Friday, January 23, 2009

THE BUSH YEARS: THE END OF THE REAGAN REVOLUTION

THE BUSH YEARS: THE END OF THE REAGAN REVOLUTION

Our assessment of the Bush years (2001-2008) must be grounded in an understanding of the almost thirty years of a failed ideologythat guided domestic and foreign policy. This failed vision of government and public policy has its roots in the Reagan "revolution."

Domestically the Reagan administration embraced a governmental philosophy that claimed that government can never help solve social, political, and economic problems. Rather, government was the problem. In keeping with this philosophy, Presidents Reagan, George Herbert Walker Bush, Clinton, and the last Bush reduced government by cutting social services; redistributed more of society's wealth from the majority to the tiny minority by cutting taxes for the rich; reduced funding for mass transportation and public education, and attempted to gut long-standing programs that have served the needs of the population well, such as social security. This century government became disabled such that when an enormous tragedy such as Hurricane Katrina occurred, the Bush administration was totally unprepared to come to the aid of people in need.

Twenty-first century government served the people less than government did thirty or forty years ago. The Bush administration through taxes and selective government programs tilted societal resources further toward the rich. The top 1% of wealth holders in the United States control over 42% of the country's wealth, an increase of about 10% over the 1970s. On foreign policy, Bush embraced the neo-conservative global vision. Neo-conservatism became the basis for policy in the 1980s and beyond. Basically, neo-conservatives in the Bush administration- Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Lewis Libby, Richard Perle, and a host of others- argued that as the last remaining superpower the United States has the right and responsibility to impose its wishes, its vision of government and public policy, and its institutions on the world. If people resist, the neo-conservatives said, the United States should impose its domination by force.

9/11 became a "transformative moment". It gave the Bush administration the excuse to make war on Afghanistan and Iraq and to embark on efforts to overthrow troublesome governments such as that of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. In addition, the transformative moment led the president to declare what became known as the Bush Doctrine, the proclamation that the US has the right to act unilaterally and militarily when it thinks a group or nation might be thinking about attacking us. In other words Bush claimed that the United States had the right to engage in military attacks peremptorily. To facilitate preemptive strikes, the Bush administration maintains about 700 military bases in 132 countries.

In the end, this administration has tried to undermine and cripple government and expand militarily all around the world. As 2009 dawns we are in the midst of an economic depression that might become comparable to the Great Depression of the 1930s with massive unemployment, growing mortgage foreclosures, and declining social services. And we are bogged down in two wars and live in a world in which most nations and peoples no longer respect the United States.

The current economic crisis and unending wars are results of Bush administration policies and a thirty year tradition of government for the rich and visions of creating a global order based on US dominance. President Obama must return to the view that government can and must help those in need. He must shift his approach from a foreign policy based on threats and military interventionism to negotiation and working with other governments in international organizations.

January 23, 2009