I’ve finally come
to a real dilemma. With Election ’04 on the horizon, this dilemma is
growing daily. On one hand, we have the President Bush whose strong
stance in the face of international terror has kept us safe and inspired
a renewed sense of American patriotism. A man I admire greatly for
his courage and leadership. But on the other hand, we have the President
Bush whose outrageous spending and domestically liberal policies have practically
bankrupted the federal government, forcing almost imperial control over states
It all started with the No Child Left Behind Act that the President signed
into law on June 8, 2002. The bill, authored by Senator Ted Kennedy
(D-MA), drastically increased, not only spending for education, but federal
control over state policies regarding the issue. As an education major,
I am witness to the flaws of this legislation. The main problem is
educational standards. Let me explain. Each state is federally
mandated to administer a standardized test to pupils to evaluate performance.
The student performance level on this exam primarily determines federal funding,
but may also cause a federal takeover of a school system if performance levels
are not satisfactory for a given number of years. The stickler is that
states are allowed to determine their own satisfactory performance level.
For example, in Missouri, the current level for “proficiency” is 3 (out of
5). In Kansas, our neighbor state, the level for “proficiency” is 2.
What does this mean? Quite simply it means, while it may appear that
students in Kansas are performing at a satisfactory level, they are actually
performing at a level lower than that of Missouri. It may appear that
Kansas pupils are competent, but in reality, they are held to lower expectations
in hopes of maintaining government funding. Missouri schools will lose
funding and be placed on “watch” lists, while Kansas schools will be praised
for their “successful” educational programs.
While I’m on the subject of education, what ever happened to the President’s
school choice initiative? I, for one, was in full support of the voucher
program, as were many of the constituents that got Bush elected in the first
place. Maybe he’s waiting for an opportune time to announce a new proposal
to Congress, or maybe he just forgot. Who knows? Regardless,
the President’s handling of the education system garnered him “Strike 1”
in my little book of disagreement.
I thought that this could have been a blunder on the part of the President.
After all, all leaders are human and mistakes are going to be made.
Then came “Strike 2.”
Last November, the President signed a bill granting tax payer-funded prescription
drug coverage to America’s seniors. Congressional Republicans authored
the legislation that is supposed to cost $400 billion over the next 10 years,
but will be upwards of 2 trillion after subsidies kick in. The subsidies
are basically entitlements for corporations—bribes so they won’t drop the
current coverage their retirees receive. The program has increased,
not only the size of government, which, by the way, Republicans should be
against, but the spending rate to boot. It is inevitable that our well-deserved
tax cuts will be repealed and raised drastically to pay for this monstrosity.
Bush sold the economic welfare of my generation, and undoubtedly many generations
to come, to assure a solid voting block of geriatrics come election time.
Way to go, Mr. President.
"Strike 3” came last March, when the President signed Campaign Finance Reform
legislation, better known as McCain-Feingold, into law. While many
view the bill as a ban on soft money, they neglect to see the massive encroachment
of free speech the legislation entails. Attack ads, funded by Political
Action Committees (PACs), are banned 30 days before a primary and 60 days
before an election. Regardless of what you think of PACs, the Constitution
clearly establishes that “Congress shall make no law abridging…the freedom
speech.” If this statement can be used to cover someone burning an
American flag, it damn sure covers the right of an organization to run a
political ad. I suppose the Supreme Court should be lynched for this
one too, since they found it constitutional in review, but had Bush not signed
it in the first place, it would be a non-issue.
So I’m fed up, but it's not over yet. The President now announces his
proposal to basically grant amnesty to illegal aliens, illegally living and
working in the United States. Now I know, the President said he was
against amnesty and this program in no way grants it, but let’s be real.
Amnesty is defined as: A general pardon granted by a government for
illegal activities. The President's proposal is rewarding those who
came to this country illegally, and who work and live in this country illegally,
with legal status by granting three-year temporary “work visas.” These
visas are renewable—probably until the end of time.
Now I agree, something had to be done to remedy our current border debacle.
Getting these people documented was priority one, and I applaud the President
for getting this much done. I do realize that it is not feasible to
deport these people, as well. But what the President has done is not
the answer for which conservatives were looking. Along with getting
these people documented, the President should have increased border security,
even to the point of putting the National Guard or Army Reserves on the border.
Yes, this would take a drastic overhaul of military resources, but it would
be a necessary step if one were serious about stifling our now overwhelming
illegal immigration situation.
By granting this quasi-amnesty, the President has done nothing but encourage
further illegal activity. Yes, the proposal makes clear that it is
necessary that these people show proof of employment, but I’m sure ways are
being developed to maneuver around that inconvenience as we speak—after all,
one isn’t supposed to live and work in this country illegally, in the first
place. Ronald Reagan, perhaps the greatest President in American history,
when questioned about granting amnesty in 1986, referred to it as the single
biggest mistake of his presidency. President Bush should have learned
something from this example. Hopefully Congress will.
By pushing all of this dangerous nonsense onto America, President Bush has
taken steps to emphatically alienate his conservative base. He has
taken us for granted in a grand series of political maneuvers. Bush
expects that with the ultra-left rhetoric from the Democratic candidates
and high likelihood that Howard Dean, the most liberal of them all, will
receive the nomination, conservatives have nowhere to go—therefore, he can
seek to expand his electorate by pursuing this domestically liberal agenda.
On defense, President Bush has no rival. His leadership in the War
on Terror, coupled with the enhanced presence of military strength abroad,
has satiated conservatives to the point where they are willing to overlook
this reckless spending and domestic policies, but is that enough? I’ve
defended the President on many occasions when leftists lambasted him for
his failures. From tax cuts to terrorism, I have been on the President’s
side. But this string of domestic policy has left me outraged and I
find it hard to defend.
In the end, I suppose Bush is right, core conservatives have nowhere else
to go. I can’t count on any of these democratic candidates to protect
us the way Bush has, but it is enraging to sit back and watch Bush sell us
down the river on domestic issues in an attempt to assure a second term.
This is my quagmire.
The President will most likely be re-elected, and he will most likely get
my vote, but I hope he reconsiders the direction he intends to lead this
country. If not, it will take decades to undo the damage he has done.
Andy Obermann is majoring in History and Secondary Education at Missouri Valley College.