Now the Bad News
Eight years of government expansion and political corruption was enough. The good news is that the Clinton-Gore era is coming to a close, and all their political appointees in government are starting to pack their bags.
For those who love liberty, however, the bad news is that fundamental freedoms will continue to be at risk. Nothing in the presidential campaign suggests that George W. Bush is anxious to do that much about it.
Consider Bush’s 457 page manifesto, Renewing America’s Purpose, where he lays out a plan that will actually end in expanding government intervention in our lives.
To his credit, Bush complains that the government takes more from us in taxes than the cost of food, clothing, and housing combined. True, but Bush’s plan will not change this fact. Even if there are no new programs enacted over the next five years, government spending will still increase. According to the Congressional Budget Office, total mandatory spending is expected to grow 31% by fiscal year 2005 (the fourth budget to be designed by the Bush administration). Medicaid will increase 49.6%, Medicare 44.4%, Social Security 27%, and unemployment compensation 47%. Bush is not calling for cuts in any of these programs.
But this is not enough for Bush. His scheme is loaded with new programs and increases in current spending levels. Consider Bush’s education proposals. Instead of demanding the elimination of the Department of Education, Bush would increase federal meddling in our local schools.
On top of current spending levels, Bush wants to spend your tax dollars to provide $5 billion to improve reading skills, $2.4 billion to recruit and train teachers, $1 billion for math and science education, $3 billion for an education technology fund, $500 million for states to improve student performance, $3 billion of loan guarantees for charter schools, $1.5 billion for a merit scholarship program, $2.4 billion for states to enact teacher accountability systems, and a $30 million increase in funding to encourage military personnel to become teachers. He also would increase funding for Black and Hispanic Colleges, strengthen the Head Start program, increase the maximum Pell Grant by over 50%, and expand loan forgiveness for math and science majors who teach in high schools for five years.
Bush also wants to increase federal regulations of our schools by requiring annual testing for students, report cards for schools, improvements in school safety, and increased teacher accountability.
But that is only the tip of the iceberg. To buy votes from seniors, Bush would provide them with a prescription drug benefit and catastrophic Medicare coverage, and spend $3.6 billion, over five years, to build 1,200 Community Health Centers. He would also entrench Social Security with one of the largest spending proposals in history. Instead of allowing people to plan their retirement by spending their money as they see fit, Bush would use tax dollars to fund personal savings accounts. This is not only an immense increase in spending, it also takes dangerous steps towards the socialization of capital markets.
In addition, Bush’s other funding proposals include an increase in defense research and development of $20 billion over 5 years, $1 billion to help "families in crisis," funding to make gun safety locks available "for every single handgun in America," $450 million annually to preserve natural resources plus $5 billion in the next five years to restore the national parks, $400 million for free internet access and computer training, an increase in agricultural emergency assistance, expanding government backed crop insurance and agricultural research and education, $1 billion in new spending for the disabled (remember that the elder Bush gave us one of the most oppressive set of regulations, the onerous American Disabilities Act), and increase the drug war, by increasing spending on interdiction, prevention, and treatment.
With this blueprint, and given that Republicans now control the presidency and both houses of Congress, expect government spending to grow more in the next four years than it has under Clinton in the past four years.
And Bush will not restore freedoms already lost. There are two prime opportunities to roll back intrusive government intervention. The attack on Microsoft demonstrates the need to scrap antitrust laws, and the current debate regarding gun laws provides us with an opportunity to regain liberties guaranteed in the Constitution. However, Bush assures us that existing antitrust and gun laws will be strictly enforced.
And he’s no better on trade issues, where he would increase the power of the presidency, calling for greater authority to negotiate trade agreements. Instead of free trade, Bush wants greater government management of our trade.
What about the vaunted Bush tax cut? While the economy will certainly be better off with Bush than Gore on this issue, tax revenues will still increase under Bush’s plan. They will simply increase at a slightly lower rate if his tax cut proposal is enacted. Bush’s tax plan reflects the views of his economic advisors: That is, tinker with the tax code but do not cut government revenues; merely find a tax structure that is seemingly more efficient. In this view, tax levels are not important, but finding the right tax is crucial.
This is wrong. As Austrian economists have explained, it’s not the type of tax that matters, it’s the amount of taxation. High taxes damage the economy no matter what tax plan is in place.
Under the Bush plan, our tax burdens will not be cut, rights already lost will not be restored, private markets will not be freed from bureaucratic interference, federal intervention in our schools will not be reduced, there will be no rollback in unreasonable environmental and workplace regulations, and the government will continue to manage our international trade.
This is antithetical to the principles of our country’s founders. Patrick Henry, my college’s namesake, argued that the establishment of "liberty ought to be the direct end of government." Instead of fostering liberty, the Bush plan will consolidate federal power and liberty will continue to be under attack.
But all of this comes from his words during the election. They are not set in stone. And perhaps the Bush team has learned something about the true nature and goals of its enemies during the post-election meltdown: they represent the class that lives off the leviathan state, which is another reason why leviathan ought to be dismantled.