There has been much criticism of the Bush administration from conservative commentators, politicians and radio talk show hosts that the president's failures are due to his abandonment of conservative principles. But in fact, not only has Bush not abandoned conservative principles, he has given the neo-conservative movement everything is has wanted. President Bush's failures do not demonstrate the failure of a defector, but that of the conservative movement in its entirety in providing a suitable model for America following the Cold War.
Minimum government role, which is one of the core principles of the conservative movement, has been the current administration's model. But we saw the failure of that model in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The government proved incapable of responding effectively to save lives because it didn't have the infrastructure in place to handle a disaster of such massive scale. They ran on the platform that government is ineffective, then they won and proved it. It is also important to note that the levies in New Orleans and the recent bridge in Minnesota collapsed for the same reason: inadequate investment in this country's decaying infrastructure. What these natural disasters have demonstrated is that while bloated government is not desirable by any sensible policymaker, there are certain jobs that can only be done by government, such as investment in country's infrastructure and response to disasters.
The current state of economy also demonstrates the failure of conservative economic policy. The Bush administration and his conservative congressional allies implemented a series of tax-cuts, one set of which amounted to $1.35 trillion dollars, half of which went to those who were in the wealthiest top one percent of the population. These tax-cuts were an execution of the conservative philosophy of minimum taxes. By implementing the tax-cuts for the wealthy, they in effect reversed what our progressive tax system had accomplished throughout a number of years prior to the cuts.
The problem with this policy was that they depleted the federal surplus on the eve of the baby-boomers' retirement and need for Social Security and healthcare support. In the meantime, these cuts have contributed to the growing gap between the rich and the poor and shrinking of the middle class. Conservatives like David Brooks of the New York Times have tried to counter this fact by saying that the income of the lowest economic class have grown at a "fast" pace over the past few years. But that was never the question because we have to look at the numbers in relative terms. What matters most is whether the income of the middle and lower economic classes have grown at nearly the same pace as that of the rich or the inflation rate, and the answer is a resounding no. The Government Accountability Office now predicts that "absent policy change, a growing imbalance between expected federal spending and tax revenues will mean escalating and ultimately unsustainable federal deficits and debt." The conservative economic philosophy and trickle down economics are fully responsible for this imbalance.
And of course, the neoconservative foreign policy is another aspect of this administration's failure. While many conservatives claim that the administration's policy in Iraq and around the world demonstrate a departure from the conservative philosophy, it is in fact the very embodiment of the neoconservative desire for the New Pax Americana. Neoconservatives were the cheerleaders for this administration's reliance on cherry-picked intelligence to make a case for the invasion of Iraq. This invasion was the very implementation of the neoconservative principles in the Project for the New American Century, which calls for increases in defense spending and spreading democracy in the world. Elliott Abrams, Dick Cheney, Eliot Cohen, Paula Dobriansky, Aaron Friedberg, Francis Fukuyama, Zalmay Khalilzad, I. Lewis Libby, Peter Rodman, Henry Rowen, Donald Rumsfeld, Vin Weber and Paul Wolfowitz are all original signatories of the Project for the New American Century who have also served the Bush administration at various capacities.
The failure of this administration in Iraq may be partially the result of the fact that they tried to do this war the cheap way, sending about 50 percent of the number of troops that General Shinseki said we would need. The main factor, however, that explains the failure of this operation is the flawed neo-con belief that there can be a military short-cut to democracy. Neo-conservatism has failed to acknowledge that democracy is only the last point in an evolutionary social process, and unless the people in a country go through those necessary social stages, they will not achieve a lasting democracy. The Iraq War policy also demonstrated a series of false choices that were provided to Americans: on foreign policy, we must select between isolationism or military intervention. These choices were flawed for two reasons; for one, what the Iraq War demonstrated was that military intervention to topple rogue regimes, with-us-or-against-us foreign policy and maintaining a hostile view toward the United Nations are the very main reasons that contribute to alienating our democratic allies and isolating the United States. The second flaw is that military intervention is not the only way in which American can maintain an international role in the world. We can establish economic relations with other countries through fair trade and join our democratic allies to tackle world's common challenges, such as poverty, violations of human rights and the progression of global warming.
So while many conservatives will claim that the Bush administration's failures is due to its abandonment of core conservative policies, the facts demonstrate that President Bush has been very faithful to the neoconservative philosophy, and it is in fact the neoconservatives who are now betraying this loyal foot soldier in their conservative insurgency. As much as conservatives do not want to admit it, the current administration is a demonstration that the neoconservative philosophy has been a failure in providing suitable answers to the challenges America faces in the twenty-first century.