Bush 41 compromised more as his presidency wore on. Next week's
State of the Union address will emphasize that Bush 43 is returning to
principle on many domestic issues after a tepid first two years.
One example is the president's plan to end the double taxation
of corporate dividends. Liberal journalists are framing that as a boon to
the rich, but the real (and largely unrecognized) benefit of the plan is its
reduction in Wall Street's recent tendency to imitate a Powerball lottery.
Now, companies are taxed on their profits, and when they pass on
some of those profits to investors in the form of dividends, those
individuals are taxed on that income once again. This means the federal
government can grab over half of each dollar in profit that a company makes
available to its shareholders.
Corporations looking to the interest of their shareholders have
reacted to double taxation by pushing capital gains. In the 1990s, that
emphasis led to companies with hyped prospects soaring, as human greed
created stock-market bubbles. Some people started betting instead of
investing, hoping to strike a spike and then sell quickly.
An emphasis on dividends is much healthier. Corporations that
pay dividends to stockholders actually have to be making money. As Frank
Sullivan, a chemical company CEO, put it: "Dividends are one of the easiest
ways to gauge the quality of a company's earnings. You need real cash to pay
dividends. You can't pay them with Tyco or Enron accounting."
George W. Bush in 2001 stressed temporary tax cuts. Now he is
displaying a plan based on the moral sense that investment is good and
speculation isn't. He's also proposing what will help in the long run and
not merely provide a short-term fix for markets and re-election campaigns.
The other correction Bush apparently is making is in the
faith-based initiative, which suffered in 2001 as the administration tried
to pick up liberal support by playing to fears about "proselytizing."
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, that word apparently
first appeared in 1679. It means to induce or coerce a person to convert.
That's something the Bible opposes, because an expression of faith is a lie
if it's made without faith. Evangelicals especially don't favor that kind of
Liberals, however, have often stretched the definition to make
it seem as if any mention of God to a person seeking to turn around his life
is proselytizing. The Bush faith-based initiative floundered in 2001 as its
key spokesman, John DiIulio, regularly said that religious groups offering
spiritual help alongside material help were not welcome.
In recent statements, though, Bush has gone to bat for groups
like Victory Center, an evangelical homeless shelter in Iowa that offers the
needy a chapel service and Bible studies, and for that reason had a federal
grant taken from it by the Clinton administration.
Bush has also ordered the Federal Emergency Management Agency to
"revise its policy on emergency relief so that religious nonprofit groups
can qualify for assistance after disasters like hurricanes and earthquakes."
Organizations that incorporate religious teaching, such as the Seattle
Hebrew Academy, will be treated like other social service providers that
Bush also has signed an executive order establishing new centers
for faith-based and community initiatives, including one at the Department
of Agriculture. That's important, because the Clinton administration cut off
the long-established flow of surplus food to many faith-based homeless
shelters and did not allow long-term residents in job-training programs to
use food stamps at religious centers.
Look for more hints of this in the State of the Union address,
which should include Bush's pledge to establish a level playing field for
all helping organizations, including religious ones. In 2001 the White House
faith-based office compromised the Bush principles by tilting the level
playing field away from evangelical groups. The new, principled
understanding that opens participation to all except those who practice
coercion should give the faith-based initiative new life.