"There you go again," said Ronald Reagan, during his 1980 debate against Jimmy Carter. His simple, gentle jab at his opponent for misstating the Reagan record brought down the house.
Well, there goes Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., again. She accuses President George W. Bush of trying to "undo the New Deal." What?!
Undoing the New Deal? Does she not see the steam blasting from the ears of principled conservatives flatly astonished by President George W. Bush's and his Republican colleagues' willingness to spend, spend and spend? During Bush's term in office, excluding defense and homeland security, non-war government expenditures increased at a rate faster than under former President Bill Clinton. By this time in his term, Reagan vetoed over 20 bills, President George W. Bush, none.
Reagan campaigned to shut down the Department of Education. President Bush shook hands with a smiling Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., as they united to pass the so-called No Child Left Behind Act, increasing the federal government's role in education and, by the way, dropping the dreaded-by-liberals voucher provision. Bush also expanded Head Start despite the program's questionable effectiveness. Ditto with Title I, a program designed to close the academic gap between urban and suburban school districts. Bush's own Secretary of Education Rod Paige said, "After spending $125 billion of Title I money over 25 years, we have virtually nothing to show for it. Fewer than a third of fourth-graders can read at grade level."
Former President Clinton enacted the AmeriCorps program, paying volunteers to volunteer. Bush not only retained the program, he expanded it.
Bush extended unemployment benefits and proposed something he calls a "reemployment account," which, if enacted, gives the unemployed up to $3,000 for job training or services like child care and transportation. It also lets the individual keep the money, assuming he or she finds work within 13 weeks.
President George W. Bush hailed the Americans with Disabilities Act, signed into law by his father, as a landmark piece of compassionate legislation. The ADA requires employers to "make reasonable accommodations" for employees and prospective employees with disabilities, yet it has actually increased the percentage of unemployment for the work-seeking disabled.
President Bush proposed, and Congress accepted, the largest expansion of a social program since the enactment of Medicare -- the prescription drug plan for senior citizens, expected to cost $400 billion in its first 10 years. But, remember, when Congress enacted Medicare in 1965, they under-projected costs for 1990 by a factor of eight, even after adjusting for inflation.
Similarly, expect the ultimate tab for the prescription benefit bill to exceed $1 trillion in its second decade, paid for, of course, on the backs of young workers in their 20s and 30s. The undoing of the New Deal?
President Bush imposed steel tariffs, costing Americans higher prices for goods such as washing machines, cars, refrigerators and other items using steel. He also imposed tariffs on lumber, adding over a thousand dollars to the price for the purchaser of a new home.
The president, following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, approved airline bailouts, despite the mismanagement and inefficiency of carriers -- the real source of their difficulties. The president signed bills granting payments to the families of those who died on 9/11, creating a precedent for taxpayer transfers to such victims. However understandable, these bills suggest private charitable organizations incapable of completely relying on the compassion of Americans.
Under the president's Faith-Based Initiative plan, he intends to use taxpayer dollars for nonprofit organizations. He signed legislation to spend $15 billion to combat AIDS in Africa.
Even on the contentious issue of abortion, the pro-choice side apparently found no comfort when Bush declared, "America is not ready to ban abortions." And liberal Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S. Dakota, supported the bill to ban partial-birth abortions.
President Bush agreed to the largest farm subsidy bill in history, granting $170 billion over 10 years, including $73 billion in new spending. While he campaigned to allow workers to privatize a small portion of their Social Security, the plan remains in limbo.
The president certainly deserves credit for income tax cuts and the lowering of capital gains taxes, for abandoning the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and for denouncing the Kyoto global warming treaty. And the president certainly courageously rallied public support for the war on terror and the campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq. Even Daschle, while critical of Bush's handling of Iraq post-major combat operations, still supports the effort even if the coalition never finds weapons of mass destruction.
But "undoing the New Deal"? One stands at amazement at Sen. Clinton's capacity to build falsehood upon exaggeration, upon anger. We need a new word for this. Let's call it "Shrillary."
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