Bush for President

Employment is up; inflation is down; and, in what amounts to a transvaluation of values, success as a social ideal now commands prestige. Why repudiate the politics that have brought us to this felicity?

But it isn't only government that can handle the sundry other problems that clutter the horizon. The problem of day care, for instance, for working mothers with children: ought we to think of that as a problem that goes away when the government steps in to subsidize day-care centers? What is the fallout from government day care? Is George Gilder on to something when he warns of the effects of the depersonalization of care at so early an age? And since when did baby-sitting become a federal responsibility (though it appears that Bush now thinks it that)? And what about health care? Should the federal government adopt the Dukakis precedent, which has required Massachusetts enterprise to subsidize medical costs to an extent that in days gone by would have been classified as socialized medicine?

George Bush has not (again, as of this writing) endorsed creative alternatives to the preemption of private energy to cope with these problems, and it is a universally honored presumption in the non-socialist world that private solutions tend to work better than public solutions (consider the example of the telephone system over against that of the post office). But few will deny that the presumption of engagement by the private sector is Republican, not Democratic. The most searching recent inquiry into the problems of public health was made by a hard-thinking Democrat, Joseph Califano, a former Secretary of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, in his book America's Health Care Revolution. He argued there for health-maintenance programs initiated and supervised by the private sector. However, his recommendations, based on his Cabinet experience, have not influenced Democratic activists who instead are calling for—what one would expect: more-substantial intervention in public health by the public sector.

In America we are suddenly face-to-face with a political problem that crystallized while we were all looking elsewhere. It is this: the House of Representatives has become a permanently Democratic institution. It has recently been calculated that the turnover in its membership is less than that of the House of Lords. More than 98 percent of its incumbents were re-elected in 1986. And this year estimates are that one hundred seats in the House will not even be contested. (Why bother?) We have a great big bloated Democratic parliamentary dynasty. How to tame it is a question for another day—but a serious question, which calls for national attention at the time of the 1990 census, attention only a Republican President is likely to insist upon. Meanwhile, those who are concerned about the implications of our House of Lords for enlightened self-rule must welcome that resilience in the Constitution which gives to the President a veto power over legislation. Who is likelier to use that veto power against a Democratic monolith, George Bush or Michael Dukakis?

The heavy rhetoric at the democratic convention, to the extent that it became specific, focused on the budget deficit. My conclusion is that most cool observers now realize that the deficit is a problem not curable by any means as easy as voting for one or another presidential candidate. Two weeks before the Democratic Convention met, Michael Dukakis was confronted with a $450 million deficit in the state whose affairs he has governed with such ostentatious flair as to earn him his party's nomination. The Duke, it was promised by his backers, would do for America what he has done for Massachusetts. That is exactly what we have to fear.

It is always a little sad to dismember something into the construction of which so much architectural talent as been put, but a few paragraphs need to be devoted to deflating Dukakis's claims to extraordinary executive skills.

  • The "Massachusetts miracle," for which Dukakis is widely given credit, appears to have ended in 1984, a year after he took back the governorship from Edward King. From June of that year until January of this, the state lost 89,600 manufacturing jobs. That's a decline of 13.2 percent, at a time when manufacturing decline nationally was only 3.4 percent. During this period more than 200 plants in the state of Massachusetts closed their doors.

    In the past year manufacturing in the United States has rebounded; exports are up, and so is manufacturing employment. But not in Massachusetts. From January, 1987, to January, 1988, while the nation was adding 499,000 new manufacturing jobs, the state was losing 15,500. The only reason it didn't lose more is that per capita, Massachusetts is the beneficiary of defense-procurement spending that is nearly three times the national average.

    Nor is the state's relatively low unemployment rate anything that Saint Francis would have recognized as a miracle: it is not difficult to have an unemployment rate slightly lower than the national average when the growth in your labor force is one sixth the national average.

  • Since the beginning of Dukakis's second term, in 1983, the number of employees on the state payroll in Massachusetts has increased by 12 percent. (Eight thousand six hundred workers were added to the state payroll, for a total of 80,000.) A comparable increase in federal workers would have meant 345,000 more federal employees. Dukakis's fiscal 1989 state budget of $11.6 billion represents an increase of 68 percent over the 1983 budget. Assuming constant dollars, that comes to 38 percent more state spending than in 1983. The federal equivalent of this would be $257 billion more federal spending than is currently budgeted for next year.

  • The threatened fiscal crisis in Massachusetts has hardly slowed Dukakis's appetite for increases in state obligations. He prides himself on having godfathered the first state universal-health-care plan. Estimates of the annual cost vary greatly but run as high as $2 billion. Moreover, he proudly proclaims the Massachusetts health-care system as the model the federal government would imitate under a Dukakis presidency. The $2 billion overhead in Massachusetts is the equivalent of $83 billion nationally.

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