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February 02, 2005

The Economist Seems to Be Composed of Unhappy Campers

It writes:

...the gap between Mr Bush's rhetoric and what is actually happening, or is likely to happen, is embarrassingly wide. The day after his “freedom speech” his officials fanned out to explain that he didn't really mean anything specific. In Iraq things are not going according to plan—if indeed the administration actually has a plan. Tax reform has been sidelined to a commission, with action this year, next year, sometime. His attempt to privatise part of the Social Security system is in trouble even before it starts.... Neo-conservatives, who loved the inauguration speech, claim that Mr Bush is undermining it through the people he has appointed....

There is often a gap between promise and achievement in politics—and nearly always one in inauguration speeches, which are supposed to be aspirational. What is unusual about Mr Bush's ambition is the way it is centred on what might be called “discretionary policies”. Social Security privatisation, tax reform, the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and the “war on tyranny” are all causes Mr Bush chose to espouse. He was not forced to take them on by events, and no one would have censured him (much) had he not mounted these hobby-horses.... The discretionary element makes Mr Bush's job much harder.., his “discretionary” wish-list is not popular (most people oppose Social Security privatisation). And it is dividing his own party while uniting Democrats.

Mr Bush has already had trouble with supporters in the House of Representatives who held up a bill on intelligence reform. Now, several Republican congressmen have begun to ask pointedly why the president is in such a hurry to reform Social Security, whose solvency problems are not as bad as Medicare's. And the opposition has rallied around the cause of stopping “privatisation”...

Posted by DeLong at February 2, 2005 08:43 PM