Atonement by Proxy
The Departments of Defense and Homeland Security need not worry: they will continue to be the beneficiaries of substantial and growing sums of money. Perhaps the Department of Education, the Veterans Administration, and NASA will be spared the brunt of the budget axe, too; but any small increases those three areas get will come out of the hide of the remainder of domestic spending. Zero-based budgeting for everything but Defense and Homeland Security means that what was spent last year will be the amount available this coming year.
Of course, the Federal Reserve now grasps, at least in part, that its expansionary monetary policy, which for the past four years has masked the fiscally reckless folly of the Administration's tax cuts, has reawakened inflation, a beast brought under control more than two decades ago. Even if the Fed's newly rediscovered relationship with its one and only one duty—stability of the U.S. aggregate price level—is for real, we are in for a good couple of years of inflation as the anemically growing U.S. economy slowly sops up the excess money the Fed created to help its conservative friends in the White House and Congress look like they knew what they were doing. The inflation we're going to get will make that budget cap set from last year's level worth less in real purchasing power this year.
Hence, the real budget for domestic programs is being slashed for the coming year. What does that mean to U.S. citizens?
• Assistance for people who need help with heating bills will be lower: as heating bills climb and more people qualify for aid, less will be available overall and less will be available for each family that needs it.
• The amount of money available to monitor the health and safety of the nation's food supply will be less.
• The amount of money available for the Securities and Exchange Commission to oversee compliance by public companies with laws designed to protect investors will be reduced.
• The amount of money available to enforce laws designed to protect the environment from polluters will be reduced.
• The amount of money available to prosecute white collar criminals will be reduced.
• The amount of money to regulate businesses through the Federal Trade Commission will be reduced.
• The amount of money to help small businesses with everything from formation to securing small working capital loans will be reduced.
• The amount of money available for basic research in areas ranging from cancer to quantum physics will be reduced.
• The amount of money available for non-commercialized information delivery, art and literature production, and archiving of worthy materials in museums will be reduced.
This is to name but a few of the thousand or so ways that life in America will be changed by the neo-conservative authors of the solution to the record budget deficits. And we are facing these cuts in the domestic budget in part because of the lack of any fiscal sense by an Administration obsessed with pressing into service ideology-driven theories that didn't work the first time they were tried during the early years of the Reagan Administration.
No, cutting taxes does not cause tax revenues to rise. Instead—shock of all shocks!—it makes revenues generated from taxes fall.
No, driving federal budget deficits into the stratosphere will not "starve the beast" of socialist programs the Right has for decades been dying to kill, even as such programs progressively expanded in budget and numbers from Roosevelt on through every Administration afterward. The only way the Right is going to fulfill its fantasy of a return to the superstitious and brutish world of every-man-for-himself is by wrecking the Social Security Act of 1933, a venture that will be attended by the unavoidable borrowing by the federal government of perhaps several trillion dollars.
But right now, this Administration wants to show resolve. The world at large must know that the Americans aren't going to send their national debt into insolvency territory; the fiscal conservatives must know that the neo-conservatives really didn't mean what they said about deficits being irrelevant; and the evangelicals of the religious Right need to know that Mr. Bush does, indeed, plan to reshape the American society into some 21st Century version of a Puritan nation marching on in self-reliance and fear of God.
And so the Administration, which could do none of this in its first term—an Administration that failed at every turn to deliver solid results to just about every constituency that props it up—will now show its will to do what it swore it would.
And America's people—its poor, its vulnerable, its thoughtful, its needful—will bear the brunt of Mr. Bush's newly minted, Right-wing spine.
But what could we expect? This is an Administration that, by its sustained and appalling incompetence and obsessive focus, utterly failed to protect us from a coordinated attack within the continental United States by a pack of amateurs carrying nothing more than box cutters. Idiots with box cutters successfully did more than $30 billion dollars worth of damage to the most powerful nation in the history of the world. This outrage could have been stopped at a mere fraction of the cost we now pay in treasure and liberty for Mr. Bush's failure.
This is an Administration that, again by its sustained and appalling incompetence and obsessive focus, put the United States at war with a nation that now generates insurgency able to frustrate the most powerful military machine in the history of the world, even as that machine levels city after city in a land already lain to waste. This outrage could have been avoided all together; but instead, young American men and women, together with the young and old of that shattered nation halfway across the world, now pay with their very lives for Mr. Bush's failure.
For every sin this Administration commits, someone other than Mr. Bush pays. Lives full of promise are sacrificed, nations are laid to rubble, the poor are stripped of hope, and the republic is flogged into the future by the whip of fear.
And with every act of atonement through his unwilling victims, the President is absolved of his sins; and he is born again.
The Dark Wraith has spoken.