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Fine man, flawed president


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Fine man, flawed president

By Don Erler

Special to the Star-Telegram

Three years into his presidency, George W. Bush is beginning to resemble the antithesis of his predecessor.

We conservatives usually celebrate the contrast. We shouldn't.

If Bill Clinton is a flawed man, he was an effective president.

He balanced the federal budget, approved a salutary overhaul of welfare and advocated many policies close to conservatives' hearts: youth curfews, public school uniforms, crime victims' rights, the V-chip, lower capital gains tax rates, reduced inheritance taxes, expanded IRAs and opposition to gay marriage.

Bush is a fine man and a flawed president.

A leading conservative writer, Ramesh Ponnuru, summarized W's achievements in National Review last month: "Bush has increased the federal role in education, imposed tariffs on steel and lumber, increased farm subsidies, okayed new federal regulations on campaign finance and corporate accounting, and expanded the national service program President Clinton began."

In addition to the federalizing of airport security and the creation of a new Cabinet department, Ponnuru continued, "no federal programs have been eliminated, nor has Bush sought any such thing. More people are working for the federal government than at any point since the end of the Cold War."

This simple summary of Bush's contribution to an ever-bigger government should cause citizens to wonder if he is really a Republican.

And Bush's fiscal record merely reinforces this sense of wonder.

Stephen Moore, president of the free-market Club for Growth, recently wrote that in the Reagan years, "supply-siders forecast that we would eventually grow our way out of budget deficits, and they were soon proven correct: With 4 percent real economic growth and 3 percent spending growth each year, tax revenues caught up with and surpassed federal expenditures. But on the new spending path Republicans have put us on, we would need about 8 percent economic growth for six straight years to get close to a balanced budget."

Any way we examine the numbers, Bush's fiscal record is simply irresponsible.

Non-defense discretionary spending has grown some 28 percent under Bush, not including his latest request for $87 billion more for Iraq and his call for a $400 billion Medicare drug benefit over the next 10 years.

Inflation has been low, but federal spending has increased from 18.4 percent to 19.9 percent of America's gross domestic product during Bush's presidency. Indeed, next year's deficit alone could easily add half a trillion dollars to our public debt.

I know: Bush has had to suffer through reduced federal revenues during a recession for which he cannot reasonably be held responsible. He also had Sept. 11 and the Afghanistan response.

But his tax cuts (which, true, might yet help to accelerate economic growth) and his war against Iraq (which, notwithstanding current appearances, might still reduce the lethal instability in the Middle East) are Bush's victories to flaunt or his crosses to bear.

Either way, they have aggravated the fiscal imbalance.

Therefore, a crucial contrast between Clinton and Bush should be noted: Clinton won re-election; Bush is likely to be a one-term president.

He can still win if both the economy and Iraq improve dramatically in the next 12 months. Otherwise, expect Bush to lose handily to one of the three most likely Democratic presidential candidates: Howard Dean, Wesley Clark or Hillary Clinton.


Don Erler is president of General Building Maintenance. donerler@sbcglobal.net

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Not sure what you're trying to say here, ghost, but I think there are a lot of people out there who consider themselves very fiscally conservative, socially liberal. Those people wouldn't be too fond of W's free spending ways, and they probably don't like his professed positions on things like abortion, gay marriage and the faith-based initiative.

I know that there are people who believe that there is a segment of the population who does want the government to spend more money, but I really haven't met many of those.

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I think there are valid criticisms one can reasonably make about President Bush. But this author loses me when he barely mentions the impact of a major recession, 9/11, and the war on terror. We can argue about how those challenges should have been faced, but not about the magnitude of them. The author basically says 'oh sure, he's had a few bumps in the road to get over, but come on....'. Clinton had the benefit of riding on the crest of 8 of the best economic years the US has ever seen....thats not a critique of Clinton...but as sitting President's only minimally impact our national economy, it hardly separates his performance from Bush's.

All Presidents are flawed. Its no mystery. But what I think Bush will be most remembered and appreciated for was his steady, calm leadership during the post-9/11 period, a performance btw which flew in the face of every caricature painted of him prior to that moment.

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Code and Flash

I don't doubt you guys are what you say you are--and I'm sure lots of people you know say "I dont want higher taxes" until some lame-ass with a "it's for the children, it's only X percent of your income" plea convinces them.

Primarily, the problem is most people are rather ignorant when it comes to government spending(how many don't even know that it is money that is taken from them) or don't pay in much in the first place and are all for the fleecing of some "luckier" family.

And socially liberal can mean lots of things--You could be against the Drug War like me, but not think you SHOULD do drugs like meth, coke, heroin, etc. You can be for the removal of laws against adultery and the like, but very much for restrained sexual conduct. You can say "If the broad wants to get pregnant let her" but NOT be for her getting a late-term 'abortion' or asking you to pay for her kid.

So it really depends on what you mean.

But by a great many policies that I've seen from Bush, I'd say he's no real conservative or libertarian.

One of the other difficulties your position presents for you, flash, is that any time republicans DID try to enforce very libertarian-esque or conservative budget ideas(BBA, lower taxes that actually increase overall revenue, cutting entitlement spending) it becomes the bludgeon with which the Dems/leftists beat them.

So YOU may be fiscally conservative, but let's be honest--if I ran as a Republican ANY tax decrease, ANY budget plan that didn't UP the amount of wasteful entitlement spending, ANY acknowledgement of the superiority of the free market would be met with stiff political opposition.

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Ghost, good post.

When I say I'm a social liberal, I agree with what you said. I'm against the drug war, but that doesn't mean I think people should use drugs. I wouldn't use drugs if they were legal. I view it the same way a prohibition. People are going to get drugs and violence will be a part of it. If drugs are legal, the violence is possibly reduced. I think people shoud be able to do what they want so long as others are not affected. If people want to kill themselves with drugs, fine, I just don't want to have to pay for them to get help. They can live with their decisions.

I won't say I'm always against taxes in every case. I think that where there should be changes in at the top of government departments.

I work for a school system. I see that the school board personnel are overpaid and wasteful. That's where changes need to be made. However, more money should be put towards hiring better teachers and improving schools. But we don't need a guy getting paid 50K a year to send out emails congradulating the sports teams. This is the honest to god truth, our system has so many fluff jobs that hook up relatives and such, it's sickening. The wife of the superintendant does nothing but notify people of classes that are available. She's like a freakin spammer.

There is so much waste its' nuts.

I personally don't like how Bush has involved us in Iraq. That's a ton of money that's going to come out of our pockets. I never saw Iraq as a direct threat to the US... I never saw Iraq mobilizing against Europe and setting up death camps. I don't see the US as the world police force.

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what Code and Flash need to be honest about is where the concflict falls: it's not as simple as "I'm not concerned insofar as it doesn't impact me." There is a struggle over values. There is a constant conflict between personal liberty and social organization, community values and accepted standards. Discrete solutions may appear to have no personal impact - but in the aggregate they do. So.....while I respect your positions as honest expressions of considered opinions.......I disagree with the tacit assertion that one can adopt these povs without some larger scheme of values being impacted.

And I have made no assertion as to what these values ought to be.

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For the record, there's NO such thing as being a social liberal and fiscal conservative. The two things are MUTUALLY exclusive and people who say they are that are people who are confused and want to seem like they are balanced when, in essenence they aren't.

You see, being a fiscal conservative means you won't spend the money a social liberal would. You can't be both people in ONE body. You can be one or the other. You can be a fiscal conservative who has feelings for many social issues, but you recognize it's not the government's -- therefore the half the country they tax -- duty to provide much of what they provide. Or you can be a social liberal which means you will spend the government's -- therefore the half of the people they actually do bother to tax -- money to fund programs you agree with.

I'm a fiscal conservative. I believe in state's rights and a small federal government. Hell, I think I have FOUNDING principles on my side to believe as I do. Democrat Wesley Clark, meanwhile, thinks federal income tax is a founding principle of this country. As with may liberal ideas, the only way to actually believe in the things you believe is to pretend they were around since the inception of this country, even when they weren't.

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Gee Art,

I must have missed how being for gay unions is really spending your tax dollars. Nevermind that married couples pay more so these people are in effect volunteering to pay more.

I must have missed how allowing abortions is spending your money. Not talking about funding clinics, only allowing doctors to do their job.

I must have missed how letting a very sick person die is spending your money. Nevermind that staying alive with a terminal illness is actually very expensive.

No Art, I think there are some issues that are purely social and have nothing to do with our tax laws.

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Yeah, Gbear, you must have missed it given the increased spending you'd require for same-sex benefits and the inherently risky sexual behavior of gay men, be they tied to a single partner or not.

To be fair, being a social liberal would require you NOT be on the side of killing babies on the abortion debate. You see, it's not all that enlightened or nice to kill innocent children. Infanticide seems like an entirely bad thing. Remember now, I actually come in the middle ground on the abortion issue where I'd allow abortion up to the point science can legitimately prove a child can live outside the womb. After that point I'd end abortion in all cases OTHER than the should the mother be put at serious medical risk.

So, other than killing babies not being all that liberal a thing to hang your hat on, I'd say you still haven't found how social liberalism and fiscal conservatism go together.

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and we won't even get to my favorite topic: the complete debasement of a society (a cost!) that appreciates, even lauds (as gbear appears to do) 40 million plus deaths by intention. it may very well be about women's "rights". but that doesn't diminish one iota the cost.

this has the nazis, pol pot, mao and even dubya (perish the thought) beat by such a wide margin that the humor is almost deafeningly silent. liberals must be so proud!

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Dubba ya flaw is that he is socially liberal which he has done to include democrats yet they spin it like he hasnt done jack on the social side.

He let Teddy kennedy write the big education bill in history and then this year kennedy and liberals behave like bush cut education spending and kids are at risk of being too dumb to be on the short bus.

Bush would lose the election if he did do something disgusting like push for gay marriage etc.

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How typical Art.

Did you forget euthanasia because it didn't match your point?

While we're at it, how about needle exchange programs? Afterall, studies by the CDC show no increase use in drugs, no new drug users. It only reduces the spread of diseases. In fact, the gov can saves money with these programs. But I'm sure in your mind the reason we don't have them (even where they are funded privately) has to do with taxes...

As a side note, you admit abortion hasnothing to do with taxes? Good. Whether you are right or wrong, don't tell me there are no social issues that don't involve spending then.

So Art on the marriage thing, are you okay wiht a marriage tax penalty then? After all, in your world the gov pays more in benefits. Why shouldn't people have to pay for that? That's certainly not what you have said in the past. Or is it that we only pay more for gay couples. Inherently risky? With one partner gay is worse than hetero? ON one hand you seem to admonish a behavior (more than one partner relations among gays) because it makes it more costly, and then say it's all bad because of the behavior you could get rid of. Ah but that's an arguement we've had before. I'm just happy you recognize there are "social" issues.

Fan since 62,

I take it you understand there are arguement besides monetary ones then? That was my point.

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Speaking as one of those non-existant "fiscally conservative/social liberals", :) could I try to put a different spin on Art's point:

Thesis: It is impossible to limit the power of government, without limiting the spending (and taxation) of government, because the very act of spending allows government to use that spending as a power itself.

Now, I think I would, at least partially, disagree with the thesis. I'd point out that the government's competitive-bid system has at least been designed to prevent such spending from political influences. (In fact, many of the at-first-glance stupid rules involved have been specifically put there because they stopped past abuses.)

(Although the government may buy a lot of copier-machine paper, I don't think that spending really affects society much.)

(Although, I would point out that the current administration certainly seems to be going just as far as they possibly can to use that spending as a political (or perhaps, religous) tool.)

And, even if the spending process is absolutely, completely, non-partisan, the spending still affects society simply by it's presence.

(Some time ago, I was a minimum-wage food service worker. I know of at least 4 of my co-workers who had relatives who'd been laid off from their jobs, and were collecting unemployment. When I asked why they weren't applying here {we always needed workers}, every single one of them said that their relative had been working in a professional job, and his unemployment benefits were more than four times what I was making here, and if Dad {or whoever} took a job here, he'd actually be taking a pay cut. Instead, every one of then had a job lined up that was going to open up in six months of so, and their intention was to not even look for employment for six months, 'cause they had enough savings to live off of unemployment for a year.)

As to the statement that socially liberal/fiscally conservative people don't exist: How about "I support gay marriage (because I don't think we should have laws that treat different sexes differently), but would also support a law that said 'No person, recieving need-based financial assistance, can receive more total assistance than the equivelant of 30 hours per week times the current minimum wage'?" (Although, I'd also like to see the rule that, if a person on welfare gets a job, their benefits only go down one dollar for every four they earn. I want it to be to people's advantage to get a job when they're on welfare. And it really ticks me off for somebody to be collecting money from the government to be making more money than I'm making working full-time. I'm not opposed to welfare: do-do happens. I'm opposed to people making mortgage payments with it.)

(And, if you like that idea for welfare reform, wait'll you hear the really wierd ideas I've got to cut costs.)

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does the g in gbear stand for Gay?

Marriage is man and woman period.

Sexual perversion, even though their lobby has been dumbing down the moral base of the nation by trying to shame those who stick to their conviction, is still sexual perversion


A Classic example is a guy whose wife had diminished capacity following a car accident and after getting a million in the lawsuit let her rot while he went ahead and knovked up some chick had a kid got her knocked up again and is trying to have her murdered so he can marry the new chick ignoring the pleas of her mom and dad to let them take over caring for her and using therapy to cure her.

Nope a typical liberal judge and hubby's selfish and disgusting desires will kill this woman.

I blame dad because hubby wouldnt have any say so on the life or death decisions of my daughter and if the courts sided with him he'd be joining her in taking the big dirt nap.

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gbear.........I admit I took advantage of an opportunity....apologies.....but....as I have stated in other posts......the 40 million number is so appalling that I will avail myself of every chance to harp on it. I don't approach this from a religious/spiritual mindset (although as I grow older, I come ever closer!). it just boggles the mind! it is such a phantasmagorical number that I stand dumbfounded before its very magnitude........

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Originally posted by Air Sarge

Pedophiles are being denied their right to child porn. What's the difference?

Actually, this'll likely get you to conclude that I'm even more loonie than you thought, but:

I don't think society or the government has the right to limit child porn, IF no children were used in the making thereof.

I've got no problem with a law that prohibits adults from getting children to participate in acts thay don't have the legal right to consent to. I've got no problem with punishing the customers of such an operation. (Any more than I'd object to punishing the people who buy stolen property: They're funding a crime.)

But, if the porn "actors" were 30-year-old midgets, (or computer animation), then I do have a problem with throwing somebody in jail just because he likes to sit at home and look at something I don't like. (It's that whole "thought police" thing).

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how about that drug war? You know how much that's costing? Has there been any evidence at all that even one penny spent on the srug war has resulted in lower hospital bills at the public's expense?

If conservatives really put snaller government at the front of thier positions then I might support them.


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Actually many conservatives are against the Drug War.

William Buckley and the National Review did a piece on the drug war a few years ago and editorialized against it. Forest Tennant has come out against the drug war as well. In fact, I would say most conservatives( not the religious right) are against the drug war.

As with most government projects, the war on drugs is just another failure.

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