PHILADELPHIAGeorge W. Bush's speech last night underlined the Texas Governor's central campaign goalreplacing what's left of the New Deal social welfare programs with church charity.
Not since Dickens has the message been so clear and simple: Adhere to the principles of a "Faith-Based Organization" and you will be given food, medicine, even housingnot as a right, but as Christian charity.
Unlike any other political candidate, Bush connects moral behavior with Christian largesse. No one in modern timesnot Ronald Reagan, certainly not his father, Poppy Bush, not even people like Pat Robertson or Pat Buchananhas gone so far toward actually implementing the politics of a religious state.
In seeking to make a parable from the story of Mary Jo Copeland of the Sharing and Caring Hands ministry in Minneapolis, Bush told how she serves 1000 meals a week. "Each day, Mary Jo washes the feet of the homeless, then sends them off with new socks and shoes."
Bush paused, then added, "'Look after your feet,' she tells them. 'They must carry you a long way in this world, and then all the way to God.'"
But, he says, "government cannot do this work. It can feed the body, but it cannot reach the soul...." Bush then proposed a new tax incentive for those who donate to charity.
As for the long-standing, intractable problem of how to redistribute income from the rich suburbs to the impoverished inner cities and rural hollers, Bush stuck with the status quo. The breaks are to come for the new rich in the form of an end to the death tax, a general tax cut, and the right to raid Social Security so the money can be invested in the stock market.
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