Tuesday, December 16, 2003

A Naive Goddess Looks at: Big Spenders and Social Engineers

This is the Democrats, right? The party which Ronald Reagan successfully labeled as the Big Government meanie. The party which supported affirmative action and forced busing of children to assure racial equality in education. The party that's responsible for leaving the future generations with the bill to pay for their recklessness. Right?

I'm not sure. Consider this:

President Clinton's persistent eight-year "glidepath" to solvency was unglamorous (and virtually thankless) work. But, helped by taxes and good times, the annual budget deficit fell steadily from $290 billion in 1992 to an actual surplus in 2000.
Well, here we go again. President Bush II has twice talked Congress into tax cuts ($1.6 trillion more debt?), mainly for those who need them least (but who do contribute to political campaigns). Now there's a $450 billion annual deficit and no money left.

and this:

The federal government will spend $1.4 billion during the next six years to promote and support marriage, a move that opponents and supporters agree is an unprecedented bit of social engineering.

and this:

While the concept of a sex-ed program designed to discourage sexual activity among young people has been around since the early 1980s, they've only recently gained traction, which is to say, federal funding.

Most are the product of Title V of the 1996 federal welfare reform act, which today legitimizes abstinence programs with about $100 million worth of respect. Suddenly, school-based sex-ed programs that for 30 years had been the exclusive domain of Planned Parenthood's credo of sexual non-judgmentalism have competition.

In 1988, programs teaching abstinence as the sole means of preventing pregnancy were taught in just 2 percent of U.S. school districts. By 1999, 23 percent reported using them.

Even "traditional" sex-ed programmers - who previously had scorned and mocked the concept - started popping up with abstinence tracks. Bryan Howard proudly declares that Planned Parenthood includes abstinence as "an option." It may be the 40th option on a 40-item menu, but it's an option now. Who says money can't change minds?

The year is 2003, and the party in power is the Republicans. Maybe it's just terminology, a political war of words: what the hated other side does is 'big spending', what we do is 'wise investments'; what they advocate is 'social engineering', what we advocate is 'return to virtues and values that make sense'. Or maybe it's that social engineering and spending are good when they advance our goals, bad when they detract from them. Still, what happened to all those fervent anti tax-and-spend Republicans that were all over the place only ten years ago? Have they all been born again?