The prevailing theory among grown-up Republicans — yes, they still exist — seems to be that Mr. Bush is simply doing whatever it takes to win the next election. After that, he'll put the political operatives in their place, bring in the policy experts and finally get down to the business of running the country.
But I think they're in denial. Everything we know suggests that Mr. Bush's people have given as little thought to running America after the election as they gave to running Iraq after the fall of Baghdad. And they will have no idea what to do when things fall apart.
This is the part I really don't understand. When Paul "Stalin" Krugman came to town he mentioned that investment fund newsletters which he invariably received tended to claim that they expected a return to fiscal sanity after the '04 election. This just makes no sense. There are no serious policy people in the White House. The Legislative Branch is run by Tom Delay, who is a huge fan of lower taxes and bigger spending - on his friends. Where's the discipline?
Despite the popular myth, most people love the few entitlements we get. We may not like other peoples' entitlements - particularly if they're black - but we like the ones we get. There isn't much to cut in the federal budget, and most of what can be cut would be offset by matching increases in state and local expenditures.
The economy may not collapse before Nov. '04, but it should give us all pause that financial markets are apparently betting on the notion that Bushonomics will not continue.