Crawl Across the Ocean

Monday, November 29, 2004

Can a Big Spender Change His Ways?

Cross-posted to Blogs Canada e-group

With George Bush soon to arrive on Canadian shores, I thought I’d use my first post here at the e-group to follow up on Don’s earlier question about what Bush would have to do for his second term to be considered a success. There’s a lot of ground to cover here, so I chose to focus on the pragmatic point of view in this post and save the moral issues for another day.

First, it’s pretty clear that the U.S.A. is a nation with incredible resources: military resources, financial resources, natural resources as well as ‘human’ resources (e.g. a strong work ethic, respect for democracy and liberty, willingness to take risks etc.), institutional resources, diplomatic resources and ideological resources (worldwide respect for the American way of life and ‘American’ values).

Second, looking to the future, the retirement of the baby boomers, the growing ecological threats (global warming, soil erosion, water table depletion, depletion of energy resources, loss of bio-diversity), rising interest rates (sooner or later), and the inevitable spread and technological improvement of various weapons of mass destruction (nuclear weapons, biological weapons, digital weapons, etc., etc.) all suggest that the U.S.A., like other nations, will need ever more resources at its disposal to meet the coming challenges.

Third, by the end of Bush’s first term, the military was almost fully deployed and arguably overstretched. Financially, the capacity for taking on new debt had been greatly used up (both at a governmental and at a consumer level), the downward pressure on the currency had grown immense (and possibly dangerous), and the role of the American dollar as de facto global currency was looking less certain by the day. Internally, the population was working harder than ever, while their levels of respect for their political opposition, the political process and their own government were still dropping. Natural resources had been depleted, destabilized and destroyed much faster than they were replenished. Diplomatic relations were strained at best and hostile at worst, even with longtime allies. Finally, levels of respect for Americans, and for their role in world affairs were lower than at anytime in recent memory, despite the outpouring of sympathy after 9/11.

Not all of this can be laid at Bush’s feet and some of these trends date back to well before his time, but they all represent areas where his policies were an aggravating, rather than a compensating factor. In short, Bush has shown that he can spend America’s resources, but he has yet to show that he can build them. In order to be judged a success, his second term will have to leave America, and the rest of the world, better able to deal with the coming challenges, not less.


OK, that was pretty general. If you want specifics, I think Bush needs to balance the budget (as Russil said a while back), stabilize transfer programs (i.e. social security), achieve a soft landing for the currency, restore taxation of the wealthy/corporations to historical (postwar) levels, take much more drastic action on climate change (signing Kyoto would be a start), get the army out of Iraq (and not invade anyone else), reduce U.S. dependence on fossil fuels in general, and ones from the Middle East in particular, make an effort to reach out to other countries via diplomacy rather than through threats and intimidation (his visit here being a decent start), and perhaps most of all, stop shooting (firing) the messenger when people tell him something he doesn’t want to hear.

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