or retreat from our duties in the hope of an easier life. We will choose to build our prosperity by leading the world economy—or shut ourselves off from trade and opportunity. In a complex and challenging time, the road of isolationism and protectionism may seem broad and inviting—yet it ends in danger and decline."

In 2005, Bush cast himself as groping for solutions to national problems together with Democrats. Tonight, he depicted those who oppose him as lazy, retreating, and negative. "There is a difference between responsible criticism that aims for success, and defeatism that refuses to acknowledge anything but failure," he said later in the speech. "Hindsight alone is not wisdom. And second-guessing is not a strategy." He welcomes criticism in theory. But in practice, he sees it all as defeatism, second-guessing, and 20-20 hindsight.

If Bush became harsher and more partisan this year, there's a reason. The Democrats had a chance to cooperate, to tackle a major issue in a responsible way together with him. He was willing to make the overall tax-and-transfer system embodied in Social Security considerably more progressive. The Democrats refused to cooperate, choosing instead to keep in place a system that uses the proceeds of America's most regressive tax to pay benefits mostly to the middle class and the rich. Social Security is a deeply perverse program, undermining the national savings rate and thus the investment that will fuel future growth, impoverishing people in the years when they should be raising families, transferring massive amounts of money to people who didn't really earn it and who, in many cases, don't really need it... It's headed for insolvency, which is entirely demonstrable on the basis of reasonable economic objections.

Bush tried to say a bunch of nice things about the Democrats. He gave them some credit, for example, for the culture of "personal responsibility" that has been gaining strength. But the Democrats are just not a respectable political party anymore.

Come to think of it, I wish he had been more partisan.


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