Saturday, January 10, 2009

Bush's Last 10 Days, Part 1: Recipe For Fiscal Disaster

By Manifesto Joe

As the countdown to Bush as ex-"president" begins, it might be good to put into context why some Americans, even some U.S. historians, regard Il Doofus as the worst "president" of modern times.

The federal deficit for the current fiscal year is being projected at $1.2 trillion. That's more than the entire national debt was at the time Jimmy Carter left office in January 1981.

The Congressional Budget Office report lays much of the blame for this spike on lower tax revenues due to the recession, and on $400 billion spent to bail out Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and various financial institutions amid the mortgage crisis. Bush policies did a great deal to contribute to all of the above, but that's another post. For now, let's stick to the budget.

The deficit for fiscal 2007-08 was about $455 billion, consistent in real dollars with what was being run annually during the Reagan and Bush I presidencies. It's not too shocking, until you consider that Bush II inherited what had been the largest surplus the federal government has ever run, some $230 billion in fiscal 1999-2000, from departing President Bill Clinton's administration.

The surplus decreased to $158 billion during fiscal 2000-01, which Bush presided over some of. Bush apologists have tried to make an end run out of this, saying that declining revenues due to a briefly sour economy were responsible. They've also pointed out that the Clinton surpluses occurred even though federal tax cuts were passed in 1997, an apparent argument for supply-side policies.

That's fair enough, up to a point. But by 2001-02, the federal government was in the red again, and that continued year after year until the aforementioned $455 billion deficit was reached. How did this happen?

Bush spent the first months of his presidency pushing tax bonanzas, mainly for his rich friends, through the Congress, along with scraps from the rich man's table for the rest of us, amounting to $300 per person. His economic plan basically rolled back the relatively modest Clinton tax increases on the wealthy, passed by the narrowest of margins in 1993.

Students of fiscal policy know that it's anything but simple, but a few policy effects during this administration seem clear. It didn't take long to turn surpluses into deficits, and arguments that this isn't related to tax policy are, at the very least, unconvincing.

Then, after 9-11, Bush the "decider" decided to take the country to war(s). The first one, in Afghanistan, seemed and still seems like a defensible action, despite the toll on the Afghan people. The second, the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, was in hindsight clearly elective. Aside from being an act of aggression, it turned out to be one of the most expensive mistakes a U.S. administration has ever made.

According to a July 2008 update, military operations alone in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost $872.6 billion. Some $661.1 billion of that was for ops in Iraq. Source: Congressional Research Service data.

Even conservatives need to put this into perspective. Would Winston Churchill have held fast to big tax cuts for the wealthy during an expensive war, and even have audaciously pushed for more such cuts?

George W. Bush did. And in so doing, the U.S. was set up, and knocked down like bowling pins, for the $1.2 trillion annual deficit we now face. Now tell me that, as a "president," this buffoon didn't suck great big green ones, with warts on them. His decisions were consistently the worst that could have been made, and yet he stubbornly continues to defend them. I don't think future generations will find his defense convincing.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.


Anonymous said...

In an April 2008 poll of over 100 historians conducted by George Mason University's History News Network, an astonishing 61 percent said George W. Bush is the worst president ever in the nation's history. Not just in modern times. But in the entire history of America.

Marc McDonald said...

Bush gets my vote as the worst-ever president in U.S. history.

The usual "worst-ever" candidate, James Buchanan, was indeed a terrible president.

But Buchanan wasn't evil.

Incompetent, yes. A failed leader, yes, A mediocre politician who failed the test of his office, yes.

But he wasn't evil.

George W. Bush, on the other hand, is evil.

This is a man, after all, who yucked it up in a "comedy" skit about Iraq's missing WMDs.

That goes beyond bad taste. That goes beyond being a bumbling, mediocre president.

That is pure evil.

And George W. Bush is clearly an evil man (in addition to all his other flaws).

Manifesto Joe said...

Hi, Anon:
I know about the poll you mention. It seems hard, though, to compare a president in James Buchanan's day to a U.S. "president" now, so I was reluctant to accuse beyond modern times.

Hi, Marc:
I'm not sure Bush is deliberately evil so much as he is absolutely convinced of his rightness on all matters. This is a man who has said that he believes that God talks to him. That could actually make him even more dangerous than an amoral Machiavellian like Cheney. Thankfully, we will be rid of them both in 9 days.

Jack Jodell said...

Manifesto Joe, I too would categorize Bush as the absolute worst President in our history, even worse than Buchanan. Why? Buchanan's notoriety sprung from his inaction on key issues like slavery, which only led to inevitable conflict. His inaction did nothing to destroy our economy or our prestige in the world. Bush, on the other hand, engaged in a pre-emptive war of aggression opposed by the rest of the world, tax cut and spent us into de facto bankruptcy, and has economically enslaved the next several generations. Plus, he deliberately tried to drive a wedge between various groups of Americans on numerous occasions, and battered and bruised our Constitution with his defiance of Congress and abuse of power. NO President has ever been so detrimental in so many areas as has Bush. I am counting the days, and would love to see him tried for war crimes, too.

Helen Drake said...

Let me see if I understand this correctly: you're saying that if a leader is convinced he is right, then he's not evil?

I'm not sure I buy that argument. Hitler, for example, was passionately and fanatically convinced in every fibre of his being that he was doing the right thing for Germany.

Ironically, Bush himself would disagree strongly with your viewpoint---as long as it applied to other people.

This, after all, is a man who gleefully embraced the death penalty as governor. Pleas to spare certain inmates from lethal injection never swayed Bush in the least bit. It didn't matter if the inmate had had a trial in which his attorney slept through the proceedings. It didn't matter if the inmate was mentally retarded.

In Bush's view, if they were on Death Row, they were all evil, period, and they all deserved execution, with no exceptions.

Manifesto Joe said...

Hi, Helen:
Good points. But please note that in my comment I said "deliberately evil." One of this blog's main purposes since the beginning has been to point out the evil of the outcomes of Bush's policies, and his basic unfitness for the office.

But it's a sad fact that many people on Earth walk around leaving disasters big and small in their wake; but if you asked them, "Are you evil? Look what you did," they would say, "No!" What makes these sorts especially dangerous is the absence of self-doubt.

Chris said...

Judge a president not by what they say (since politicians are notorious for their false promises) but rather by their actions in office.

To that end, the ideologically driven president has done nothing good for most American people. Perhaps by his own measures, he has been remarkably successful (the income gap hasn't been this big since the 1920s, and the robber barons of our time are richer than ever before), but by any objective measure, it has been an enormous failure.

The US had 2 major recessions, a terrorist attack (which was possibly preventable with a properly functioning intelligence and security agency), 2 major wars, a record surplus turned into a record deficit, the reputation of the US turned into mud, general inaction on our warming climate, the US falling behind even on education and healthcare (in comparison to other developed nations), an increasingly corrupt government, and a bunch of lunatics who more or less ruined the nation.

By that measure, he was utterly horrible. And the US is in deep danger of falling over a cliff that many seem to refuse to acknowledge exists.