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. Check out his blog at Manifesto Joe's Texas Blues.