The country has still not fully recovered from the disaster of the last Bush presidency and yet we see another member of the Bush clan seeking to hold the nation's highest office. One has to wonder why Americans are running screaming from the mere thought of another Bush in the White House. Now, Jeb Bush is describing himself as a "reform conservative" much as his idiot brother sought to call himself a "compassionate conservative" - compassionate that is unless you are gay, a woman, minority and, of course an Iraqi civilian. Slate looks at Jeb's effort to dupe Americans yet again. Here are highlights:
On Wednesday, [Jeb] Bush addressed the Detroit Economic Club, in what many saw as a coming-out party for his nascent presidential campaign. In the wind-up to the speech, Dana Bash and Jeremy Diamond of CNN reported that Bush would offer up something called “reform conservatism,” which they described as similar to the “compassionate conservatism” of his older brother, George W. Bush. For reasons that will soon become clear, the comparison made me wince a bit. I couldn’t exactly blame Bash and Diamond for not being fully up to speed on reform conservatism, as the term is used almost exclusively by a handful of nerds.
According to Davis, the really distinctive thing about the reformocons is that they prefer middle-class tax cuts over the rate cuts for the rich favored by many supply-siders. Last summer, Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne offered an extended critique in Democracy Journal. For Dionne, reform conservatism is the anti–Tea Party. Whereas the Tea Party represents (in his view) “extreme opposition to government,” reformocons are (also in his view) people that the left can do business with, if only they would acknowledge how much they have in common with Barack Obama.
So what do the reformocons believe, exactly? Are they the GOP’s answer to the New Democrats, a moderate faction devoted to making their party more electable by dragging it to the center? Or are they clever marketers trying to rebrand Reaganism for the 21st century? The simplest answer is that reform conservatives are garden-variety free-market conservatives who believe that a well-designed safety net and high-quality public services are essential parts of making entrepreneurial capitalism work. This separates them from more emphatically libertarian conservatives for whom the first priority is to eliminate as many government programs as possible.
Instead of defending the welfare state in its current form, reformocons look at the goals of programs like Social Security and Medicare and then try to find better, fairer, more cost-effective ways of achieving them. They believe a few other things as well. To the extent possible, social programs that help those who fall on hard times should be geared toward helping them achieve economic self-sufficiency, rather than letting them become permanently dependent. The tax code should encourage savings and investment.
Though Bush spoke movingly about the challenges facing the tens of millions of Americans who live paycheck to paycheck, he never really reckoned with the fact that America’s economic woes began long before Barack Obama became president and that the bloated government he rightly criticizes is very much a bipartisan failure. What I really wanted was for Bush to demonstrate that he understood why so many Americans had lost their faith in the Republican Party, and why he deserved their trust. He failed to do that. Instead of offering an agenda worthy of a future president, he offered compassion for those who’ve missed out on the fruits of America’s sluggish economic growth and a series of minor tweaks that are better suited to a governor or a mayor than to the next president. To be the candidate of reform, he’ll have to do better.
My reformocon homework assignment for would-be GOP presidential candidates is simple. Don’t just tell us what you’re against. Tell us what you’re for, and be specific. You don’t like Obamacare? I don’t either. Got anything cheaper that will cover at least as many people? Not a fan of stagnant wages? Neither am I. Walk me through how deregulation or corporate tax reform or a bigger tax benefit for low-wage workers might help. Think our immigration system is broken? Me too! On what basis should we choose who does and does not get to become an American? Republicans have been trying to get by on government-bashing swagger and vague, poll-tested generalities for too long. The time has come to put some meat on the bone.
Don't expect Jeb Bush to deliver what the author asks for. It's all a ploy so that he and his family can fool the American people yet again.