Tuesday, January 23, 2007

State of the Union: Bushed

What's new? Nothing from the Bush administration. The State of the Union address was, once again, depressing nonsense: another insistence that private enterprise and free markets, not government, are the road to economic strength, followed by a long list of half-baked proposals for numerous government interventions... another insistence that the federal budget must be balanced (in someone else's Presidency) and entitlements curbed, followed by a list of plans for more government spending ("Affordable Choices" grants, what is this foolishness?)... another denunciation of Al Qaeda and talk of an ideological struggle, followed by a call for more troops to fight someone else's civil war and maybe attack Iran.

My favorite part was Bush's realization, nearly explicit, that his war destabilized Iraq and has raised the possibility that an extremely hostile regime might arise, and that the rest of the Middle East might be drawn into a greater conflict over this. This damned fool has learned, far too late, why his father did not overthrow Saddam Hussein when he had the opportunity.

Creepier was his call for a civilian volunteer corps that will go overseas to support the military with "critical skills." Presumably he doesn't mean anything like the women's auxilliary that accompanies la Legion Etrangere, but then what does he mean? I guess it's just more of the militarization of American society, but what's this about key non-military skills... aren't the Republican cronies at Halliburton and Bechtel up to the job? Is this the cost reduction miracle that will balance the budget?

More sabre-rattling at Iran, more promises of money for poor Africans, more yakking about how decent and honest America is, more empty claptrap. The address was quite empty, especially in the context that the Democrats are unlikely to pay any attention to any of this. Domestic legislation will come from the Democrats. Bush's foreign policy and military policy will (I hope) be constrained by them. I would love to see some gridlock, but on domestic issues, Bush is unlikely to offer any principled opposition, since he has no particular principles, and is likely to sign whatever nonsense they present him.

As for the Democrats' response..."Are the benefits of our growing economy fairly shared?" followed by an attack on those who earn more than average and some lies about American jobs being exported and the like, nonsense about how wonderful the minimum wage is, and promises to do more to "fix" the distribution of "the benefits." Jabbering about "robber barons" who "rake in "too much of the national wealth," with apparently no recognition that "the national wealth" is actually created by individuals, who own what they create.

The grumping about Bush's horribly mismanaged war was right on target, but is, in the end, pointless. The Democrats have no idea what to do with a lost war either, and in the end will be satisfied with carping while Bush presides over the debacle.

So in sum: from Bush, nothing other than a muddled and spiritless endorsement of the status quo. From the Democrats, dumping Iraq in the President's lap and threats of income redistribution, and likely some big government programs to do this. Bleccchh. I vote for gridlock!

You wrote: ""the national wealth" is actually created by individuals, who own what they create."

... except for the fact that most individuals who create wealth rely on public infrastructure to do so, from reliable roads and utilities to an educated workforce, from public waterways to police protection of individual property.

It's *hard* to figure out what to fairly charge people (in the form of taxes) for the use they make of our common resources, even before you add in differing philosophies about how progressive tax rates should be.
Thank you for your comment, Aliza.

I agree that people who create wealth do depend on gov't-provided public goods and other gov't provided (non-public) goods, but that really has nothing to do with arguments for income levelling or attacking CEOs and others earning above average incomes. We certainly can't attribute CEO success to public goods, since we all have essentially the same access to those goods. And the wealth the CEOs create doesn't somehow represent a "cost" to the rest of us, nor does it raise the cost of public infrastructure to us.

Hence I am not at all budged by the issues you've raised.

How much we should be taxed for the use of "common resources" is tricky. Some of these "common resources" ought to be privately provided (e.g. utilities where publicly owned), and some (e.g. war on Iraq, drug war, farm subsidy programs) ought not be provided by anyone.

Whether or not true public goods could and should be privately divided (a la anarcho-capitalism) is an issue that I should post on at some later date.
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