The Thinker

Cognitive dissonance strikes again in the West Wing

Will someone please put this administration out of its self-inflicted misery? One would hope that after the disaster inflicted by Hurricane Katrina that something might have changed in the Bush’s skull where he is alleged to have a brain. Surely walking around the detritus of New Orleans and passing over hundreds of miles of utter devastation in Bush’s presidential helicopter might have made something of an impression.

Alas, no. It is now to clear that Bush’s response to Hurricane Katrina is more of the same cognitive dissonance that we have come to expect from this administration. The administration at least seems to be mindful that it has a big problem on the Gulf Coast and it must be fixed. However, they cannot seem to step outside the boundaries of their ideology in order to do so.

I am reminded of a Dilbert cartoon from many years back. The Pointy Haired Boss throws some new assignments on Dilbert’s desk, both of which must be done immediately. Dilbert replies that it is impossible to do both, since logically he can only do one thing at a time. Which assignment will it be? His boss’s brilliant response: do them both at the same time!

While laughable on the comics page, it is excruciatingly embarrassing to see this played out in real life by our president and his administration. So let us review the story so far:

  • We are currently embroiled in an unnecessary and illegal war in Iraq that will cost us at least $250B. We will have to cough up more money for the war soon, but we have no viable exit strategy. Iraq is in a defacto civil war. Iraq will continue to bleed us dry in terms of both money and soldier’s lives for years to come.
  • Hurricane Katrina destroyed New Orleans and a significant portion of the Gulf Coast. We are spending about $2B a day on hurricane relief. In addition to spending for day-to-day needs, Bush plans to spend whatever it takes to rebuild the area. It looks like we will spend at least as much rebuilding from this natural disaster as we have spent so far in Iraq.
  • Rather than cutting discretionary spending, as you might expect from a Congress controlled by Republicans, Congress keeps piling on the pork, passing hugely expensive prescription drug legislation for seniors, transportation and energy bills that naturally do little to address these problems but of course reward favored corporation with billions of our tax dollars.
  • Congress is set to repeal the estate tax and is pushing for other tax cuts.
  • Bush keeps signing into law spending bills that violate his own spending ceilings. He has yet to veto a single bill.
  • Now Bush says that we will pay for the costs of Hurricane Katrina by cutting discretionary spending, even though Congress has yet to show any willingness to do so. Congress in fact has loaded up discretionary spending.

If I were a lender to the United States government, this would be the last straw. I would be pulling the plug. I would be cashing in my T-bills. It is clear the lunatics are running the government. They haven’t a frigging clue how to manage anything. They are incapable of making hard choices. When hard choices are even suggested, like former President Bill Clinton’s suggestion to roll back the Bush tax cuts, they are conveniently ignored. No one is held accountable for all this massive borrowing and mismanagement.

As I remarked before, it is the guns and butter administration. It is the “no sacrifices ever” administration. Nothing, not even our nation’s largest national disaster, means any rethinking of policy. Heaven forbid, there must be no new taxes to compensate for this spending, especially on those who can easily afford to pay them. In fact, we must keep cutting taxes. Meanwhile promise the residents of Mississippi and Louisiana the moon, even though they chose to live in an area prone to national disasters. Why should they be held accountable for their choices when the Bush Administration will not be held accountable either? Instead, we will spend whatever it takes. Somehow, we know, we know, that we can make it up in cuts to discretionary spending that we have never found the will to actually implement.

Bush’s father had the right words for this: voodoo economics. He should feel chagrined that it is being championed by his son.

If we are lucky then when we start charging the $200B plus in new spending to the national charge card our lenders won’t bolt. If we are even luckier, our foreign creditors will say that we will not loan you another dime until you either increase taxes or cut other spending elsewhere. If that happens then finally the conversation that Bush has avoided for five years might happen: making real choices about what is important in government.

For now, though Bush is our pointy haired president running the show. We will do it all even though it is logistically and fiscally impossible. What this amounts to is we will keep borrowing and we will pray our lenders will not cut off the credit.

In addition, if this were not enough, Bush sees this disaster as yet another opportunity to demonstrate the virtues of neo-conservative group think. The only proper way to respond to this disaster seems to involve setting up lots of free enterprise zones and turning over bought and paid for federal land to homesteaders for zilch. Moreover, in the short term it means dropping federal wage laws and suspending environmental regulations in affected areas.

It apparently does not mean having a conversation on national priorities, or involving the Democrats in any way, or raising any taxes. Nor does it mean much in the way of accountability. “Brownie” may be gone from FEMA but Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff remains, and he was the primarily obstructionist to a quick federal response to Hurricane Katrina. Instead, we get more of the same voodoo “magic” that over the last five years has kept the stock market flat, devalued wages, allowed more Americans to be priced out of the health care, allowed gasoline to top $3 a gallon, and placed more people into poverty.

It is now unfortunately clear that the real disaster was not Hurricane Katrina, is was the Supreme Court’s 2000 decision in Bush vs. Gore, which put these bozos into the power. The lunatics are still running the asylum and they just cannot say no to another shot glass of neo-conservative whiskey.

 

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