Finally, the wait is over. After a seemingly endless campaign and a contentious election, President George W. Bush will be inaugurated today.
A great deal of scrutiny has been levied at the monetary expense of this week’s activities, and probably rightly so. A great majority of the funds spent on all of this hoopla have come from private donors, but I wonder how even they are able to align themselves with the policies of this president.
From a 2006 fiscal budget which limits veterans funding during a time of war to the absurd statement that the election was a “ratification of his approach to Iraq,” President Bush is guaranteeing, at best, four more years of political division.
An article from The Washington Post last week indicated that while the 2006 fiscal budget will not be officially presented until Feb. 7, it will seek to freeze most spending on agriculture, science and veterans. Factor inflation into the equation and this budget will ultimately equate to decrease spending in these areas.
Understandably, the Bush administration has some tough choices as it decides ways to decrease the enormous deficit. The first four years of “tax-cut and spend” economic policy have even some in the Republican ranks uneasy, and while I support paying down the deficit, we should start by taking away the pork from the budget rather than money for veterans’ care.
Time after time during the campaign, the president spoke passionately of the men and women in uniform but his budget proposal is a far cry from the inaugural theme of “Celebrating Freedom, Honoring Service.” The number of injured in Iraq and Afghanistan will certainly rise, and while the physical injuries are quicker to quantify, the emotional and mental toll on the soldiers will be felt for decades to come. Honoring their service is more than a bumper sticker, a ribbon or a parade; it is a financial commitment to healthcare and other rehabilitative services.
In the same interview in which President Bush spoke about the election ratifying his Iraq policy, the president indicated that he wouldn’t be pushing for the Senate to vote on the gay marriage amendment this year. While the administration’s spokesman on the Sunday talk shows seemed to backtrack from Bush’s original statement, it will be interesting to see if Christian leaders, such as James Dobson of Focus on the Family, will pressure the administration to get the amendment to a vote.
The item on the second-term agenda that has dominated the news in the past few weeks is Social Security reform. Reading about this issue in which the administration has still not formally offered a detailed plan causes confusion and an occasional migraine. Too many numbers and dates have been thrown around already, and what is increasingly clear is that supporting statistics are readily available no matter what your political stance on reform may be.
While I do not deny that the president has advocated Social Security reform since his first inauguration, only recently has the situation been described with such dire terminology. This was not such a high priority last year, but at that time the Bush administration wasn’t as focused on its legacy. I am just waiting for an administration official to slip up and say that the social security trust fund is an imminent threat to the welfare of our aging nation, but then again, we know the track record on perceptions of imminent threats.
While the culmination of all the inaugural events is today, the correlation between many of Bush’s campaign speeches and initial second term policy initiatives seems dubious at best. Whether it is lowering the monetary commitment to veterans, a change in course for the gay marriage amendment policy or a “sky is falling” Social Security reform measure, this administration is well poised to be more divisive than ever.
Aaron Hill is a junior majoring in chemistry. firstname.lastname@example.org