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This article is illustrative of the points I made in Social Justice:  Eight Steps Forward that our elected officials respond to 4 primary influences, business (for they pay for the elections and control the press), their party, government, and last the electorate.  It is a complex balancing act whose results are in significant variance with the public wheal.  The article below organizes White House actions; its analysis is both informative and insightful.--JK  






THE NEW REPUBLIC Dec 15 '03       l  by Jonathan Chait  |
Is President Bush a conservative? His successful push for the Medicare bill, as well as his unsuccessful (for now) push for an energy bill, they have prompted another round of gentle tsk-tsking by conservative pundits. "One side advantage of the measure is that it should, at least, retire for good and all that absurd claim that President Bush is some kind of ideological extremist," writes former Bush speechwriter David Frum in National Review Online . "It's sobering to consider that with the prescription-drug benefit, George W. Bush has created the first major new federal entitlement since Gerald Ford signed the Earned Income Tax Credit a quarter-century ago. If that isn't 'moderation,' what is?"


This argument betrays a common misunderstanding of the precise nature of the president's right-wingery. Bush's extremism does not lie in the purity of his devotion to the teachings of Milton Friedman but rather in the slavishness of his fealty to K Street. The distinction is a fine one, but it's highly revealing. In most instances, being pro-free market and pro-business amount to the same thing. Businesses usually want the government out of their way, which is why the business lobby threw its weight behind Bush's efforts to cut taxes, scuttle workplace safety standards, and so on. The way you tell the difference between a free-marketer and a servant of business is how he behaves when the interests of the two diverge. And all the evidence, including the Medicare and energy bills, points to the conclusion that Bush is happy to throw free-market conservatism out the window when business interests so desire. 

Consider, for instance, the $180 billion farm bill signed by Bush in 2002. The notion that taxpayers should subsidize farmers rather than, say, butchers or t - shirt salesmen represents the most archaic and unjustifiable kind of government intervention. But farmers have lots of clout in Washington, in part because they're relatively affluent (farm households earn more on average than non-farm households) but mainly due to the disproportionate representation of rural states in the Senate and electoral college. In the course of showering federal largesse upon farmers a year ago, some senators tried to mitigate their shame slightly by limiting payments to $275,000 per farmer. Republicans removed this modest measure. Bush also capitulated to the textile and steel industries by imposing tariffs on competing imports, overruling the advice of his economic advisers. (Only after steel-consuming industries complained and the World Trade Organization ruled the tariffs illegal did Bush finally relent.) 

A cornerstone of Bush's domestic policy is his aptitude for economic giveaways that are supported by neither liberals nor true conservatives--indeed, that are supported only by those who profit from them monetarily or politically. Take the energy bill, which lavished subsidies upon favored industries. Not only did environmentalists and mainstream liberal economists denounce it, so did conservative scholars at think tanks like the Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute. Everything you need to know about the politics and policy of the energy bill is contained within one sentence that appeared in The Washington Post last month: "The assembled lobbyists--representing farm, corn, soybean, wind, geothermal, coal, oil and gas interests that benefit from provisions in the 1,100 page bill-- gave [GOP Senator and energy-bill champion Pete] Domenici a standing ovation, and he thanked them for helping to push the legislation to the brink of passage, according to one person present." 

Similarly, the Medicare bill, supposedly evidence of Bush's moderation, is in fact typical of his domestic agenda, which revolves around granting favors to powerful interest groups. Again, most of the major liberal and conservative think tanks opposed the bill. But the pharmaceutical companies were ecstatic with it: Not only does it subsidize drug purchases, it specifically prohibits the federal government from using its negotiating power to hold down the cost of the drugs it purchases. (Got that? Those who spend your tax dollars are forbidden from striking a good bargain with the drug companies.) The American Medical Association was brought on board with a promise to boost Medicare reimbursements. And employers received federal subsidies--more than twice what they requested--to help cover the cost of their retirees' health care. As Thomas Scully, the Bush appointee who heads the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, put it, businesses received "way beyond their wildest requests" and "should be having a giant ticker-tape parade." Perhaps deeming a ticker-tape parade unseemly, the Business Roundtable and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce instead launched a lobbying campaign on the bill's behalf. 

Note that all these measures would require the government to spend more money. But they triggered nary a complaint from conservatives. What they hated about the Medicare bill was the part about helping senior citizens buy medicine. When the government gives money to sick people, you see, that's incipient socialism. When it gives money to drug companies, doctors, and employers, that's the free market in action. 

All this is in keeping with the recent pattern of Republican governance. Last year, the Associated Press conducted a remarkable study showing how federal spending patterns had changed since the GOP took over Congress in 1995. Republicans did not shrink federal spending, it found, they merely transferred it, from poorer Democratic districts to wealthier Republican ones. This, the A.P. reported, "translates into more business loans and farm subsidies, and fewer public housing grants and food stamps." In 1995, Democratic districts received an average of $35 million more in federal largesse than Republican districts, which seems roughly fair given that Democratic districts have more people in need of government aid. By 2001, the gap had not only reversed, it had increased nearly twenty fold, with GOP districts receiving an average of $612 million more than Democratic ones. Justifying this shift, then- Majority Leader Dick Armey said, "To the victor goes the spoils." It would be a worthy slogan for Bush's reelection campaign. 


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Politican is another dirty word!

People get the politicians they deserve, for in office the average person would behave like them.

Politican is another dirty word!