Thursday, September 22, 2005

Stupid or worse?

E.J. Dionne gives his generous interpretation of Bushco's fiscal policy:
At least the Operation Offset crowd has produced this list of cuts and forced its own leaders to disown them. The exchange showed how fundamentally stupid our budget policies have been over the past five years -- and, yes, I'll defend that strong word...

Why describe our government's fiscal policies as "stupid," rather than, say, "ill-advised" or "misguided"? The softer words of conventional opinion writing imply disagreement but suggest an honest coherence in the other side's view. Hey, we all disagree on stuff, right?...

Which brings us back to that word "stupid." My dictionary tells me it means not only "lacking in ordinary intelligence" but also "dazed" and "stupefied." The crowd running our government is dazed and stupefied by a theory that sees throwing ever-larger sums to the wealthy in the form of tax cuts as so good, right and important that all the ordinary rules of finance and economics can be thrown out the window. If it was already stupid to pursue more tax cuts once the country decided to wage a large war on terrorism, it is supremely stupid to stay on the same course now that Katrina has added to our fiscal burdens and Rita, God help us, threatens to add more.

Dionne points out the current chasm in the Republican party, between the group of "fiscal hawks" which wants to cover added costs by slamming today's poor, and the White House-led faction which simply doesn't care about how anything should be paid for. While Dionne considers it a strong step to call the latter point of view "stupid", I'll take the view that it's both too generous a phrase, and wrong in its analysis of Bushco's motivations.

Rather, the right word is somewhere between "ruthless" and "malicious", though I'm open to suggestions as to even better fits. By completely ignoring the fiscal impact of current policy, Bush is managing to tie the hands of whoever succeeds him, ensuring that whatever future tax increases are necessary as a reaction to his tax-cutting must be used first to pay off his debt, rather than to repair the ever-increasing damage done to groups who don't form part of his core constituency.

Sure, there's some dishonesty in any claims of fiscal responsibility. But the bigger harm lies in the honest pursuit of a Norquistian "death to effective government" philosophy. And if Bushco's architects were genuinely stupid, they wouldn't have done quite so well at not only controlling the trappings of power, but also undermining bureaucratic and social systems built to outlast any one regime.

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