George W. Bush’s economic policies have been based on an extraordinarily reckless gamble that reflects a political coalition of two major forces: the super-rich and evangelical Christians. As those policies fail, global financial markets are reacting negatively, adding uncertainty to the world economy, and there is little relief in sight, because America is entering a period of prolonged political infighting and stalemate.
The super-rich had one over-riding objective in joining the Bush coalition: tax cuts that overwhelmingly benefited the wealthiest households. Evangelicals were brought in on the basis of so-called “family values,” meaning opposition to abortion and gay marriage, and promises of active government support for religious activities, including direct payments to religious groups for social services that they provide locally and internationally.
The Bush team believed that they would eventually balance the tax cuts for the rich with reductions in government spending, but they never explained this to the public. Instead, for four years they pretended that budget deficits were of little concern. Only after being re-elected did they begin to explain that large budget deficits, caused mainly by lower tax revenues, would require sharp cuts in social security, health care spending, and other areas.
But the majority of Americans, having supported the tax cuts in Bush’s first term because it gave them a little extra cash, do not support the attack on basic government services that has followed. This opposition extends to Christian evangelicals voters, who tend to live in working-class and middle-class households that depend on many kinds of government social services. Despite the avowedly “free-market” beliefs of many Christian fundamentalists, as voters they support government-financed pensions, health care, and other public services.