The Bush Presidency: An Analysis (Part IV)

I have praised President Bush for his policies to keep America safe from terrorism and for his Supreme Court appointments. Where, in my estimation, did he fall short?

Right from the start, I was bothered by his terminology, particularly his emphasis on “compassionate conservatism.” Now I know that may not seem like much to some people, and I also know that he took the title from an excellent Christian author, Marvin Olasky.

Yet it seemed to come across as a criticism of conservatism in general. It was as if we were now going to discover a new type of conservative, one we had never seen before, a “compassionate” conservative. And in too many minds, including, I think, the president’s, that meant more government spending to “help” people.

Let me make this clear: I want to help people. The issue is not whether people need help, but how that help is best delivered, and what kind of help is really needed. Just throwing money at a problem is not a solution. Neither is greater federal oversight of things like education. Setting up a program like No Child Left Behind may sound good, but why is this a federal issue? Whatever happened to the concept of federalism?

Spending soared during the Bush years. He rarely vetoed any spending bill. And for those who want to blame the spending on the Iraq war, here is an interesting statistic: defense spending is currently only 4% of our Gross Domestic Product, while the 45-year average is 5.5%. So it is not defense that is causing all this spending; it is domestic spending instead.

One prime example is the new Medicare prescription drug program that President Bush supported. It is now estimated that it will cost more than 1 trillion dollars (we’re getting used to those numbers, aren’t we?) over the next decade.

This house of money looks suspiciously similar to a house of cards–and that is what we are currently experiencing. More on spending in the next post.