W. Bush, George W.

The Bush Doctrine

Since the first inauguration in 1789,

Since the first inauguration in 1789, each president has referenced God in his inaugural address. After taking the oath of office, George Washington ad-libbed the final words, "So help me God." Every president since has done the same in the oath.

The question has never been whether religious language will be used in presidential inaugurals, but how. In perhaps the most famous, Lincoln’s second inaugural address, God was invoked not to bless the nation, or give any triumphal comfort to either side in the Civil War, but rather to call the nation to penitence. In doing so, he showed a preference for humble reflection over easy certainty, accountability over blessing, repentance over confidence. That was missing in George W. Bush’s second inaugural, which was rather full of a religious sense of both confidence and mission.

For an evangelical Christian, George W. Bush does not seem to have a well-developed sense of sin - at least as far as the nation is concerned. In his speech, President Bush expressed a far-reaching commitment to "liberty" and "the force of human freedom" in the world - values that most Americans, religious or not, would readily affirm. The president has often rightly acknowledged that "freedom" is a gift from God, not the possession of any nation. But his remarkable speech announced that the role of deciding if, when, and where freedom will be defended belongs to the United States of America; America is on a religious mission to protect freedom, and George Bush is freedom’s vicar.

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Sojourners Magazine March 2005
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Privatizing Social Security

How many times can President Bush get away with crying wolf?

How many times can President Bush get away with crying wolf? First came the "weapons of mass destruction." Congress believed him and committed our nation to a tragic war in Iraq, based on lies and deception. Then there were the massive tax cuts for the rich, guaranteed to get the economy going again. The result? The budget surplus was traded in for a giant deficit to be passed on to our grandchildren.

With Social Security, the president is at it again. The whole system is moving into crash mode, he says, so we need to take radical steps to rescue it. (Question: Why did the president wait until after the big tax cuts to go into panic about Social Security?)

Let’s get one fact straight right now. Social Security is not only not in jeopardy, it is in fact healthy and robust. The authority for this assertion is none other than the nonpartisan Social Security trustees, whose job it is to monitor this vital program. According to the trustees, the Social Security trust fund can pay full benefits through 2042. The Congressional Budget Office, also nonpartisan, goes beyond that and sees full solvency through 2052. Long before reaching those projected deadlines, minor course corrections can be applied and assure the Social Security program for an indefinite period.

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Sojourners Magazine March 2005
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Beyond Made-for-TV Aid

It only took a few days of international criticism to transform President Bush'

It only took a few days of international criticism to transform President Bush’s tsunami aid package from a $15 million bone thrown from the back porch of the Crawford ranch to a $350 million made-for-TV model of international cooperation—complete with guest stars George H. W. and Bill Clinton.

With polls demonstrating the mutual enmity between the U.S. and the Muslim populations, perhaps administration pragmatists got religion (the good news kind) and decided that Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount suggestion to "do good to those who hate you" (Luke 6:27) suddenly seemed applicable to the current dispensation. Aid given to civilians in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, could turn potential enemies in the war on terror into friends. Or at least swing them to neutral.

Of course, such faith-based initiatives are but filthy rags compared to the gospel according to East Timor. Among the poorest nations in the world, it pledged $50,000 in aid for Indonesia—the country that had brutally occupied East Timor for 24 years following a U.S.-aided invasion in 1975. Truly, I tell you, they have given more than those who have contributed out of their abundance (Mark 12:43-44).

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Sojourners Magazine March 2005
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Lab-Tested and Ready

Now that a chastened George W.

Now that a chastened George W. Bush has packed his bags and returned to his first love - brush-clearing - our government can at last face the nation’s challenges with a reasonable hope of success.

Oops. Sorry. I wrote that paragraph a while ago and forgot to change it. What I meant to say is, now that an unchastened George W. Bush has been reinstalled in the White House he can finally ask the question that is permitted only to a second-term president who has earned the respect of the nation and the trust of the military: Namely, where do they keep the aliens?

You know, the bodies of unlucky beings from other planets who, because of a spacecraft malfunction, were forced to land on an unfriendly planet inhabited by petulant primitives with little tolerance for life outside their own narrow world of experience.

But enough about Jerry Falwell.

Let’s talk about science, and not the kind the Bush administration rolls its eyes at and routinely says "BORING!" whenever something like global warming is mentioned. (Not that our nation’s leaders are ignorant of environmental issues, but I heard that House Speaker Dennis Hastert thinks "hubris" is one of those new hybrid cars.)

No, we’re talking about REAL science, important science, the kind of science that has created homosexual rats. (And you thought this column is never serious.)

Scientists have discovered that the so-called "gay gene" - also known as the "not-that-there’s-anything-wrong-with-that gene" - results in a smaller hypothalamus in human males. (I’m already bracing for the coming flood of e-mails titled "Enlarge Your Hypothalamus!") This condition can be replicated in experiments with laboratory rats that cause them to exhibit overtly homosexual behavior.

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Sojourners Magazine February 2005
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All Work, No Pay

While President Bush pledges to reduce poverty through tax reform, the number of low-income Americans-especially the working poor-continues to skyrocket, according to the "Working Hard, Falling Short" report released by the Annie E. Casey Foundation in October 2004. To be considered low-income, a family of four earned less than $36,784 in 2002. (The median income for a family of four was $62,732.) Of the 9.2 million low-income working families, 2.5 million are officially in poverty-earning less than $18,392 for a family of four. This contradicts assumptions that anyone can succeed in the U.S. economy by getting an education, getting married, and working hard.

  • 1 in 4 working families is low-income.
  • 40 percent of minority working families are low-income, twice the percentage of white working families.
  • 33 percent. Of all children in working families, 1/3 are in low-income working families.
  • 50 percent. A married couple heads more than 1/2 of low-income working families.
  • 42 percent of low-income working families have a parent with some post-secondary education.
  • One-fifth of all jobs in the United States won't keep a family of four above the poverty level and provide few or no benefits.

Source: "Working Hard, Falling Short: America's Working Families and the Pursuit of Economic Security" (Working Poor Families Project, October 2004).

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Sojourners Magazine February 2005
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Compassion is good, but justice is better

Here's a little quiz related to political support for faith-based organizations. Which of the following three statements was said by George W. Bush?

Statement A: "I am a supporter of these programs in which faith-based organizations help the government serve public purposes. If a drug addict or a prisoner or a homeless person can find inspiration and strength within himself to deal with his or her problem, then don't we all gain from that?"

Statement B: "I have seen the difference faith-based organizations make. I believe the lesson to the nation is clear. In those instances where the unique power of faith can help us meet the crushing social challenges that are otherwise not possible to meet, we must explore carefully tailored partnerships with our faith community."

Statement C: "This is a meeting to begin a dialogue about how best to help faith-based programs change people's lives, how best government can encourage, as opposed to discourage, faith-based programs from performing their commonplace miracles of renewal."

If you picked "C" as Bush's statement, you were right. Statement A was made by Sen. Joe Lieberman and Statement B was made by Vice President Al Gore last May. I suggest that this indicates some sort of consensus, or at least less dissension than you might have expected on these programs.

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Sojourners Magazine May-June 2001
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Acting in Good Faith

As head of the new White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, John DiIulio has the job of shepherding the government's partnerships with faith-based organizations—and of taking the heat from Right and Left as the church-and-state debate swirls. Sojourners editor Jim Wallis sat down with DiIulio in March and discussed some of the challenges he faces—and his belief that the time is ripe for a renewed anti-poverty movement.

Jim Wallis: What are the main goals of the White House Office on Faith-Based and Community Initiatives?

John DiIulio: We have a tripartite mission. Number one, we're supposed to help the president figure out ways to increase charitable giving—financial and human. The president's financial plan is letting non-itemizers deduct for charitable contributions. That would open things up to about 80 million people. On the human giving side, we have the president's bully pulpit for volunteering, valuing volunteers, and celebrating people who give their time, not just their money.

Mission two is making sure that religious and secular organizations in the community that traditionally haven't been part of the federal funding loops get to be a part of them, if they so choose, and that there aren't perverse rules and regulations that prevent them from doing so. Not every rule and regulation that makes it harder for certain groups to get funding or participate in a program is bad. But there are many rules and regulations that amount to mere credentialism, that make it difficult for people who traditionally haven't been in the network of governmental partnerships to partner.

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Sojourners Magazine May-June 2001
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Who Doesn't Want a Tax Cut?

President Bush argues that his proposed $1.6 trillion tax cut will be good for the economy and good for American families, as it will return current surpluses in the federal budget back to the American people rather than the government hoarding them. Is he right?

One alternative to a tax cut is for the federal government to use this money to continue to pay down the accumulated federal debt and reduce federal interest payments. That would almost surely create a healthier economy in the long run.

A second alternative is for the government to spend the money in another way. There are obviously major public needs in this country. Most pressing is the large demographic bulge of the baby boom, people who are going to be retiring over the next 30 years. Our current Social Security system is not able to fully pay its commitments to these citizens. Today's surpluses provide an opportunity to make our public pension system solvent in the long run.

Other needs—such as health insurance for low-income working families and prescription drug insurance for the elderly—are also good uses for the surplus. Why should the immediate consumer needs of American taxpayers be more important? Finally, these surpluses may be more illusory than we think. If the economy slows down, if the Bush administration and Congress increase spending, the surpluses could shrink fast. But the proposed tax cut will reduce government revenues permanently and could easily produce a reappearance of budget deficits.

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Sojourners Magazine May-June 2001
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No Shortcuts to Excellence

President Bush sought to honor a campaign promise by making education one of his first "issues of the week" and releasing his "No Child Left Behind" proposal. Bush's plan includes traditionally Republican themes such as support for charter schools and consolidation of federal programs. A controversial voucher provision for children stuck in chronically "failing schools" was also included, but Bush quickly expressed willingness to drop it and initial Senate legislation did just that.

Vouchers might reappear on the Senate floor or in a House bill, but the centerpiece of Bush's plan is its call for school accountability through increased standardized testing—which contrasts sharply with the recent moves in higher education away from standardized testing in the form of the SAT.

Clearer standards and public accountability have been the driving force behind politically driven school reform since the early 1980s. Most American children take either a commercially produced basic skills test or a state-produced curriculum examination every two or three grades. But the president's plan raises the ante significantly, requiring states receiving federal support (all of them) to test children every year between grades three and eight. In addition, the Department of Education would administer its own tests to samples of 4th and 8th graders every year to confirm the legitimacy of the results reported by individual states.

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Sojourners Magazine May-June 2001
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