Saturday, September 04, 2004

It Was So Bad That Even They Could See It

The very conservative Evelyn Rothschild's paper, the also very conservative The Economist, offers a critique of the RNC finale and Bush speech which demonstrates that even Tories think Bush has gone far too far.

added a new theme: the “ownership society”. Broadly speaking, he wants to cut taxes and put more decision-making (and risk) in individual hands by encouraging saving for retirement, health care and home ownership.

More controversially, Mr Bush also revived his call for a partial privatisation of Social Security, the cornerstone federal pensions programme. Social Security is facing huge deficits once the baby-boom generation retires. The president advocates individual accounts, into which workers would put part of their pay cheques, to be invested in assets of their choosing. Mr Bush sold this as a way to guarantee benefits. But with a stockmarket slump and corporate scandals still fresh in the memory, peddling investment accounts as a guarantee against insecurity may be a tough sell.

Unsurprisingly, the nasty fiscal situation that Mr Bush would face in a second term went unmentioned, though it loomed over his speech like a ghost at the banquet. Big deficits—caused by a combination of an economic downturn and Mr Bush’s tax cuts—are expected to last at least ten years. The cost of switching to Mr Bush’s Social Security plan is estimated at about $1 trillion. He cannot push this plan, extend his tax cuts and follow through with other new domestic programmes announced on Thursday (including more spending on housing and higher education) without plunging the budget further into the red. He described Mr Kerry as a “tax-and-spend” type, but his plans seem to show him as a “cut-taxes-and-spend” type, not obviously a superior breed.


The morning after his speech, the Bureau of Labour Statistics brought him some small comfort. Firms added 144,000 workers to the payrolls in August, and the figures for July and June were revised up a little. The unemployment rate fell a notch, to 5.4%, largely because 152,000 people dropped out of the labour force. The summer job market turned out to be far worse than the president had expected in the spring, but better than he may have feared on Thursday night.


While he defended his assertiveness, however, Mr Bush offered no new plans in foreign policy. He had nothing to say about reform of the intelligence services. Iran and North Korea did not figure either. Nor, unsurprisingly, did the still-at-large Osama bin Laden. With nearly 140,000 American troops tied down in Iraq, there is simply little room for new threats against America’s enemies. Mr Bush’s speech was more a plea to trust him for what he has done in the past than a signal of what he hopes to do in the future.


Election day is two months away, and the Democrats seem to be showing that they can punch as low as the Republicans. Negative campaigning is nothing new in American politics, but the enthusiasm for it at the Republican convention, and the vigour with which the Democrats are responding, will make this election campaign a particularly nasty one.

(All bolded text denotes my emphasis, not The Economist's.)

All this is perfectly fine and sober analysis, if necessarily conventional and unimaginative. But then it is conservative. It is also blessedly spin-free. Even so, there is no questioning the depth of its skepticism to Bush. I think that says a lot.


I emphasise the genuine conservatism of the paper and its proprietor because of the fact that, in America, the political spectrum has become so falsely skewed to the point that reactionary jackasses, without a sliver of irony, can lay claim to the titles of "centrist" and "moderate", with precious few then objecting to the deception or delusion in the seizure. When the spectrum is this warped the result is that the genuine ultra-reactionaries and crypto-fascists then take delight in observing their extremist position legitimised as merely "conservative", while true conservatives like those at The Economist can be freely denounced as "liberal".