The Bush Ethic of Responsibility
It would appear that George W. Bush is rapidly gaining
intellectual and moral ground. He gives talks on the
"new ethic of responsibility," delivers radio addresses
on morality in business, and according to dutiful
press reports, Bush has taken to discussing
Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics in his free time.
But just what would Aristotle make of Bush? And how
would the Nicomachean Ethics, the classic roadmap to a
more just society, stack up with Bush's proposed FY 2003 budget?
On the surface, there are connections. Aristotle's
passion was education, and Bush has called it his "top
priority." Aristotle advocated equitable distribution
of wealth, and Bush has repeatedly stated
that America's poor "deserve better from this country."
But that's where the similarities end - in words. The
following are quotes from Aristotle, followed by the
Bush budgetary response.
Aristotle: Early childhood education is "all-important."
Bush's FY 2003 budget either freezes or cuts
funding to crucial programs benefiting the nation's 12
million impoverished children. Slated to be axed, cut
back or frozen are programs designed to help local
communities improve access to early learning
opportunities, programs providing child/after-school
care to needy families, and programs for early
literacy. Even Head Start, which Bush has
referred to as "the nation's premier early childhood
education program," is given an increase so deficient
as to prevent any new children from joining.
Aristotle: "Unjust is unequal."
The Bush budget posts a $106 billion deficit, the first
since 1997, and predicts exploding debts in the future
- due primarily to spending increases on programs for
the administration's lucrative corporate donors. For
example, the $1 billion per day currently spent on the
US military will balloon over the next five years with
weapons purchases alone rising by 30%. Meanwhile,
slashed or frozen will be numerous low-income family
support programs such as Home Energy Assistance and
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. The budget
leaves impoverished families behind, as it coddles
defense contractors and creates bulging debts for
future generations to bear.
Aristotle: "This is why we don't allow a man to rule,
but rational principle, because a man behaves in his
Major environmental agencies are dealt a $1 billion
blow in the Bush FY 2003 budget, but conservation
programs, rather than corporate and industrial
interests, take the biggest hit. The Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA), for example, loses $300
million, and funding for clean water protection is
similarly slashed. In contrast, billions in tax breaks
and subsidies will suddenly become available for fossil
fuel and nuclear power companies, and further millions
will be used to open up public lands for drilling and
mining. Simultaneously, the amount of timber to be sold
from public lands will be increased by 50%, further
decimating wildlife habitat, and contributing to global
Aristotle: "Men have been undone by reasons of their
In this era of accounting shenanigans and corporate
financial meltdowns, it becomes easier to question the
values upon which our society operates. And as the FY
2003 budget is debated in the next months, it will
become increasingly important to follow the money
trail, and question the kind of world our budget is
creating for the next generation.
Because an equitable, sustainable world - not words -
is the ultimate ethical responsibility for all of us.
Heather Wokusch is a free-lance writer. She can be
contacted via her web site at www.heatherwokusch.com