I’m less reflexively anti-Bush than many of my friends and family members,
and I didn’t hate the State of the Union. But the "compassionate"
parts are disturbingas a reflection of our political culture, if
not of George W. personally. The two new domestic programs (addiction
treatment and mentoring) combined will cost about one third of $1 billion
a year. That’s one six hundredth of the average annual cost of the proposed
tax cuts (if one assumes that the alternative minimum tax will be reduced,
as everyone expects). Since we are running huge deficits, this $1 billion
of new compassion is not actually spending; it’s borrowing against future
generations. I don’t necessarily think that these particular programs
should be larger than Bush has suggested; it’s just that a president should
not be able to distract attention from major issues by proposing such
tiny initiatives. (Clinton, of course, mastered this art under the tutelage
of Dick Morris). As for the AIDS funding for Africait’s welcome.
But we have a clear and unavoidable moral obligation to spend modest amounts
of money to lengthen millions of human lives, so the self-congratulation
that accompanied this announcement is annoying. Apparently, there was
no prior consultation with African governments, so this was effectively
manna from heaven. And there was no hint that maybe the high cost of drug
cocktails results from patent laws in rich countries.