I actually agree with Bush on something - I, too, find it disgusting that we have to pander to a few at the expense of many. Here is Gail Collins on the subject of the just-passed farm bill, a disgrace.......
John McCain gave a speech this week describing what the world would look like after his first term in office.
It looked great! The terrorists are on the run, Iraq is a “functioning democracy,” and back home the economy is terrific, thanks to a combination of business tax cuts and savings gleaned from eliminating useless government programs. For average citizens, the tax code has been made so simple and undemanding that filling out I.R.S. forms would probably become an enjoyable family activity, like miniature golf.
It was a little like those old Victorian novels in which the hero visits the future and discovers that by 2000, America has become perfect. Not only have wars and poverty been wiped out, houses have self-washing windows and everyone gets free tickets to great sporting events and concerts, for which good seats are always available at the last minute.
The most intriguing part of the McCain vision is the League of Democracies. This is his plan for a planetary alliance of economically powerful, democratically governed nations whose leaders would work together to protect human rights and combat terrorism. The proper policy response, no doubt, is: what about the United Nations? But all I really want to know is: will there be uniforms?
Jan. 1, 2013: President McCain celebrated the multitudinous achievements of his first four years in office with special friends in the White House. The tiny American contingent of troops still stationed in Iraq joined the festivities by satellite from a golf course in Baghdad, where they have been spending their time since the war was won.
Members of the League of Democracies opened the New Year’s ceremony with their pledge to “fight a never-ending battle for truth, justice and the small-d-democratic way.” Wearing their colorful terrorism-fighting costumes were French President Nicolas Sarkozy, now better known to the planet by his nom de guerre of Pâté Man, and Germany’s green-haired Angela (EcoGirl) Merkel, accompanied as always by her sidekick, Icy the Polar Bear. Silvio Berlusconi of Italy wore a business suit, but still wowed the crowd with his trademark power of shooting molten-gold bullion at his assailants.
On the one hand, it’s always helpful to hear a candidate’s broad vision. On the other, the vision loses some of its import if you can’t get there from here. Pressed for details on his foreign-policy strategies, McCain said the secret was “setting goals and achieving.” You can just hear the Democrats of 2013 kicking themselves: Goals and achievements! Why didn’t we think of that?
While McCain was unveiling his great expectations in Ohio, back in Washington Congress was voting by overwhelming majorities to pass an enormous, wasteful, ridiculous farm bill that provides massive subsidies to wealthy people who grow wheat, corn, soybeans, rice and cotton — along, of course, with Senator Mitch McConnell’s famous tax break for breeders of thoroughbred horses. McCain said he’d veto the bill if he were president, a threat that loses some of its wow quotient when the bill in question just passed both chambers by veto-proof majorities. (Both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama dived into the tank and supported the package.)
Among the smaller subsidies was one for goat mohair. This was a target for the Clinton administration’s big efficiency drive, partly because the nation’s well-being does not really require a secure supply of mohair, and partly because it has the disadvantage of sounding silly. Mohair price supports were eliminated with great fanfare and effort. Then Congress promptly reinstated them as an emergency measure. (I have fond memories of Lamar Smith, a Texas Republican, yelping: “Mohair is popular! I have a mohair sweater! It’s my favorite one!”) Special breaks for mohair were cemented back into agriculture policy under George Bush, even though Bush really did seem to want to do something about wasteful farm spending.
All of which explains why presidents who run for office promising to cut the fat out of the budget wind up sighing and learning to live with goats on the dole.
The farm bill is one big hairball of accommodations and trade-offs, and cheers to McCain for taking a principled stand against it. But unless he’s been serving on a U.S. Senate in an alternate universe, he knows that getting rid of even a small sliver of the unnecessary programs beloved by somebody’s constituents would be a Herculean challenge. It would be good to have a president willing to try. It would be scary to have one who builds his entire economic plan on the presumption that by 2013 he could wring “great reductions in government spending” that way.
And if his domestic vision is that far removed from reality, what does that say about the goals-and-achievements stepladder to international peace and harmony via military interventions and a League of Democracies?
Although if the costumes were neat enough. ...