the State of the Union

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 disturbing—as 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 Africa—it’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.