My successor at The Colorado Springs Gazette, Wayne Laugesen, has a barn burner of an editorial today, arguing that the Socialism Lite of George W. Bush laid the groundwork for the real deal we'll be getting under President Barack Obama.
Far from being an abrupt lurch to the left, Obama's presidency will amount to Bush's third term, given how far this Republican Party, under this president, has strayed from core conservative principles. "It's George Bush the sequel, with a twist," writes Wayne. "Bush gave us spending and deficits; Obama promises spending and taxes. Each advocates centralizing society under a large, benevolent federal government."
I might quibble on a few things -- the nation's embrace of entitlement thinking has been decades in the making and predates Bush's admittedly disastrous reign of error -- but the editorial makes many points that deserve a wider read.
Let 'er rip, Wayne:
Mr. Obama, buy Mr. Bush a Bud
After he wins by a gargantuan, mandate-making landslide Nov. 4, Barack Obama owes George Bush a beer. He should thank President Bush for pushing this country so far toward socialism that Americans were ready for the full enchilada by the fall of 2008. Obama supporters think they're voting for change when nothing could be further from the truth. Obama promises a government that will give us better lives at a painless expense to the rich.
It's George Bush the sequel, with a twist: Bush gave us spending and deficits; Obama promises spending and taxes. Each advocates centralizing society under a large, benevolent federal government.
Just as Obama will do, Bush tried to give Americans better lives through spending. He gave seniors better access to prescription drugs. He tried to give us safety with absurd foreign interventions and a massive bureaucracy for "homeland security." He federalized education. He outspent any other president by any measure.
And quietly, off most radar screens, Bush gave housing to the poor. A story in Sunday's Gazette gleefully explained how the Bush administration, at the urging of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Mel Martinez, addressed homelessness by giving people rent-free homes. The story explained that traditional homeless programs required longtime street people to undergo months of treatment and counseling before they were deemed "housing ready."
Under the Bush administration, which never found a problem that shouldn't be addressed with money and bureaucracy, tradition changed dramatically. Bush established a program called "Housing First." It gives money to cities, including Denver, so the chronically homeless can receive rent-free apartments.
What's the catch? There is no catch. It basically goes like this: "You're chronically homeless? Here, have an apartment. See ya later, alligator. Oh, and try not to drink." It's patterned after socialist homeless programs in western Europe. The syndicated story characterized the Bush program as "radical" and "liberal."
Under Bush, to fund radical liberal social programs, authorizations for federal homeless agencies rose from $1.1 billion annually in 2002 to $1.6 billion. If one looks at combined federal authorizations that help the homeless, including Social Security and Medicaid, Bush increased spending from $2.9 billion to $5 billion. Bush has given us the least creative, least thoughtful, most government-intensive approach to homelessness this country has ever seen.
Obama is running against Bush, but only against the media portrayal and conventional misunderstanding of Bush. In a dumbed-down country divided more by labels and party lines than ideology, the media cast Bush as an uber-right wing conservative Republican.
It's a simple, black-and-white message the public easily consumes. In truth, Obama's election will be due largely to the fact George W. Bush conditioned this country for western European-style socialism. He prepared the populace for Obama's message, willfully or not.
In 1981, the late Ronald Reagan said "government is not a solution to our problem, government is the problem." Just 27 years later, a so-called conservative Republican administration has established a dependency mentality so widespread that American's are clamoring for government to solve problems that history has repeatedly shown governments can't solve long term. For the first time in this country's history, thanks to Bush, the word "socialism" isn't naughty.
The economy is collapsing because of greed combined with corporate welfare and government solutions. Unfortunately, few Americans seem to understand that Fannie May and Freddie Mac, "affordable housing," and the financial bailout are prime examples of socialism-light, in the form of corporate welfare, government solutions, economic regulation and social engineering. If they understood this, they wouldn't be looking to a Bush-style government - the one Obama promises - to save them. They'd run the other way, without a candidate to back.
Even before the economic collapse, which Americans think government must solve, a Rockefeller Foundation/Time poll found in July that Americans wanted more Bush-style government: 70 percent said more government programs should help people struggling economically; 82 percent favor more government-created jobs; 77 percent favor government initiatives to expand access to health care; and 66 percent favor government-funded child care.
Don't blame Obama for this dependency/entitlement mentality. Obama didn't create it.
He's merely responding to it, which is smart if the goal is to win. Put the blame for this squarely on Bush. He created this mentality by governing without so much as a nod toward the idea that Americans should provide for themselves. Bush gave us welfare on both ends, growing government for rich and poor alike.
Obama will do the same, with one caveat. He plans to raise taxes on the rich - those louts who gave us the lending crash and slinked off with cash. That means, unlike Bush, Obama at least has a hare-brained plan to pay for the welfare.
That makes the difference between Bush and Obama one of deficit spending (Bush), vs. taxing and spending (Obama). Each doctrine favors the use of government to give Americans better lives, while reducing incentives for people to innovate, invest, work hard and produce wealth in pursuit of rewards - rewards like health care, and homes.
Both ideologies place government growth ahead of individual liberty and genuine prosperity - the values this country was founded to nurture.
Expect Obama to win big next week. He'll win because George Bush addicted this country to government solutions and handouts. Lacking economic and motivational prowess, Bush sold us on a right to happiness, rather than a right to pursue happiness.
Bush provided safety, education, homes and even prescription drugs. Obama promises more of the same at a time when it's all crashing down. History shows us that dependent societies don't produce enough to survive. But the lending crisis has taught us something else: short term gain is the name of the game.
Obama and Bush know this all too well. On Nov. 4, they should high-five each other.