Thursday, February 03, 2005
On this day:

State of the Union II - The Domestic Agenda

The Money Issues

Some of the most "ideological" of conservatives complain that many elements of the President's domestic agenda call for an expansion of the federal government, rather than its limitation. For example, in his speech tonight, President Bush endorsed greater federal involvement in education, reforming the job training system, and providing for community health centers in every poor county. None of those items would be likely to appear on the agenda of a conservative or libertarian ideologue.

More pragmatic conservatives recognize that for the most part, the President's agenda reflects an astute understanding of "what is possible" given the current political environment. It is an incremental approach designed to attract a growing constitutency for small-government conservatism.

The biggest domestic issue of the night was Social Security. The President repeated his commitment to personal retirement accounts for younger workers. These accounts will lead to both moral and economic benefits. Personal retirement accounts will transform Social Security from a system that fosters dependence on government to one that encourages self-reliance and individual responsibility. The money invested will provide capital to the private economy, increasing productivity and economic growth. Politically, personal retirement accounts will expand the "investor class," a natural constituency for the Republican Party.

On health care, the President proposed medical liability reform, association health plans for small businesses, and an expansion of health savings accounts, all designed to address rising health care costs by allowing markets to operate more freely and by injecting more individual control and responsibility into the system. On energy policy, the President called for Congress to implement the strategy he outlined 4 years ago, which focuses on enhancing productive capacity, largely by reducing government interference. On tax policy, he renewed his commitment to a fairer and simpler tax code. Etc., etc. The common theme here - free markets, individual responsibility, less government regulation.

I noticed that the President didn't mention our inane agricultural policies - you know, the ones that pay people not to produce. But, if putting up with that, a bloated Department of Education, and a few big pork programs is the price for instituting necessary reforms to Social Security, health care, energy policy, and taxation, then that's probably a pretty good deal.