In 1961, as America was facing the challenges of poverty and war, President John F. Kennedy famously said during his inaugural address, "My fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country." Today America finds itself fighting both a war and what could be the greatest natural disaster in U.S. history. When President George W. Bush addressed the nation yesterday, absent from his speech was any such call for sacrifice. But as the New York Times points out [in an editorial today; see excerpt below], this administration has never been one to counsel sacrifice.
- President Bush could sacrifice some of his planned tax cuts. The cleanup following Katrina is going to cost billions of dollars, and yet conservatives are still planning on pushing ahead on their agenda – repealing the estate tax – a tax paid by the wealthiest one percent of Americans who inherit at least $1.5 million. Marshall Loeb, editor of Money and Fortune magazines, writes [on Marketwatch.com, a website devoted to following the equity markets], "The President could show that he, too, is prepared to sacrifice for Katrina's victims, perhaps by rolling back some of his planned tax cuts. The nation can ill afford to pay for a war, tax reductions and this disaster recovery at the same time."
- President Bush could have called for conservation. Given the impact of this storm on major oil refineries in the Gulf, it was surprising that Bush did not call on Americans to take measures to conserve. The president of the American Petroleum Institute, Red Cavaney, said that now is the time for everyone to conserve energy, and that even offering energy-saving tips would help increase fuel efficiency. AAA is also urging conservation, asking motorists to drive less.
Here's the start of the NYTimes editorial mentioned above, which is entitled "Waiting for a Leader."
George W. Bush gave one of the worst speeches of his life yesterday, especially given the level of national distress and the need for words of consolation and wisdom. In what seems to be a ritual in this administration, the president appeared a day later than he was needed. He then read an address of a quality more appropriate for an Arbor Day celebration: a long laundry list of pounds of ice, generators and blankets delivered to the stricken Gulf Coast. He advised the public that anybody who wanted to help should send cash, grinned, and promised that everything would work out in the end.