[Mb-civic] Choose: Guns or Butter - Richard Cohen - Washington Post
swiggard at comcast.net
Thu Sep 22 04:18:13 PDT 2005
Choose: Guns or Butter
By Richard Cohen
Thursday, September 22, 2005; Page A25
On Aug. 3, 1967, President Lyndon B. Johnson sent a message to Congress
in which he said that the United States could not continue to fight a
war in Vietnam and at the same time continue his Great Society programs
without, among other things, raising taxes. George Bush ought to read
that message. It was titled "The Hard and Inescapable Facts."
For Bush, facts are neither hard nor inescapable. He believes in
"magical math" -- a firm understanding that somehow, in some way,
something will happen to make everything come out right in the end. This
is the economics practiced by the dreamy who think that today's credit
card purchase will never come due. This, in a nutshell, is the financial
blueprint for the United States of America.
For Johnson, the realization that bills come due came too late. Early on
he said, "We can continue the Great Society while we fight in Vietnam,"
but he sensed -- canny pol that he was -- that the American people would
pay for the former but not, if they had to choose, the latter. When
Johnson finally had to ask for a tax increase, he was on his way out as
president. Less than a year after delivering his message about hard
facts, he had to face the hardest one himself: He announced he would not
Bush, having won a second term, cannot seek reelection and so he may
never become politically accountable for his mismanagement of the
nation's finances. As Johnson initially attempted, Bush is telling the
American people they can have both guns and butter -- two for the price
of one. In Bush's case, "guns" is the war in Iraq (and Afghanistan) and
the "butter" is domestic programs such as enriched Medicare along with
the war on terrorism, which Bush himself has characterized as virtually
endless. In his case, though, he has not only refused to raise taxes, he
has actually lowered them. LBJ could only marvel.
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