Washington Post Editorial Round-Up
THE DEBATE OVER the Bush administration's fiscal policy has been grinding on for three years, producing few concessions or apologies. Critics, including this page, say the tax cuts are not affordable; defenders retort that the president has a five-year plan to halve the deficit and that a combination of economic growth and entitlement reform can shore up the government's finances in the longer term.
To break out of this stalemate, we have taken a fresh look at these hopes for long-term salvation. We have assumed, for the sake of argument, that a second-term Bush administration could overcome the political obstacles to entitlement reform and pro-growth policies such as tort reform, and we have sought estimates for the impact of such reforms on government finances. For example, a jump in labor productivity like the one experienced in the 1990s would likely eliminate the deficit in 2014, which is otherwise projected to clock in at around 3.5 percent of gross domestic product, according to calculations by Alan J. Auerbach of the University of California at Berkeley and Peter R. Orszag and William G. Gale of the Brookings Institution. Or, to take another example, Medicare reform could theoretically cut the system's costs by 30 percent, according to Elliott S. Fisher of Dartmouth Medical School.
WITH ALL THE heightened concerns about terrorism, you might think the Department of Homeland Security has something better to do with its time and energy than throw victims of natural disasters out of the United States. But that's because, like most Americans, you probably missed a recent notice in the Federal Register informing victims of a massive volcanic eruption on the Carribean island of Montserrat that they had to leave this country by February.
Bush's Two Albatrosses
By David S. Broder
The factors that make President Bush a vulnerable incumbent have almost nothing to do with his opponent, John F. Kerry. They stem directly from two closely linked, high-stakes policy gambles that Bush chose on his own. Neither has worked out as he hoped.
The first gamble was the decision to attack Iraq; the second, to avoid paying for the war. The rationale for the first decision was to remove the threat of a hostile dictator armed with weapons of mass destruction. The weapons were never found. The rationale for the second decision -- the determination to keep cutting taxes in the face of far higher spending for Iraq and the war on terrorism -- was to stimulate the American economy and end the drought of jobs. The deficits have accumulated, but the jobs have still not come back.
If Bush can win reelection despite the failure of his two most consequential -- and truly radical -- decisions, he will truly be a political miracle man. But as his own nominating convention approaches, the odds are against him.