I don't read leading economic indicators very well and I can't always
see the difference between a Laffer curve and a Bush beanball. But even
I could tell the news was not good during the week of what we were told
would be the "defining moment" of this administration. That's when we
Taxpayers will need to shell out another $55 billion (on top of
the $105 billion already committed) to pay for Savings and Loan
About ten percent of all Americans are now on food stamps,
the highest number ever;
The president's 1993 budget will add $351.9 billion to the
federal deficit which is already $3.6 trillionor $36,000 for every
household in the country. That means that under Reagan and Bush, the
national debt has quadrupled the total deficit piled up by all the
presidents before them.
The good news was that the State of the Union address came through
as advertised. The president provided us with the most sharply focused
defining moment since Marie Antoinette said "Let them eat cake."
I mean, of course, his joke about people who oppose his capital
gains tax cuts, two thirds of which, Ellen Goodman reminds us, would go
to the richest one percent of Americans. People who don't like that,
the president said (and here's the joke), "kind of remind me of the old
definition of the Puritan, who couldn't sleep at night worrying that
somehow someone somewhere was out having a good time."
And all along I thought they were going to use that money to make
new jobs. They're just going to have a good time?
But enough mean-spirited niggling. In times like these we need to
The president looked pretty spiffy while he was delivering the
speech. He had a fresh haircut and a new necktie and he looked about
twenty years younger than he is. Barbara, on the other hand, looked
like she might be his mother, clearly the 66-year-old woman she is. Why
do I find that in her favor?
Lots of people think the president made a pact with Satan to stay
young looking. That's just partisan politics. A little of the
president's youthful look comes from his obsessive exercise and probably
some tv makeup and hair dye, but most of it comes from good genes.
That's another way of saying that most of it comes from blind luck,
even though the Bush-Reagan ideology doesn't recognize luck. Luck
implies that adversity or prosperity may be unmerited, may not be
something we control. A little medical bad luck, for example, could put
most of us in the poorhouse. It's an unsettling idea, but it never
seems to unsettle our get-government-off-our-backs presidents.
The Truth, Mainly
That's because the unspoken main tenet of their political gospel is
that we all deserve what we have and what we get, good or bad. So
despite the way the $160 billion S & L scandal followed deregulation,
they see regulation as a barrier to people getting what they deserve.
And they see the capital gains tax as blocking our richest one percent
from getting even more of what they deserve.
It's a view that simplifies things considerably.
Can't afford health insurance? Don't get sick. Stay vigorous.
Choose parents with good genes.
Can't afford other necessities? Just show some initiative:
inherit some money and make some lucky investments.
So the president's domestic policy is that while the bad-luck
outsiders press their noses to the window, the good-luck insiders
continue the orgy. Deregulate. Cut taxes for the rich, pretend to
believe in trickledown, and let the good times roll. Only mean-spirited
Puritans object to good times. Be healthy. Be born into wealth. Think
positive. Eat cake.
The counterpoint to all that revelry is the national debt, the S &
L disaster, the food stamps, the health crisis. They bring to mind
another pre-French Revolution quotation, this one attributed to Louis
XV: "Apres nous le deluge."
That translates roughly into "Let's do what we have to do to get
elected and let the grandchildren pick up the pieces." Except it
probably won't be the president's grandchildren. My mean spirit tells me
they'll probably be among the lucky one percent taken care of by capital
gains, untaxed to stimulate the economy, don't you know.
Satterfield is a college professor and writes as a means of discovery.