February 10, 2003


Bush Seeks to Recast Federal Ties to the Poor: States Would Gain Control Over Services; Funds for Some Programs Would Be Cut (Amy Goldstein and Jonathan Weisman, February 9, 2003, Washington Post)
President Bush has embarked on a far-reaching campaign to transform the federal government's relationship with the nation's poor, seeking to tip control over social services to the states, reduce the funding of some programs, and require more proof that low-income people are eligible for public help.

The $2.23 trillion budget that Bush proposed to Congress last week would loosen federal standards and hand states vast new authority, if they want it, over housing subsidies, unemployment benefits, health insurance and a preschool program for children from disadvantaged families, which is known as Head Start. It would also make outright cuts in some poverty programs, such as a reduction by a fourth in the amount the government devoted last year to "community services" grants for dispossessed neighborhoods. [...]

Affecting many federal agencies, the changes Bush wants to make in anti-poverty efforts reveal a bold aspect of his vision of government that he seldom discusses publicly. The proposals were not among the positions he staked out during the 2000 presidential campaign.

Aside from a plan to redesign the health insurance program, Medicaid, administration officials have drawn scant attention this year to their policies for addressing poverty as they released a budget that concentrates on defeating terrorism and building the economy. The president has not even publicly acknowledged this year's most dramatic tax proposal -- a plan to establish new savings accounts that would allow families to shield tens of thousands of dollars a year from all capital gains, interest and dividend taxation.

All of these policies are, in a sense, ideological heirs to previous conservative attempts to spur economic growth through the tax code and to limit the federal role in social welfare -- starting with President Ronald Reagan two decades ago and surging again in the mid-1990s, when congressional Republicans tried to "devolve" many federal responsibilities to the states. [...]

[P]olicy analysts across the ideological spectrum say that the changes imbedded in Bush's budget, if adopted, would be virtually unrivaled in scale and scope. "Just the sheer volume of proposals . . . across an array of low-income programs . . . is breathtaking," said Mark Greenberg, policy director of the Center for Law and Social Policy, a nonprofit group that specializes in family and welfare issues.

While Libertarians, Harvard men, and various others have convinced themselves that George W. Bush is a closet Rockefeller, he continues to use his executive powers to effect a quiet conservative revolution.

President To Push Vouchers For D.C.: Bush Moving Ahead Despite City Opposition (Valerie Strauss, February 8, 2003, Washington Post)
Guidelines on School Prayer Issued: Resistance Could Jeopardize Federal Funds, Education Dept. Says (Ben Feller, February 9, 2003, Associated Press)

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 10, 2003 8:23 PM

Today on All Things Considered, Daniel Schorr (ptah, ptah, ptah) accused President Bush of dismantling what President Reagan called the social safety net. (I'm paraphrasing, but that was the gist of it.) When Daniel Schorr appeals to Ronald Reagan to criticize George Bush, you know the world has changed.

Posted by: David Cohen at February 10, 2003 8:59 PM

Some real skepticism about the Bush administration's resolve on conservative principles is well-founded. Federal discretionary spending is positively sky-rocketing, even without
war expenses.

Posted by: Paul Cella at February 10, 2003 10:03 PM


We'll never cut spending until we're totally bankrupt.

Posted by: oj at February 11, 2003 9:31 AM

Paul comments is similar to some strong criticism of the Bush budget seen at other posts. One post even predicted Bush would lose in 2004 due to libertartians/conservatives abandoning him due to the large budget.

I would like to see discretionary spending reduced but I'm willing to cut Bush some slack for now given the war and very slight majorities in Congress (which aren't real given how much some Republicans like to spend/hate tax cuts).

This below the radar stuff is good but Bush may need to do some stuff out in the open to verify his small govt. credentials. Some suggestions would be privatize the Post Office, TVA, appoint Zell Miller to run a reduce govt commission, appoint McCain to run a reduce corporate subsidiaries commission, etc.

Posted by: AWW at February 11, 2003 9:52 AM

The reality is, we need structural reform, and in general you have to buy reform. Any period of genuine reform is going to see spending go up. The important thing is that Bush actually get real reform, not just spending increases with no accomplishments like his father.

Posted by: pj at February 11, 2003 2:09 PM


Those folks have abandoned him more times than Burton dumped Taylor--N. Hampshire, S. Carolina, steel tarrifs, Education Bill, cloning, not bombing Iraq on 9/12/01 and every day since, yadda, yadda, yadda. They peer at their navels and see the Milky Way.

Posted by: oj at February 11, 2003 4:19 PM