Bush is running with the deficits-don’t-matter crowd. During a visit to a flag factory Thursday, Bush brandished White House calculations claiming that his plan “will create 2.1 million new jobs over the next three years. Unmentioned was the awkward reality that in August, the Congressional Budget Office forecast a $ 145 billion deficit for this fiscal year and a $ 1 billion shortfall for next year. And the CBO projections do not include either the revenue loss from the president’s tax plan or the impossible-to-predict costs of a war with Iraq.
These ideological inconsistencies are not limited to economic policy. In recent weeks, liberal Democratic Rep. Charles Rangel of New York has become a television regular with his proposal to bring back the military draft because the current volunteer Army puts a disproportionate number of blacks and Hispanics in the line of fire. As Rangel puts it, “For those who say the poor fight better, I say give the rich a chance.”
Rangel docs raise a valid point: The risks that would accompany war with Iraq -would be shared unequally. Many affluent Americans have no personal connection with the men and women who would be sent to oust Saddam Hussein. For those whose children and friends do not wear the uniform of their country, war becomes an abstraction, witnessed only through the emotionally safe prism of a television screen.
But maybe the era of sacrifice is over. For most of us, the notion of really giving up something for the greater good is as foreign to our experience as saving tin foil and kitchen grease for the war effort. For those who lived through World War II or even the agonies of the Vietnam War, it is hard to accept the reality that we are now a nation that can seemingly afford guns, butter and tax cuts. Imagine Winston Churchill telling the British people during the darkest days of war with Germany, “We shall fight on the beaches with rate reductions, we shall fight them on the landing grounds with tax-free dividends, -we shall fight in the fields with business incentives, and in the streets with rebates. We shall never surrender, as long as there’s one tax left to cut. ”
In truth, we can now have it all without paying a major price in the short run. As Bush triumphantly declared Thursday, “We’re the strongest, most resilient economy in the entire world.” So what if the government has to borrow a few hundred billion dollars more to pay its bills? So what if our brave fighting forces include only a small segment of society? We’re Americans, privileged to live in a land that has transcended the need for sacrifice.