The cruelty of compassionate conservatism

By Jennifer Foote Sweeney

By Salon Staff
Published April 2, 2001 10:22PM (EDT)

Read the story.

I can understand the moral outrage over the apparent turnaround on campaign promises, but I hate to think that anyone in this country has become so idealistic as to believe those promises in the first place. Now, on the other side of these statements about cutting funding to various government programs, there were also statements about tax relief, and federal monies to be given to religious charitable organizations.

A little common sense tells us that if we have less money going into the government, that means we have more spending power. It also means that we no longer have to remain dependent on government programs as we are now. Also, if there is money going to the charitable organizations doing similar or equal work as the government programs being cut, then maybe those government programs don't really need that money anymore. Most people in this country are fully aware of the fact that the government does nothing economically. They don't bargain-shop, like the private sector, so it stands to reason that perhaps President Bush is conceding to that and leaving the work to the private sector where he can -- to save American dollars, not neglect Americans.

As for the change of tune on emissions of carbon dioxide, there is an energy shortage plaguing the West Coast, and other portions of the country are facing severe energy rate hikes. Sorry, but it just doesn't make any sense whatsoever to follow through with those promises right now. It is more important to get the energy industry in a position to meet demand in the first place, and then worry about doing so in a green-friendly manner. If President Bush took his only other option on the problem, he would have to ask everyone in the country to cut back on his or her usage of power. That would cause far more unrest than stalling on environmental concerns will. Maybe the environmentalists should try selling their case to the myriad of businesses out there that rely on electricity for their security systems. See whether or not those folks would be willing to shut those systems down for a while for the sake of cleaner air.

Essentially, the point is that it is far too early in the game to start calling fouls. It would be absolutely justified to scream in protest if there weren't viable economic and social reasons for the current changes in policy. The fact is, our country is not in the best financial shape right now. Our businesses and industries have to come first, or we could have a comeback of the bread lines. Americans keep saying they care about the social issues. Perhaps we should be focusing on holding President Bush to his promises to leave more money in our pockets, and start spending that money ourselves on day care, child advocacy groups and environmental organizations. This could be our chance to finally decide where our money really goes. Don't give that up just so that we can sit here and say that our government is still taking care of us at up to 10 times the cost we could do it for ourselves.

-- Elizabeth Ross

I agreed with Jennifer Foote Sweeney on most of her points. One point I strongly disagree with is that Dubya had to learn the "harshly competitive ethics of survival." Dubya never had to learn anything or compete or fight to survive. Dubya spent his years loafing around until his father bought him a baseball team, an oil company, the governor's mansion and now the White House. This man never even had a job until he was in his 40s. He knows nothing about survival and thus he knows nothing about how hard it is. If he did, perhaps he would be more compassionate.

-- Aisha Prigann

Sweeney's characterization of President Bush as a mean-spirited enemy of women and children simply employs the same, tired propaganda that seems to be all the Democrats have to offer these days. It goes something like this: Cutting programs that purport to help a certain helpless portion of the citizenry, regardless of the actual success of those programs, equals animus toward their target groups. Sweeney does not demonstrate that the cuts will have any material effect on any given program or group. Nor does she provide any evidence that the particular programs that would be affected are particularly necessary or successful ($235 million for the training of pediatricians?!). While such shallow rhetoric might be good enough for the campaign trail, it is certainly not the thoughtful commentary I usually encounter on

-- Andrew Sjoblom

Bush is cutting federal programs to help children in need because he has a more godly solution to their problems. His solution? That old Republican bromide, circa 1920-1940, that welfare rightfully is the province of "faith-based" organizations (i.e., Christian churches), not government. Unfortunately, faith-based organizations proved entirely inadequate to the problems of the Great Depression. Even with taxpayer dollars at their disposal, they are likely to fare no better now. But it will be fun to see the Bush administration pick religious winners and losers in the grand federal "faith-based organization" sweepstakes. (Surely Bush will not permit Louis Farrakhan to get his hands on federal tax dollars.)

-- Michael Miller

Compassionate conservatism means: "I'm sorry, we can't help you."

-- Martin Goch

I am amazed at the false pretense in the article by Sweeney. Like most liberals, she indulges in big government. Too much government destroys the individual's initiative to take control of one's life and correct the wrongs. I ought to know ... I am a 48-year-old black man and I have watched 40 years of welfare (requiring the father not to be in the home) produce two or three generations of black welfare recipients with a current 65 percent-plus illegitimacy rate in the black community. That is what I call mean-spirited liberalism. I'll take compassionate conservatism any day ... at least it doesn't rob one of one's dignity.

-- Name withheld

For those of us who work with victims daily, those of us who are strong advocates for the downtrodden, Bush's entire campaign was known to be rhetoric.

Our government shall become one that upholds a "survival of the fittest" mentality. I can almost expect this mentality toward adults, although I still find it cruel. But to deprive children is more than we, as a society, can bear. Bush will create more campus shootings, gangbangers and children without the only love they will ever muster -- the kindness of strangers.

The writing was on the wall. We have a president who will not tolerate the poor, the unfortunate, the ill and the victimized. We have a little coddled rich boy making decisions for those less fortunate. We have a president and Cabinet members without empathy.

We are going back in time, and into third world status.

-- Sandy Lopez
National Director
Homeowners Against Deficient Dwellings

Salon Staff

MORE FROM Salon Staff

Related Topics ------------------------------------------