Bush Administration Likely More Concerned With Economics Than Social Questions

Finding Oil, Warding Off Recession First Priorities

The priorities of George W. Bush's administration have already taken shape. The first Republican administration of the century will likely focus on economics—trying to procure more oil and gas and taking steps to head off a recession. If the campaign is any guide, cultural issues would take a back seat for the time being. Here's a thumbnail list of probable policy innovations.

Defense spending: Look for Bush to initiate a military recovery program by injecting a quick $10 billion boost, then $25 billion more in 2002 so the U.S. military could mount a real "peace through strength" program calculated to win one major regional conflict and one smaller conflict simultaneously.

Technology: Forget about regulating the Internet. Bush and company would move to settle with Microsoft in the Clinton-era antitrust matter. There's no interest among the Bushites for breaking up the software giant.

Taxes: Bush's grandiose $1.3 trillion proposed tax-cut scheme might have seemed unrealistic during the campaign and initially angered party leaders who thought the governor was off the beam, but in a new administration, it could prove to be a godsend, providing Bush with a safety net against the projected "hard landing"—a/k/a the recession—next spring. Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan might well buy into the tax cut as an anti-recession maneuver.

Health care: Expect Bush to move for health care reform aimed at expanding the existing federal employees health insurance plan, which allows government workers to pick and choose among private insurance programs. Long advocated by the conservative Heritage Foundation, this plan for Medicare would most likely get top billing in the new administration.

Welfare reform: Bush will be almost certain to push for "faith-based" charity schemes to deliver social programs, from food to schools to prisons. One of his favorite innovations in Texas, faith-based social programs are alluring to the churches, which will end up running most of it.

Energy: Oil policy will be key, with immediate efforts to expand exploration on federal lands in the Alaska wildlife refuge, on the West Coast's outer continental shelf, and in the Gulf of Mexico. Bush will also push for more energy deals in the Middle East, where the world's last big resources are thought to reside.

Culture: Bush will spank Hollywood, but stop short of regulation.

 
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