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At least the Bush foreign policy has a patina of idealism. The President's economic policy does not. All previous rules of fiscal responsibility have been tossed aside. A round of tax cuts was, perhaps, a justifiable response to the recession in 2001. But those cuts were followed willy-nilly by a second round and, worse, by a blizzard of monster concessions to corporate interests. A recent example is instructive: this month Congress hilariously transformed the closing of a $5 billion tax break for exporters, which was required by a World Trade Organization ruling, into a $137 billion luau for special interests, including NASCAR track owners, railroads and makers of fishing-tackle boxes. It used to be that such bills came with matching revenue-raising provisions. Not in this Administration. The President signed the fiasco, as he has every other spending opportunity to reach his desk. This, in a year with a $413 billion deficit.
There has been no responsible long-term economic planning, little thought given to how we pay for the coming baby-boom retirement. Or how the rapid industrialization of China and India will affect the American middle class: the issue is not just jobs, but also soaring prices for commodities like oil. Or how long can we sustain a global economic system in which the combined U.S. budget and trade deficits soak up 79% of the world's savings, as they did in 2003. Given the deepening evidence of American unilateralism and fiscal irresponsibility, the world may soon find more pressing priorities than the financing of our extravagant lifestyle.
And yet this President stands an excellent chance of winning re-election. The Bush campaign has successfully, and with considerable help from John Kerry, painted the Democrat as an effete, irresponsible weakling without core convictions. Which is ironic, because Kerry offers a return to Nitzerian policy seriousness. But two days after Paul Nitze died, the Massachusetts Senator, who once criticized Bush for prancing around in a flight suit on the deck of the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln beneath a MISSION ACCOMPLISHED banner, could be found prancing about the backwoods of Ohio costumed as a hunter on a wild goose chase. Those two macho, flamboyantly phony images--fighter jock and gooseslayer--are the sad legacy of this election year.