Thursday, August 07, 2008

No President Has Ever Handed Off A Greater Mess To His Successor

By MARC McDONALD

When Bill Clinton handed off the keys to the White House to George W. Bush in 2001, the nation was in good shape, having enjoyed eight years of peace and prosperity. America was enjoying its first budget surplus in three decades. The economy was healthy. The U.S. Constitution was still intact. The dollar was strong and was still the world's reserve currency of choice. Gas was $1.20 a gallon.

However, Bush's successor won't be so lucky. In fact, no president has ever handed off a great mess to his successor in U.S. history.

In fact, I pity the next president. Bush has dug America into a hole so deep, that a lot of the titanic problems he's gotten us into will be pretty much impossible to solve.

Take America's out-of-control, gigantic budget deficits, for example. The next president will inherit a record $482 billion deficit in 2009. And actually, that's a conservative estimate by the White House (which misleadingly isn't including the massive additional costs of the Iraq War in its budget forecasts).

Speaking of the Iraq War, no president has ever left his successor a single bigger ongoing crisis. There is no real solution to this ongoing $3 trillion fiasco of a war. In fact, Bush's only "solution" has been to simply drag out this war long enough to hand it off to his successor. And the Afghanistan War is another ongoing fiasco with no end in sight.

Then, there's America's deteriorating economy. When Bush tried his hand in the private sector years ago, he managed to drive all three companies he had a hand in into the ground. Now, he's done pretty much the same thing to America itself.

The economy today is a horrendous mess, with 3.2 million manufacturing jobs lost since 2001. The ongoing subprime mortgage crisis is a black hole of doom and gloom with no end in sight. Serious financial commentators are starting to speak of a new 1930s style Great Depression. Some 2 million Americans stand to lose their homes in the coming years.

America's ability to get things around the world accomplished has been seriously diminished under Bush. In fact, Bush's successor will inherit a nation that is now widely feared and hated around the world. Once, when U.S. presidents used to talk to other nations about the need to respect human rights, America's words carried great weight. Now, such lectures are simply laughed at and ignored.

Along with our lost moral authority, America's clout on the international stage has been vastly weakened under Bush. For a start, our military (which has been severely battered in the Iraq fiasco) is in terrible shape.

And the dollar (which was a principal lever of U.S. power for decades) is a joke these days. The dollar continues to plummet in value---a trend which is certain to continue as America's creditor nations get increasingly spooked by out-of-control U.S. deficits.

Clearly, America is a totally different nation than the one that Bush inherited when he assumed power in 2001.

Seven short years ago, the American Dream was still alive. America was still a "Can Do" nation. We still had the ability to get things done.

Now, in addition to being broke, most Americans are deeply cynical and pessimistic. Even if the next president can do something about our financial crisis, he's going to find it real tough to restore the faith that many of us have lost in America during the Bush nightmare years.

In short, it will take decades for America to recover from the Bush years. The enormous problems we face today will simply be too great for the next president to solve, no matter what course of action he takes. All we can hope for is that the next president can stop the rot.

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

$3 trillion, hell. By the time we pull ourselves from this quagmire, it will probably be $100 trillion!

What comes after a trillion?

Anonymous said...

There is only 1 thing America can do to fix its market, that is pay back all the money they borrowed.
Australia was almost 100 billion $ in debt, then john Howard paid back all that money over 4 years or so, after that, every think picked back up big time, the Australia $ went up a lot.
America o’s about the same amount of money, with the number of people paying taxes,,, Australia has 23 million people,,, America 320 ish million, that would work out about the same.
But I don’t know if Australia had bad credit crises back then.
The next thing they should do is, instead of the American government giving all the American people $2,000 each to spend at the shop, they should of made it only for credit cards to be paid off,
All the people that got that money mite not spend it anyway.
if you did not have a credit card, then you can spent the money

So America would of payed back all its money that it owed, then could of wiped off 230 billion $ of credit card det of the American people.
that on its own would start to fix the economy.

Then they would think about a first home grant//or even a second home grant,, if people by a house they will get $20,000 from the government//.
That will pick up the building market, which is one of the thing a good economy / market will have when it goes good.
Then after time they would drop the first home grant back to $15,000 then $10,000,,, slowly over time, so the market always goes good.
Then if they need too, they would do a retirement second home grant//for money.

If they just did them 3 things, you would see America turn around big time.

Marc McDonald said...

re:
>>$3 trillion, hell. By the time
>>we pull ourselves from this
>>quagmire, it will probably be
>>$100 trillion!

The U.S. will be bankrupt long before then. (And frankly, if that's what it takes to end this evil war, then I say: bring on America's bankruptcy.

>>What comes after a trillion?

A quadrillion. We'll probably be hearing more about this number in the years ahead.

Marc McDonald said...

re:
>>>If they just did them 3 things,
>>>you would see America turn
>>>around big time.

Thanks for the note. Personally, I see zero chance of any of this happening. The biggest problem is that the American political system is corrupt and rotten-to-the-core. It is so broken that it's simply incapable of accomplishing anything positive for the nation.

Cranky Daze said...

I spent most of my working life keeping track of other people's money, and what I know from experience is that the more money people have, the more they want. And the Republicans seem bent on seeing that they get it, regardless of what it does to the country. The middle class is already being taxed nearly into oblivion. It is big business that has thrived under the Bush administration, not only with windfall profits, but being excused from paying their fair share of taxes. It is to the advantage of every person and every business in this country to have a healthy economy, and as I see it, the only chance we have of getting back to that is to dump those huge tax breaks for the wealthy, and revise the tax laws to require corporations like Exxon, Pfizer and the insurance companies to get up off of some of those billions they are raking in every quarter and help pull this nation out of the quicksand. It would also help if we cleaned out the corrupt politicians in DC, whose main goal seems to be selling their souls to big business in order to line their own pockets. Ted Stevens comes to mind.

Batocchio said...

As cranky dave discusses, we've got a class of fat cats who would rather be obscenely, robber baron wealthy in a plummeting economy than merely ridiculously wealthy in a healthy economy.

My concern is that, per usual, the GOP has messed everything up and now a Dem will likely come in, who they'll blame for the mess they've made - and the press will help them.

Just being basically competent will be a huge improvement over Bush, but the next president faces very difficult challenges, and it will take decades to clean up some of the damage.

Chris Benedetto said...

What would be really helpful is a point by point illustration of where McCain is on these major pain points (i.e. how to get the economy going again, job creation, etc).

My guess (but mostly shaped by rhetoric in the mainstream media and liberal blogosphere I frequent) is he is in the camp of continuing some of the failed policies.

These cold hard facts and platform statements should ultimately shape our political dialog and voting choices, not personal attacks and obfuscation.

I intend to print this article out and bring to dinner with me tonight so I can speak knowledgeably with my ultra conservative cousin's family.

Anonymous said...

A little math: ONE trillion dollars would build 15,000 $60 million high schools. With $100 billion left over to pay 2 million teachers a $50,000 salary.

But hey, there are so many RAT HOLES to stuff!

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't be surprised if the next President finds even MORE garbage to deal with than you're mentioning.

All the "leaks" about fabricating evidence of WMDs, lying to start the war in Iraq, the Attorney firings, the DOJ, the wiretaps, other disregards for the Constitution, etc. making their way into the news lately are starting to reveal Bush w (and is) far more inept than we dared to even imagine. What's worse IMHO, is that all this info could turn out to be
only the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

I don't know what the law of the land is regarding the prosecution of former Presidents, but if it's at all possible, W and his cohorts will face many, many lawsuits in the future.

Yes, it would be nice to impeach him now, but either way, he will be viewed as THE WORST President in American History and we can take some comfort in knowing we survived his administration at all!

Distributorcap said...

and yet plenty of people still want r more years of this with mccain....

amazing huh?

rasqual said...

Heh. Lincoln left things a far worse mess than Bush. In fact, in almost all dimensions of comparison, Lincoln's worse. Has Bush jailed hundreds of reporters and publishers, for example, for speaking out against the war? No. But Lincoln did.AskwhY

Manifesto Joe said...

One unfortunate coda here is that, even if Bush has indeed ruined the "Republican brand" and will be remembered as one of our 2 or 3 worst presidents, he had a predecessor who could easily be described as Bush Lite.

Reagan did most of what Bush has done, and basically laid the groundwork for the Republican Party being taken over by irresponsible neocon ideologues. He was around in "luckier" times and didn't push the envelope quite as much as Bush has. And he benefited from being telegenic. But hideous damage that cannot be concealed now was very visible by Reagan's second term. Yet, Reagan is being given a complete pass on his massive deficits, his deregulation to catastrophic effect (the S&Ls and more), his attacks on the social safety net that are now directly resulting in people becoming homeless, his approval of job exportation, his misguided War on Drugs that created a grotesque Jailhouse Welfare State, his military support for thugs like Saddam Hussein, etc., ad infinitum.

Bush apparently won't skate in some ways, in the long term. But Reagan, who damaged this country almost as much, practically has his profile on one of our coins. He HAS skated -- at least in this life. A person like that makes me hope there is a hell.

Flashcat said...

Hey, didn't a lot of american people vote for this idiot. They are getting what they deserve.

Marc McDonald said...

Hi, Batocchio,
re:
>>>As cranky dave discusses, we've got a class of fat cats who would rather be obscenely, robber baron wealthy in a
>>>plummeting economy than merely ridiculously wealthy in a healthy economy.

Yes, but there is one notable exception: Warren Buffett. Last year, Buffett surpassed Bill Gates to become the richest man on earth. And yet Buffett, of all people, went to Washington and testified before Congress that it ought to be "taxing the hides" of the rich.
Which raises the question: why would Buffett want to pay more taxes? The answer is clear: Buffett is a master of economics, capitalism and finance and when he looks at the long-term numbers of America's fiscal state, the picture is scary. He figures it's better to pay higher taxes than to see the entire American nation come crumbling down in a black hole of titantic deficits.

Marc McDonald said...

Hi Cranky, thanks for your comment.

re:
>>The middle class is already
>>being taxed nearly into oblivion.

Warren Buffett, who last year surpassed Bill Gates to become the richest man in the world, pointed this out himself recently.
He noted that he pays less of his income into taxes than his secretary (who makes $60,000 a year).
I think most Americans would be astonished at how little the rich pay in taxes, thanks to various tax shelters and loopholes that are only available for the wealthy.

Marc McDonald said...

Hi, Chris, thanks for stopping by.
re:
>>>>I intend to print this article out and bring to dinner with me tonight so I can speak knowledgeably with my ultra conservative cousin's family.

I hope your dinner debate went well!

Marc McDonald said...

Hi Manifesto Joe, thanks for the comment.
re:
>>>One unfortunate coda here is
>>>that, even if Bush has indeed
>>>ruined the "Republican brand"...

One of my favorite current authors, Jim Kunstler, of Clusterfuck Nation, recently wrote:

"All this hardship and woe will be blamed on the Republican party. It may actually kill off the party. Political parties do go out-of-business in American history, and this one deserves to die -- with its aggressive no-nothingism, its avaricious, punitive religious extremism (the religious part often being fake), its stunning inattention to financial malfeasance in areas under its direct supervision, and its gross incompetent mismanagement of the nation's strategic interests."

jurassicpork said...

Moral authority? That's a wet dream. In the past year nalone, we've been told to fuck off, eat shit and die by:

Arabia (twice)
Russia
China
Pakistan
Iran
and now even Iraq is telling us (for the umpteenth time) that the party's over and to get the fuck out of the pool.

Anonymous said...

You didn't even mention something George Bush accomplished in just his first year of office!! Allowing terrorists to attack in America on 9-11.

Allowing this attack to happen has screwed American foreign and domestic policy forever.

Anonymous said...

You didn't even mention something George Bush accomplished in just his first year of office!! Allowing terrorists to attack in America on 9-11.

Allowing this attack to happen has screwed American foreign and domestic policy forever.