Bush has outlined an aggressive foreign and domestic agenda for his second term. Internationally, he will continue to focus on the Middle East, but Latin America will increasingly be targeted by his administration. His overall international approach will remain aggressive and arrogant, but due to the quagmire in Iraq and the growing global resistance to U.S. imperialism, he will be forced to seek broader alliances. “Going it alone” has failed miserably, so Bush and co. will at the very least pay lip service to “coalition building” – though they of course reserve the “right” to pre-emptive attacks. The essentially unilateral invasion and occupation of Iraq did not go at all as planned, and he has already reached out to the Europeans for help in Iraq and with Iran. Yet as we have explained in the past, the Europeans are in fact the bitter rivals of the U.S. – ultimately their “friendship” is temporary and constrained. Bush would also like to gain more support from the Latin American neighbors of Venezuela, which he seeks to isolate, but here too he is met with extreme suspicion, not to mention the rising revolutionary movement of the masses.
For his second term, Bush has appointed or nominated even more blatantly reactionary individuals to some of the most important international positions. Condoleezza Rice as Secretary of State, John Bolton U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, and Paul Wolfowitz as head of the World Bank. These choices reflect the contradictions facing U.S. imperialism: on the one hand Bush needs at least the façade of multilateralism, on the other, the myopic ideologues of the Project for a New American Century are in even firmer control of U.S. foreign policy than during Bush’s first term. With colossal power comes colossal arrogance. With colossal arrogance come colossal blunders. By the end of his second term, Bush and his policies will have even further destabilized an already precariously balanced world.
On the domestic front Bush has made it clear he intends to spend the “political capital” he imagines he gained in the election to push through a series of reactionary “reforms”. In capitalist double-speak, “reform” invariably means cuts and attacks on wages and conditions. But only months into his second term, Bush is already experiencing difficulties in forcing through his policies. Especially on the issue of privatizing Social Security, he has run into a brick wall of opposition, especially among older voters, traditionally one of his main constituencies.
Along with the war in Iraq, the increasingly unstable state of the U.S. and world economies will be important in determining the character of Bush’s second term. During his first term, Bush expanded the size and scope of the federal government and ran up federal spending to unheard of levels while cutting taxes for the rich – all in the name of “homeland security”. The government spent $2.3 trillion and ran a $412 billion deficit in 2004, compared with the $1.8 trillion it spent and the $86 billion surplus it ran in 2000, the year before Bush took office. Despite Bush’s pledge to halve the deficit by 2009, it is estimated that the annual budget deficit will get no lower than $229 billion over the next 10 years, with a total deficit of $2.58 trillion over the same period – not including the costs of the continued occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan.
Bush’s scheme in relation to the deficit is quite transparent. It is precisely the weak economy and the resulting indebtedness that Bush is using as an excuse to gut social programs. After a bonanza of handouts to big business and the rich his first four years in office, it’s now time for workers to tighten their belts to pay for it. In presenting his budget, Bush has shown the real face of his “compassionate conservatism” – guns before butter. The proposed $2.57 trillion 2006 budget is a third bigger than the one for 2001. Defense spending is to be increased by 5 percent, bringing its overall growth since 2001 to 41 percent. Spending on homeland security would rise nearly 7 percent from last year. To pay for all of this without raising taxes, some 150 government programs are to be abolished or dramatically downsized.
From “compassionate conservative” to “big-government conservative”, Bush now styles himself a “fiscal conservative” and wants to moderate spending. Does this mean he will raise taxes on the rich, reduce the size of the government, and cut the bloated military budget in order to restore balance to the national treasury? Of course not. On the contrary, he now intends to use the deficit as an excuse to cut to the bone or eliminate all social programs that have so far survived the attacks of Reagan, Bush Sr., Clinton and his own first term. The hypocritical election-year mask is off and it’s time for him to do the bidding of those that assured him his office: the most reactionary clique of the capitalist class.
It comes as no surprise that the “impartial” Alan Greenspan, Chairman of the Federal Reserve, is fully behind Bush in his quest to force through this agenda. Greenspan concurs that there is no need for taxes on the rich or cuts in military and homeland security spending. Rather, he feels the solution is more cuts for working people and the poor in general, the slashing and privatization of government programs, and intensified exploitation. In time, the working class will have a radically different answer.
The only way for the ruling class to try and restore balance to the dramatic economic disequilibrium is to squeeze more out of the working class. The only way to reap higher profits for the corporations is to extract more wealth from the labor of working people. Lower wages, longer hours, reduced benefits, expensive or non-existent health care, and fewer net jobs are on the order of the day. GW’s arrogant shortsightedness prevents him from seeing that these attacks will eventually provoke a reaction from the millions of Americans who are getting tired of the constant uncertainty of life under capitalism. Even if he did understand this, he would have little choice but to continue these policies at the behest of the capitalist class. The only way to stop this assault on our hard-won rights is to mobilize in our workplaces, in our schools, and on the streets.