Capital Commentary is the weekly current-affairs publication of CPJ, written to encourage the pursuit of public justice.

The Second Bush Inauguration

Stephen V. Monsma


January 24, 2005

January 20 marked the second inauguration of George W. Bush as president of the United States. A presidential inauguration is in part a celebration of a partisan victory, in part a commemoration of what the United States stands for, and in part a setting out of an agenda for the next four years.

As I watched the televised inauguration events, I was especially attuned to the policy agenda being set out. Three crucial policy areas with which President Bush will be dealing in the next four years kept coming to my mind.

The Faith-Based Initiative

One of the more commendable policy initiatives of President Bush's first term was his faith-based and community initiative aimed at enabling faith-based and small, community-oriented organizations to take part more fully in government-funded programs of service to the most needy among us. President Bush needs to continue and even strengthen his first-term efforts, and thus I am somewhat concerned that the president did not mention this in his inaugural address, nor has it received much attention by his spokespersons in the run-up to the inauguration. One hopes that this is not an indication this policy initiative will be put on the back burner in the second Bush administration. It needs advocacy from the president on down.


Iraq will likely be President Bush's biggest challenge in his second term. His first-term invasion and lack of effective planning for the post-war aftermath unleashed a whole new set of miseries on a land that had already suffered much. Nevertheless, if President Bush and his advisers can find a way for security to be established and for the Iraqis to share political power in that deeply divided land, Iraq could yet prove to be his greatest achievement. But the odds are not in his favor.

An end to the current sickening bloodshed is only likely to come about if the various Iraqi factions recognize that justice for all is beginning to emerge. Freedom—about which President Bush spoke movingly in his inaugural address—is more than simple majority rule. Freedom and justice demand that minorities be protected and assured a proportionate say in governing. Elections can help in this process, but the elections to be held January 30 are flawed by their failure to guarantee each of the three major groupings in Iraq—Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds—a proportional share of political power.

It is not too late to make the necessary changes, but the second-term efforts of the Bush administration will have to exceed those of the first term if success is to be achieved.

Social Security

President Bush has indicated that he is committed to changing the Social Security program so that younger workers can put some of their contributions to the system into their own individual investment accounts. Social Security, at its best, functions as a safety net that assures the elderly they will have a basic, minimal level of retirement funds. This must be preserved.

The key problem with President Bush's proposal is that making investment decisions is something most of us are not well equipped to make. Individual investment accounts must not become a throw of the dice in which some win and some lose. Thus, President Bush's Social Security proposals make good sense only under one essential provision: that they protect the soundness of the individual investment accounts by strictly limiting the accounts into which investments can be made.

In all of these areas, it is my hope that even in a broken, sinful world, justice will "roll on like a river, righteousness like a never failing stream" (Amos 5:24).

—Stephen V. Monsma, Fellow
    Center for Public Justice


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Capital Commentary is a weekly current-affairs publication of the Center for Public Justice. Published since 1996, it is written to encourage the pursuit of justice. Commentaries do not necessarily represent an official position of the Center for Public Justice but are intended to help advance discussion. Articles, with attribution, may be republished according to our publishing guidelines.”