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September 04, 2005

The Nature of the Mission

Neil the Ethical Werewolf

In an email to his weekend blogging team, Ezra asked the following:

I'm interested in the idea that, if Bush asked for sacrifice, a one time tax increase, a something -- if he said he and his VP and his cabinet would lead it by foregoing salaries for the year -- his numbers would skyrocket. Why, then, doesn't he do that? Why is this admin so allergic to sacrifice, to tax increases, to all of it? I don't think it's ideology -- they're more craven, and have proved themselves to willing to contradict conviction for that. So what is it? Just an ethical failure?

There's a bunch of things to say here. The first is that once you've given over your soul to fiscal nihilism, you're not going to see any need for tax revenue of any kind to deal with the problem. More deficit spending will work just fine. In fact, if you're clever enough, you might be able to use Katrina as political cover for extra tax cuts, just like you used 9/11 to cover the tax cuts earlier in your presidency. When the higher deficit numbers come in, you just shrug and say "Of course the deficit is higher -- we got hit by a monster hurricane that reduced revenue and made us spend money!" It won't matter that your tax cuts are an even bigger source of the problem. Democrats will call you out on it and some people will be wise to the game, but the media will give it the usual lazy he said / she said coverage, and foolable people will be fooled.

The second thing to say is that the core principle of this Administration is that wealth must be redistributed towards today's rich people and large corporations. When have we ever seen the White House compromise on this principle? Every year brings a new tax cut, and where tax cuts are hard to do, there are increased corporate giveaways. The only time you'd see this Administration suggest a tax increase is if it was somehow useful in getting bigger tax cuts somewhere down the road. Maybe in the first term, if there was some tax that most Americans wanted to raise, Bush would've raised it to gain political support, so that he could win re-election and cut taxes more. But this situation comes from a possible world that we do not inhabit.

(My personal theory of the biggest motivation behind the Iraq war is that it was a big political stunt aimed at making Bush look war-heroic in time for re-election, so that people would be distracted from the bad economy and the failure to capture Osama. Sure, Wolfowitz got his neocon fantasy, Rumsfeld got a chance to swing with his light army, Cheney got pork for his Halliburton buddies, and Bush got to pound on Saddam, but Rove and the Mayberry Machiavellis who really control the White House wanted the domestic political advantages of war. In other words, the whole affair was instrumental to a deeper goal -- keeping Bush in office so that he could keep redistributing wealth up the income scale. Sure, it sounds like a freakishly expensive way to attain that goal, but once you're a fiscal nihilist who's capable of enormous wishful thinking about what will happen in Iraq, you don't really care.)

[Update]: As I look over Ezra's question more, it seems that I've addressed it the wrong way. He's asking why the Administration doesn't chase the political benefits of a shared-sacrifice tax increase. I suppose I have to say that I don't think the poll bounce for the Administration would be that high. As long as the suffering people are on TV and everyone agrees that the inital response to Katrina was woefully incompetent, Bush is in trouble. Calls for shared sacrifice, especially a somewhat disconnected sort of sacrifice involving extra revenue going into the Treasury, aren't going to help that much.

September 4, 2005 in Bush Administration | Permalink


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You of all people Neil should understand, Bush is a fantasy-genre hero who likes swinging at big things instead of swatting flies. He sees himself as Aragorn. Why stay on the frontier hunting bandits, when the real source needs to be destroyed. And it's not a matter of the figureheads personal view, but the entire cultural mindset behind conservatism and anyone who would say "I vote for this guy because he knows where he stands" or whatnot.

Posted by: Tony Vila | Sep 5, 2005 1:34:10 AM

Or, it might just be that making changes in national policy before the damage has been tallied, while evacuations are still going on, might just be a bit premature. One week more or less will not make much difference; the government has ample funds set aside for emergencies like this in the short term.

Posted by: Mastiff | Sep 5, 2005 2:47:30 AM

Foregoing salaries would be viewed, rightly, as a stunt and would not draw anyone to Bush who wasn't already there. A tax increase would upset those who invested in Bush and future funds might dry up, doing more longterm harm than the shortterm good.

Posted by: QuietStorm | Sep 5, 2005 3:05:59 AM

This is truly entertaining.
Let's speculate on something that hasn't happened, has never happened, probably will never happen and all rail how evil it all is for happening or not happening.

I cant' decide who is the bigger dufus on this one, Ezra for suggesting this or Neil for taking the bait...

Posted by: Fred Jones | Sep 5, 2005 8:32:44 AM

We can't look at the Bush Administration as a bunch of politicians. They aren't. They aren't interested in legacy or advancing a cause; they are only interested in profit. Their entire goal has been that of the mafia types who will invest - minimally - into a business solely for the purpose of running up huge bills, getting lots of expensive equipment and such before bailing out and leaving the original investor - the one who cares - holding the bag.

Bush doesn't ask for sacrifice because he doesn't have the slightest idea what that means. He doesn't sacrifice himself, even for the sake of a political stunt, because nothing will get in the way of his quest for profit.

Posted by: Stephen | Sep 5, 2005 10:17:31 AM

You had a terrorist attack, huh?

Fuck you, pay me.

You've got ballooning Social Security and Medicare benefits?

Fuck you, pay me.

You've got an open-ended occupation of a foreign country?

Fuck you, pay me.

You've got an unprecedented natural disaster?


Posted by: Matt_C | Sep 5, 2005 12:22:59 PM

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