American Proscenium

The Bush Economic Agenda

Energized by his election as if it were a landslide, President George W. Bush proposes to spend his “political capital” on an ambitious economic agenda headed by reform of Social Security and the U.S. Tax Code.  The President’s candor in acknowledging that the deficits and tax cuts of his first term—the “Wall Street Relief and Bush Reelection Acts”—will make it harder to achieve his new agenda raises questions about the qualifications Team Bush brings to the task of cutting through these two Gordian knots.  President Bush did not secure a mandate for these goals from the electorate; opinion polls show that the public prefers a reduction of deficits over a reform of Social Security and taxation.

The reduction of the federal budget deficit should be the first priority of the economic agenda.  Bush has proposed to halve the federal deficit by pushing social-welfare spending off onto the already beleaguered budgets of the states and delaying the modernization of defense rather than rescinding any of his tax cuts or addressing the generous agricultural and corporate-welfare payoffs and other political pork that rewarded donors of his first-term victory.  Déjà vu of another Texan, Lyndon Johnson, he is still vacillating between “guns and butter” by opting for both.

The Bush plan for Social Security would offer younger workers the...

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