The Difference Between a Republic and a Democracy Is…

Quote of the week:

The difference between a republic and a democracy is rather similar to the difference between a jury and a lynch mob.

This quote was brought to us in a comment by AJCalhoun on the Salon.com book review of Rick Shenkman’s Just How Stupid Are We?.

Surprise: Bush’s Proposed Budget Would Increase Deficit

Redink 190 Graphic from the New York Times

The big news today in Washington (other than that other big news) is that President Bush’s new proposed budget would increase the deficit.

President Bush sent Congress a $3.1 trillion budget on Monday that would increase military spending and curb the growth of Medicare and Medicaid but raise the federal deficit by nearly $250 billion, a major setback for a president who is trying to restore his credentials as a fiscal conservative.

Hardly surprising news for anyone that’s been alive for last seven years, I would say. Nevertheless, one graphic in the New York Times that really hit me was this one that tracks the deficit for the last four presidents (shown on the right).

This is a really good illustration of just how ridiculous it is when Republicans call Democrats big spenders. It kind of makes them look like monkeys.

Reading further into the article, I came across another gem (Emphasis mine):

If the Defense Department’s proposed $515.4 billion budget is approved in full, it will mean that, when adjusted for inflation, annual military spending will reach its highest level since World War II. The figure does not include spending on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the war on terror and supplemental items.

Okay, so the military budget does not include the two eternal wars that the US is engaged in, the “War on Terror” (which can and has encompassed just about everything), and supplemental items. What’s left? Didn’t the last emergency spending bill for Afghanistan and Iraq come in at about $100 billion alone. This makes me think again about the The Federal Budget: the Public’s Priorities.

The Federal Budget: the Public’s Priorities

This past week I’ve been finishing up reading Noam Chomsky‘s latest book, Failed States. I have had to slog through most of the book because it generally tends to be an overwhelmingly depressing read. Such is the nature of reading between the lines of US foreign policy.

The part of the book that really interested me (and kept me reading) was the the last chapter on “Democracy Promotion at Home.” This is definitely the best section of the book. I have often in the past resigned myself to being a hopeless radical leftist; a person whose social and political ideals will probably never even come to fruition in the United States (or perhaps even into popular discourse). There was however one survey of US popular opinion cited by Chomsky that gave me hope. The survey was conducted by the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) and titled The Federal Budget: the Public’s Priorities.

In the study, conducted in March 2005, people were asked an array of questions about how they would change the proposed budget allocation. There are several amazing conclusions can be drawn from the survey:

  1. There is a very broad agreement that the military budget should be cut (on average by 31%)
  2. There is a consensus that much more money should be allocated to social programs
  3. The actual budget is essentially the opposite of popular opinion.

The full report in PDF format is available on the website. Here are some illustrative charts culled from the report.

Overall winners and losers in the budget changes:
Pipa Federal Spending Survey Winners Losers

Changes in social spending:
Pipa Federal Spending Survey Social

Changes in environmental spending:
Pipa Federal Spending Survey env sp

That last one astounded me. Here are the surveys finding results on that point:

By far the largest increase in percentage terms was for conserving and developing renewable energy. This amount was increased $24 billion, from $2.2 billion to $26.2 billion, an extraordinary increase of 1090%. This was also the area increased by the largest majority.

Perhaps there is hope after all.

Bush Commutes Libby’s Sentence

Shortly after a federal appeals court said that Libby would not remain free while his case was on appeal, Bush announced that he was commuting Libby’s 30-month sentence. From the New York Times:

It’s an interesting distinction that Bush did not actually pardon Libby. I wonder if there was a legal reason for this (i.e. Bush is so close to this that it might be even more improper to fully pardon Libby.)

Although I don’t think that anyone is actually surprised by this move, I find it hard to believe that it has actually happened. An editorial in The New York Times hits it spot on:

It seems to me that given how close Bush and his cabinet are to this, it is entirely inappropriate for Bush to take a part in pardoning or commuting Libby’s sentence. Although from all accounts that I’ve heard, Bush did nothing illegal, it still reeks of dishonesty and corruption.

Quote of the Week

Five times in one sentence. Amazing.

The Decider decides that Cheney will decide what the Decider decides.



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