Opinion

Is Bush a confused conservative?

Monday, September 13, 2004

Last week, President Bush made a 24-hour campaign swing through the battleground state of Missouri. The events, held in Poplar Bluff, Lee's Summit, Sedalia and Columbia were the first to the state since the Republican convention.

I was lucky enough to attend the Sedalia assembly, where the president held a town hall style forum, addressing topics from taxes to terrorism. Though it was exciting to see the president -- if for nothing more than sheer spectacle -- I must say the message he brought left much to be desired.

Much like those at the convention two weeks ago, the president's remarks could be clearly divided into two separate entities -- domestic policy and the war on terror.

Sounding more like a liberal than anything else, Bush explained a plan offering entitlements, an uncompromising pursuance of failed social experiments and, with exception of a mention or two of across-the-board tax cuts and ownership society, a spending approach unheard of for a Republican in Washington.

He began by promoting his No Child Left Behind initiative, claiming that funding will "increase" as the provision ages. He credited NCLB with "bettering" the achievement gap in America. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Aside from being the largest federal encroachment on states' rights since the advent of the Department of Education, the mind-blowing amounts of money spent for the program has not produced results worth the investment. Test scores remain stagnant, while students across the nation lose out on valuable class time to prepare, sometimes months in advance, for standardized tests determining school effectiveness.

By throwing money at this broken system, Bush hopes to fix it. Hopefully he will learn the error of LBJ and every tax-and-spend Democrat since: lobbing tax dollars at our education system doesn't solve the problems. Only effective management of resources, i.e. getting qualified teachers and free market competition can resolve the issue.

The president then set his sights on Social Security, claiming, "If you're an older citizen you're in good shape [with the current system]. If you're a Baby Boomer it's going to be OK. It's our children and grandchildren we have to worry about."

Here, he is exactly right. The solution he offers, however, is absurd.

In another term, Bush plans to push for personal savings accounts, wherein workers will be allowed (by their federal puppeteers) to invest a portion of their payroll taxes outside of the Social Security system, under the government's ever-watchful eye.

Millions of individual "lock boxes," as Al Gore would put it.

Here, this money would remain, while the government controls where, when, how and why it is invested. This is a bleak proposal, especially considering the tendency of lawmakers to use "excess" money (i.e. savings or surpluses) for entitlement programs.

I'd rather see the abolition of Social Security altogether for my generation, ending unfair payroll taxes along with it.

I'd be much more confident investing my money as I see fit, rather than trusting politicians with my economic security. Besides, I'm sure I could find a better return than the 1.79% Social Security currently offers.

Finally, President Bush reached the topic for which I was waiting -- funding for prescription drug entitlements.

In a new term, the president promised to fully fund the Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit -- and increase benefits across the board in the years to come.

You do remember this mess, don't you? Last year the Congress passed and the president signed a bill granting $400 billion in prescription drug benefits to Medicare recipients, at least for now.

You see, over the course of the next 10 years, companies are going to start dropping retirees from their insurance coverage, placing a tremendous strain on the Medicare system. To prevent this, lawmakers have included a provision in the program granting taxpayer-funded subsidies to these corporations for maintaining current coverage on retirees. In reality, this subsidy provision will be upwards of $2 trillion!

The economic liberty of my generation, and many to come, is in jeopardy if this ludicrous program is not reigned in. Moreover, the nationalization of prescription drugs could be the first step in socializing medicine, should some ambitious Democrat reach the White House.

President Bush's determination in hunting down Islamic terrorists and insistence on making our across-the-board tax cuts permanent has, for the most part, secured my vote come November. However, should his socially liberal agenda come to fruition; it will set back the Republican cause for years to come.