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January 28, 2003

the State of the Union

I'm less reflexively anti-Bush than many of my friends and family members, and I didn't hate the State of the Union. But the "compassionate" parts are disturbing—as a reflection of our political culture, if not of George W. personally. The two new domestic programs (addiction treatment and mentoring) combined will cost about one third of $1 billion a year. That's one six hundredth of the average annual cost of the proposed tax cuts (if one assumes that the alternative minimum tax will be reduced, as everyone expects). Since we are running huge deficits, this $1 billion of new compassion is not actually spending; it's borrowing against future generations. I don't necessarily think that these particular programs should be larger than Bush has suggested; it's just that a president should not be able to distract attention from major issues by proposing such tiny initiatives. (Clinton, of course, mastered this art under the tutelage of Dick Morris). As for the AIDS funding for Africa—it's welcome. But we have a clear and unavoidable moral obligation to spend modest amounts of money to lengthen millions of human lives, so the self-congratulation that accompanied this announcement is annoying. Apparently, there was no prior consultation with African governments, so this was effectively manna from heaven. And there was no hint that maybe the high cost of drug cocktails results from patent laws in rich countries.

January 28, 2003 5:04 PM | category: revitalizing the left | Comments


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