Democrats & Liberals Archives

The Fundamental Disconnect

Elephants: they’re not just for political mascots anymore. Case in point, the State of the Union Address. There seemed to be a rather large elephant in the room to begin with. The kind that seems to enjoy hanging around obvious, unresolved issues.

But unfortunately for the poor pachyderm, especially in the light of a deficiency of elephant sized seating, he didn’t get to leave, but had to sit out the rest of the speech just like us. Bush brought doublespeak to a new low last night. That “weapons of mass destruction-related program activities” is bound to become a classic. And it is but one example of where Bush fails to even address the existence of the problems at hand, much less address the problems themselves.

Taxes are not a universal economic panacea. Because we are spending our way to deficit, each refund consitutes an additional debt taken out on behalf of the American people. You, the taxpayer must, and will pay that back. Partly, you will pay through your payroll tax, as surplus social security funds are funnelled into making the deficit look less severe than it is. But mostly you will pay through the treasury department.

The Treasury Department has a running budget of 11 billion dollars. However, it also expends over 300 billion dollars every year paying down our national debt, and our interest on that debt. That means more than one out seven of your tax dollars goes to paying debt and interest down. Our national debt is rising right now. Even if some deficit spending is necessary, no more than necessary should be allowed, given this fact. The last thing a person needs to be doing in a leaking boat is bailing water in, rather than out.

No Child Left Behind. Sounds like a noble program, until you realize how much of it's funding depended on the now cash-strapped states. Does he admit anything about that? No. He also doesn't admit, perhaps because he's not qualified to even realize it, that his grand scheme of student and teacher accountability has severe flaws.

Teacher's expectations are essential to the classroom environment. If study is directed towards formalized tests, and test taking techniques, then kids will gear their approaches to that. Together you can teach them all how to adapt to a test taking regime of any kind. Even it if teaches them relatively little about the real world.

It has been my experience that people will cram like crazy, develop systems, and do other things to exploit the weakness and shortcomings of a test system. If that is most of what they encounter in school, it will be what they learn to negotiate. But the point of education is not to mold students to an esoteric system, but to prepare them for the more nuance and complex nature of the real world.

WMDs and Iraq- The beautiful bit of linguistic sidestepping that I highlighted in the second paragraph is so vague that it could have indicated anything from the gathering of materials, to a bunch of committee meetings.

The case for Iraq revolved around the premise of a threat that could not wait. If the administration could not determine that to be the truth, then they had no business committing our troops on suspicions that could have been nothing more than a reflection of their own ideological picture of the world, much less doing so by starting a pre-emptive war.

We do not need political feedback blinding us to the real threats in the world. We do not need our eyes blindfolded and our diplomatic hands tied because these people are politically uncomfortable with the harsh truths of what those experts in the disciplines of intelligence and statecraft are saying.

It should be at least mildly disturbing that the president declares the State of the Union confident before he declares it strong, as if will and belief matter determine anything about the condition of this country. We can believe the economy is turning around, but that does not make it so. We can believe that attacking Iraq and deposing Saddam will create freedom, but that does not make it so. Our will to succeed, and our will to do good, are always going to be subject to the overshadowing consequences of what we do while driven by those motivations.

It is crucial that we have a president who understands that he can believe wrongly, understand incompletely, and plan with things in mind that turn out to be counterfactual. If our president is not willing to admit to himself and others these potential fallibilities, he will drag this country and himself into a stream of failures. And while he does that, that very same pride and ignorance will deny us the ability to redeem ourselves from those errors.

It would do Dubya good to remember that a major component of his father's fall from office was his father's refusal to admit the obvious truth that his economy was in trouble, as much as any broken pledge not to raise taxes. Right now, Bush is following in his father's footsteps of denial. I wish him the best in following them right out of office.

Posted by Stephen Daugherty at January 21, 2004 11:39 PM