The ubiquitous Amy Sullivan, voice of the religious left in the Democratic Party, writes on the faith-based initiative in TNR. While its intended to be a criticism of the program, the article doesnt amount to much. Yes, the dollars going to non-entitlement social programs havent gone up much in the Bush Administration. Yes, the faith-based share hasnt changed all that much, and only a small portion of it goes to groups that werent well-represented in the programs prior to 2001.
This doesnt sound like theocracy to me. And if it were seriously meant to be a political slush fund, theyd be doing more with it.
Whats more, that there are few true believers in the Bush Administration doesnt surprise me. Most specialized programs in an Administration have only a few devoted advocates.
Why hasnt more been made of the initiative? Theres been Congressional resistance, which has made the enactment of new legislation almost impossible. Theres the post-9/11 focus on national security, with defense expenses and policy taking up a substantial portion of the budget and of the Presidents time and attention. As for the money question, the answer Sullivan offers is damning only if you accept the premise that more government spending is always a good thing.
In sum, theres less than meets the eye in Sullivans criticism. Am I disappointed that more hasnt changed after more than five years? Yes, but Im not going to quarrel with the Bush Administrations focus on foreign policy and homeland security, nor with its unfortunately failed effort to start a national conversation on social security. GWB is spending what political capital he has on important matters. Given Democratic resistance on all fronts, theres only so much he can accomplish in the faith-based initiative.