Tuesday :: Jan 13, 2004

The Space Initiative And Other Rove Misdirection Plays


by Steve

Much has been made recently about the election-year deception that George W. Bush is about to foist upon voters with his announcement of a new NASA push to the moon and Mars. As the papers noted several weeks back, Karl Rove was looking for ideas and issues to position Bush as a future-looking, swing-voter grabbing candidate this year, and the idea of a renewed space program needs to be looked at in that context. Aside from the other ideas that Rove indicated Bush will trot out this year (the immigration “reform” package, a government initiative to deal with chronic diseases, universal health care for kids), the space initiative shares some of the same traits.

Like the other ideas, the space initiatives will divert the media’s attention away from real issues and towards the agenda of Rove’s choosing. Like the other ideas, this idea will either 1) spend money not on immediate needs, but on valuable GOP contributors (the defense and aerospace industries), or 2) pander to valuable 2004 electoral groups and regions, or both. Like the other ideas, it is aimed at getting the media and voters’ minds off Bush’s failure to keep an earlier commitment. And like the other ideas, there are ulterior motives for this initiative.

For example, the immigration initiative was something Bush promised Mexican president Vicente Fox over two years ago, but was forgotten after Fox was lukewarm in his support for the Iraq gambit. It became useful again when Rove saw its value as both a way to bamboozle Hispanic voters this year, and as a steady, wage-depressing supply of cheap labor for Bush’s corporate checkwriters. Nevermind that it was the GOP that to this day complains about lax borders, porous immigration policies, and potential terrorist manipulation of both. And never mind that the Ag growers and farm workers unions agree on one thing: the plan is flawed.

Likewise, the chronic disease and universal health care for kids initiatives are also “feel-good” ideas from an administration that came into office making promises about insuring the uninsured, but has never delivered on that promise. Instead, the administration has delivered late in its term a Big PharMa corporate welfare package in the Medicare drug bill as a buyoff to unsuspecting seniors. They now will want again to pander to both the seniors with the chronic disease initiative and parents with the universal health insurance for kids initiative. But note that still nothing has been done by this administration for the uninsured four years after campaigning to do something about it. And the states, who would likely be asked to pony up some money towards any such universal coverage for kids, are too broke to even maintain their existing Medicaid and SCHIP programs, and the true cost shift from the states to the Feds from the Medicare drug fiasco will only compound that. Moreover, instead of offering unusable tax credits to uninsured families or this new initiative that cannot be funded by the states anyway, the administration could grab most of the proposals offered by the Democratic candidates for improving health insurance access for families and kids and do a better job that the abysmal Bush record or these initiatives.

Now we get the space initiative, something that we are told Bush will propose tomorrow. According to early reports, Bush says this is affordable as he is only calling for a 5% increase in NASA’s current budget of $15.5 billion budget for this, as well as a redirection of all or part of the shuttle and space station funding. So we are talking really about a possible $5 billion a year out of a $2 trillion budget for what amounts to a 30-year program. Is it a budget breaker at this point? Nope. Will it ever see its 30-year goals? Only if China heads to the moon too. Will it lard the GOP’s campaign contributors with more corporate welfare? Yup. Will it allow Bush to look like a future-looking leader? Maybe. Is Bush ignoring other immediate needs that can help real people now? Natch. Would $5 billion or even $15 billion a year be better spent instead on a government-led research and development program to develop an alternate energy industry that will not only create thousands of new domestic jobs but also lead us towards energy independence? Sure.

Each one of these misdirection ploys by Rove can be swatted down by the Democrats and countered with alternatives that show Bush is more interested in the corporate good than the public interest. For every story about one of these initiatives, Democrats must contrast them with a better alternative that deals with a real issue facing us now, a Bush broken campaign promise, and the real GOP motive behind each one. That is the only way to deal with Rove here. The public is already skeptical on this and the Democrats must use Rove’s gambits to point out real problem-solving solutions, a better alternative and future, and Bush’s faulty private-interest enriching choices.

Steve :: 6:15 PM :: Comments (2) :: Digg It!