Bruce Bartlett: Bush Is An Imposter
No, not body snatcher imposter, but an imposter in terms of being a conservative. I have been feeling this way about Bush for quite some time now. Bush’s first reaction to any problem is to turn toward government. Government is what has brought about the new jobs he has been bragging about (and frankly it ain’t much to brag about, IMO). When it came to education, instead of getting government out of the way Bush shoved government even further into the picture, and in a way that may not be helping all that much. Then there is that gigantic atrocity known as the Medicare Prescription Drug Program, or as I like to call, the Black Hole. When in doubt George W. Bush’s first instinct is to turn to government for the answer and to make government bigger. In short, President Bush is an activist for bigger more intrusive government.
I know I’ll get many of the rightward leaning readers of this blog responding with lots of “Yeah, buts…” or “No, your wrong because….” The problem is that I’m not wrong. Consider the Medicare Trustees annual report that gave a projected cost Bush’s Medicare Drug Program of over $10.8 trillion.
So any attempt to point to Bush’s plans to overhaul Social Security pale in comparison I’m afraid. Bush doesn’t look at government with skepticism or distrust, but with the idea that if we just get it right it will work. This, Bartlett argues, is very much the mindset of a Democrat not a Republican (at least in the mold of Reagan) and certainly not in line with small ‘c’ conservativism.
Bartlett also advances the argument that Bush’s Medicare Drug Program will pave the way for price controls on prescription drugs. The problem is that the program will lead to an explosion in the federal budget and that the best and fastest way to control that explosion will be price controls.
But in the longer run, it is inevitable that price controls will be imposed on drugs. Realistically, it will be the only way that exploding costs can be controlled quickly. Indeed, some new cancer drugs now cost $100,000 for a single course of treatment. There is no way that taxpayers will be able to afford that expense. That is why virtually every other industrialized country substantially controls the prices of most prescription drugs. It is also the reason why Canada sells the same drugs available here for lower prices.
So, Bush is setting the stage for even further intrusion by the government into the economy. On top of it as most people will realize right away, price controls come with many problems. Reducing the profitability of any commodity will reduce its supply. This isn’t some sort of fancy highly mathematical economic theory, but a result of the simplest most accepted model in economics (basic supply and demand) as well as plenty of empirical evidence (gasoline price controls anyone?). So Bush is setting the stage for fewer and fewer new drugs to address health problems on top of his expansion of government like nothing we have seen in the last 20 years or more.
And the Medicare Drug Program isn’t the only example. As already mentioned there is the educational program, No Child Left Behind. Then there was the pork riddled energy bill, and then the pork filled highway bill with bridges to nowhere. Bartlett notes that pork barrel spending under Bush went from 6,333 projects totalling $18.5 billion to 13,999 projects totalling $27.3 billion a 50% increase!
By comparison Bill Clinton is a paragon of spending restraint and fiscal responsibility. Granted, Clinton early on wanted to also expand government to an unprecedented level, but back then Republicans and conservatives either believed in ideals of smaller government or cynically used them to short stop Clinton’s proposal. Based on the behavior of the Republican party these past 5 or so years, I’m inclined to believe in the latter.
Other than cutting taxes and the war in Iraq and on terrorism, President Bush is a liberal. That is the bottom line. Calling Bush a conservative is, in my opinion, an insult to conservatives.