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The Gross National Debt

Friday, July 21, 2006

(Cross-posted at My Left Wing, Booman Tribune, and my blog)

It has taken me a few days to collect my thoughts on the Bush veto of federal funding for stem cell research.

I was on my way to a meeting and listening to CNN via Sirius when he made his remarks to explain his reasoning for this, his first veto nearly six years into his Presidency.  Initially, I was absolutely infuriated as I listened.  Expletives leapt to my lips and streamed out.

I have since calmed down and taken a more analytical approach to what I like to call the Bush Moral Boundary.  Perhaps a further exploration and definition of these boundaries will help me better understand and see the logic behind the veto.

Make the jump.Early on in the speech he said:

One of the bills Congress has passed builds on the progress we have made over the last five years. So I signed it into law. (Applause.) Congress has also passed a second bill that attempts to overturn the balanced policy I set. This bill would support the taking of innocent human life in the hope of finding medical benefits for others. It crosses a moral boundary that our decent society needs to respect, so I vetoed it.

It has literally taken me three days to suss through the thoughts that flooded my head when I heard him utter the words I bolded above.

So let's talk about the Administration and Presidency of George W. Bush from the perspective of the Bush Moral Boundary.  Let's really explore where those boundaries exist.

Health Care

Let's start with health care.  Apparently the rising cost of health care and the increasing number of those who are uninsured are well within the Bush Moral Boundary.  From a 2004 report by the Democratic Policy Committee:

On President Bush's watch, health coverage has become more expensive and millions have lost their health insurance. Health insurance premiums have increased by double-digit rates in each of the past three years. The escalating cost of health insurance and the substantial loss of jobs under the Bush Administration have increased the number of uninsured Americans by 3.8 million since 2000. The total number of uninsured Americans - who are overwhelmingly members of working families - now exceeds 43 million.

So when you read the diaries posted here at Daily Kos about the choices people are making - rent v. health care; food v. health care - Just console yourself with the knowledge that these situations are obviously within the Bush Moral Boundary.  Therefore it can't be a bad thing.


Accoring to an August 2005 article in The New York Times:

Even as the economy grew, incomes stagnated last year and the poverty rate rose, the Census Bureau reported Tuesday. It was the first time on record that household incomes failed to increase for five straight years.

Indeed - according to the Senate Democratic Joint Economic Committee, 4.3 million additional Americans have slid into poverty since George W. Bush took office.  In 2000, 31.6 million Americans were listed as below the poverty level.  in 2003, the figure was 35.9 million.  I can't even guess at what the number is today, in 2006.

This is a topic that interests some of us here at Daily Kos as well.  PsiFighter37 recently wrote the excellent diary Poverty is a Moral Issue.  But it appears that his efforts and those of others in America are wasted - there aren't any meaningful Bush Administration policies or concerted efforts to address the increasing rate of Americans in poverty.  We've wasted our efforts, because poverty is clearly within the Bush Moral Boundary.


War is a subject that usually sparks a great deal of conversation about morality.  According to AntiWar.com, as of July 18 2006, 2,556 American soldiers have lost their lives in Iraq.  An additional 319 have lost their lives in Afghanistan.  The total, then, is just shy of the number of people who lost thier lives on September 11th.

The number of Iraqi deaths is difficult to estimate.  According to Iraq Body Count, anywhere between 39,250 and 43,709 civilians have been killed due to the U.S. military activities in Iraq.

Death tolls, both military and civilian, are not the only moral measure of war, however.  There is a larger question as to whether or not war itself is moral.  Further complicating the discussion is the previously unheard-of concept of "pre-emptive war".  That phrase has always put me in mind of the Tom Cruise movie, Minority Report.  If you haven't seen it, Tom Cruise plays a police officer in the division of "pre-crime".  Essentially, the Pre-Crime unit uses some version of psychics to ferret out crimes before they happen and make arrests before anyone is victimized.  Of course, the psychics' predictions can be manipulated by the powers-that-be to aid their own personal agendas.  Pre-emptive war is pretty much the same, and, it seems to me, likewise has the ability to be manipulated and directed.

But the moral position of war and death within the Bush Moral Boundaries is clear: War is fine.  Military deaths are fine.  Civilian deaths are fine.  So I guess I have one less thing to worry about.


Let's move along in our moral boundary inventory to something I will call "basic human compassion".  The best example is, of course, Bush's personal response to the events that unfolded after Hurricane Katrina.  A timeline best illustrates Bush's compassionate approach:

  • Late evening/early morning, August 28th/29th: Hurricane Katrina comes ashore in the gulf region.
  • Evening, August 29:  News beginning to report that life-threatening flooding and devastation has hit the New Orleans area.  Bush visits Arizona (where he shares birthday cake with John McCain) and California to promote Medicare benefit.  No Bush statement on Katrina.
  • August 30:  Rescue efforts continue.  First pictures of the devastation and human catastrophe emerge from the region.  Pictures of people trapped on roofs, at the Superdome, and the convention center begin to emerge.  Bush speaks at Naval base early in the day, travels to play guitar with country star Mark Willis.  No Bush statement on Katrina.
  • August 31:  Conditions deteriorate at the Superdome and the Convention Center.  People are seen on network news begging for help - for food, water, evacuation.  The entire gulf region is declared a public health emergency.  Bush "surveys the damage" from Air Force One at about 35,000 feet.  Returned to Washington, Bush gives his first major address on Katrina, about which The New York Times said was "casual to the point of careless".
  • September 1:  Bush, now engaged with the Katrina disaster, makes statement that no one expected the levees to break.  People at the Superdome and Convention Center continue to suffer.  Countless people remain trapped in their flooded homes.
  • September 2:  Bush finally watches DVD of news clippings assembled by his staff, which he missed while he was on vacation and wrapping himself in the flag.   He travels to the gulf region where he utters the now-famous "Brownie, you're doin' a heckuva job" line.  The National Guard finally arrives to provide aid for those stranded and begin evacuations.  Bush declares he is "satisfied" with the response to the crisis.
Well there you have it.  And just for the sake of clarity, I've added a picture of what the 9th ward of New Orleans looked like as recently as a week ago.  People's homes have yet to be rebuilt, people remain displaced... Just yesterday, in the recommended diary Red Cow Truck, Miss Blue told us about the outrage of her Republican friend after he had recently driven through the gulf and New Orleans and encountered a man who had lived in the devastated lower-9th Ward.

But these people must be wrong.  Compassion, or dispassion, are clearly well within the Bush Moral Boundary.

So in summary, here's where we stand:

WITHIN the Bush Moral Boundary

Lack of access to affordable health care

OUTSIDE the Bush Moral Boundary

Potentially life-saving stem cell research

I guess I should be feeling much better now that a clear definition of the Bush Moral Boundary has been laid out and, like an electric dog fence around the yard, is protecting against moral escape.  All of these things I worry about - my fellow Americans and their plight - the plight of those who are circumstantially killed or maimed by our imperialistic policies - clearly I've wasted my time and angst.  Because the stem cells are, as I type this, safely frozen and will remain so, at least where Federal research grants are concerned.  They are still within the cocoon of the Bush Moral Boundary.  It makes me feel much better about all the dead people and all the people suffering from illness or ailment without access to assistance and all the people who are struggling (and failing) to make ends meet.

I suppose there's nothing I really have to do.  I'm free to just go watch Oprah.

posted by RenaRF at 11:33 AM 2 comments links to this post


Blogger Orange_Cross said...

Theres lots of work to be done.

2:57 PM  
Blogger sad said...

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10:33 PM  

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