HEY BIG SPENDER: I like Bush a lot, and I think he's going a great job as president... for the most part. Whether through pure skill or through skill mixed with luck and timing he and his team have handled the Iraq/UN situation brilliantly -- not only achieving our immediate goals of fighting terror and oppression against a visible enemy, but also managing to throw some light into the dark recesses of international diplomacy where our "allies" have lay hidden, plotting against us for years.

Of course, his dad performed decently in the foreign policy realm as well. Bush II has managed to pass some nice tax cuts (in contrast to Bush I, who raised taxes despite his famous "read my lips" promise), but I'm still not completely satisfied. Andrew Sullivan points to a Peter Beinart article that criticizes many of the president's policies, and although I don't agree with most of the criticisms (such as "the Bush administration seems to believe that, as the most powerful country on earth, the United States should both dictate the rules of the international system and exempt itself from them" -- I entirely agree with the Bush administration), in one area Beinart is dead on: Bush needs to review agricultural subsidies.

Let me briefly explain what a subsidy is. Take cotton: for every pound of cotton grown in the US, the government pays the grower 72 cents. Without this money (or some amount), it would not be profitable to grow cotton in the US, and the industry would move out of the country. It costs one-third as much to grow cotton in Africa, for instance. If the subsidy was removed American jobs would be lost (from the cotton industry), but there would be a net economic gain because the cost of cotton products would go down (when the cost of the subsidy is factored in). Subsidies are bad for our economy. Not only that, but this subsidy is also bad for Africa, because African growers can't compete in the cotton market with our growers, who can sell the cotton at a lower price, due to the subsidy.

What's the benefit? In theory, we as a nation don't want to be wholly dependent on foreigners for essential goods, such as cotton, oil, food, steel, and the like. So it makes sense from a national security standpoint to subsidize some industries so that they don't disappear entirely. However, agricultural subsidies are often more pork than anything else, and at the very least the entire process should be reviewed and zero-based anew every year to prevent corruption; they've continued to grow under Bush, however, as they have under all past presidents.



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