By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
But it’s on the home front where the administration has truly been performing the hesitation waltz -- moving gingerly to the center only to step back reflexively to the right. In the immediate aftermath of September 11, the Bush White House -- which right up to that moment had been even more relentlessly anti-statist than Reagan‘s -- recognized the need for both an active and responsive government and for meeting the Democrats halfway in crafting a domestic response to the war. Perhaps just as remarkably, public opinion on the role of the public sector also underwent an overnight transformation. Suddenly, not one-third of the public but two-thirds said it trusted the government -- a figure not seen since the ’60s, when the Vietnam War began to erode the government‘s credibility.
Despite the public’s common-sensical turn toward government, the Bush administration has recently been turning every which way. Federalizing airport security -- a system currently farmed out to private-sector contractors who almost everywhere pay their screeners the minimum wage -- makes a good deal of sense if you want to upgrade the position to one that genuinely provides security. Though it has passed the Senate, the airport-security bill has run smack-dab into a wall of Texan ideology in the House: The administration and House GOP honchos Dick Armey and Tom DeLay all say that the proposal must be greatly weakened, that expanding the government is, in effect, a greater evil than letting the occasional terrorist slip through. (Texas Republicans have also sought to block efforts to strengthen the government‘s oversight of banks, the better to detect money laundering of the kind the bin Laden network practiced. Phil Gramm in the Senate and the dynamic duo of Armey and DeLay in the House have opposed this legislation at every turn, to the point where a non-Texas Republican -- Iowa Senator Charles Grassley -- called the House leaders “unpatriotic.”)
More generally, the administration and House Republicans seem to view this war as a continuation of Republican economics by other means. The bailout of the airlines sailed through Congress without any accompanying language providing aid to unemployed airline employees -- with Democratic acquiescence due to the urgency of saving the airlines. (Time will tell if the Democrats were snookered.) House Republicans are backing an economic-stimulus package that will do precious little for the economy, but will throw yet more money at the rich. On a party-line vote, the House Ways and Means Committee approved a bill that cuts the capital-gains tax and that will direct $21 billion to global finance companies like Citicorp and AIG, which do much of their business overseas. With the economy going south, however, there are a limited number of capital gains on which taxes can be cut. A real economic-stimulus measure would not only help low-income workers, as the bill does, but also provide special assistance to workers in the travel and tourism industries, and, as economist James K. Galbraith has suggested, provide bloc grants to the states so they don’t have to make the kind of cutbacks in spending they are currently confronting. (Gray Davis has just suggested a 15 percent budget cut may be necessary in California.) When states cut budgets, the economic impacts -- on the poor, on school construction, on employment levels -- can be devastating.
In the world according to Tom DeLay, the right way to deal with the anthrax terror most likely isn‘t to bolster our public-health services but to entrust this to the private sector -- say, the pest-control industry, where DeLay labored before he went to Congress. Let’s hope the Bushmen aren‘t thinking that way, too. If they are, maybe you should get some Cipro after all.