Compassionate Conservatism Declared Dead Six Years Too Late

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The Washington Post notices that President Bush doesn’t talk much about poverty anymore, hasn’t actually done much about poverty during his tenure in office, and that basically his brand of “compassionate conservatism” is sort of a sham.

Well, no kidding. We didn’t have to wait until this year to realize that. This should have been abundantly clear back in 2000. All one would’ve had to do was note that Bush, as governor of Texas, supported a $250 million cut to kindergarten funding while cutting property taxes by $1.2 billion; tried to raise the eligibility threshold in the state’s Children’s Health Insurance Program, which would have dropped 200,000 of the 500,000 children eligible (only to be thwarted by Texas Democrats); and used large budget surpluses in 1997 and 1999 to cut taxes rather than fund programs that had been underfunded for years—despite the fact that his state, under his watch, ranked at the very bottom of most poverty measures.

So yes, when Bush started making “heartfelt” noises on the campaign trail about helping the poor, he was just trying to win votes from gullible moderates. Unlike Ezra Klein, I don’t believe Bush has ever cared about poverty. He worked with Ted Kennedy to pass No Child Left Behind because he wanted to be known as the “education president” and do something grand and sweeping, not because he had some heartfelt interest in improving public schools. Molly Ivins, who has followed the man’s career longer than most journalists, had it right when she wrote that when it comes to seeing how his policies affect people, Bush just doesn’t get it, and never will.


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