Homeland über alles

Frankly, even we are impressed at the change that’s come over President George Bush and his fellow Republican conservatives in the aftermath of the attack on America. True, the self-proclaimed “lovable guy” stumbled badly at the beginning, declaring a “crusade” on the “evildoers” in front of a live global television audience. But since then, his experienced handlers seem to have brought him under control. They’ve shown remarkable restraint so far in their pursuit of Osama bin Laden, alleged mastermind of the terrorist attack. Moreover, Bush and his entire entourage of conservative cronies (including most of the Republicans in both houses of Congress) have suddenly remembered something they’ve forgotten for the past two decades: The federal government can actually do things, like spend money.

It started with the $40 billion that materialized out of nowhere to rebuild New York City and ignite the war on terrorism. It was immediately followed by $17 billion to bail out the flagging airline industry, which had been in financial crisis even before the terrorist attack. Now, President Bush is proposing a $75 billion spending/tax cut plan to stimulate the economy, no doubt hoping to stop the GDP’s skid into negative territory for the second successive quarter and thus avoiding the dreaded R-word: recession.

OK, the conservatives haven’t had a complete change of heart. Most of the billions they’ve spent, or are proposing to spend, will go to the usual suspects: corporations and other big-business interests. But the important thing to note is that word “billion” following all the dollar signs in these Big Government Giveaways. Money hasn’t been printed this fast since the days of the Weimar Republic, and before Alan Greenspan starts beating his inflation drum, we’ve come up with a wish list of our own for the country and Sacramento. All of the following expenditures could be easily justified under the rubric of Homeland Defense.

“ More than 40 million Americans, including many Sacramentans, have no health insurance. In an era where attack can come any time, any place, this is an obvious defensive liability. Congress should establish universal health care for all Americans immediately.

“ It’s going to take wits and brains to fight the war on terrorism. A multibillion-dollar influx of capital to local education systems, from kindergarten to the university level, will help prepare us for this complex future.

“ Our dependence on automobile travel leaves us vulnerable to terrorist attack. Knock out a couple of freeways, and Sacramento would be isolated. Several billion could be devoted to developing alternative means of transportation in the region.

There are of course many items that could be added to such a list—California’s faltering infrastructure comes immediately to mind. The point is, the attack on America is causing all of us to look at our homeland in a new light, and some of what we see is not pretty. Why not fix these things now, while we remain united? After all, doesn’t the very phrase “Homeland Defense” presume that the homeland is worth defending, for all of us?