Mr. Sensitive

September 19, 2012

Why George W. Bush Still Matters

Filed under: Uncategorized — lbej @ 13:43

One major theme the Romney campaign returns to again and again is, in essence, “leave poor George alone.”  They’re not arguing that Bush was a good President–he’d have been turned away at the Republican Convention if he’d shown up–they’re arguing that he can’t have been so bad that we can be four years removed from his second term and still be struggling to repair the damage.  This is Obama’s mess, they say, because it can’t still be Bush’s mess.  They’re wrong.

First, they’re wrong from an historical perspective.  The Bush years were analogous to the eight years of the original crony capitalists, Harding and Coolidge.  Coming out of the restrictive, wartime economy and eight years of failure and arrogance courtesy of Woodrow Wilson, Warren Harding’s policy was to get out of the way and let the corporatists do their thing.  If he indulged in some shenanigans on behalf of some wannabe corporatists, eh.  When Harding dropped dead of corruption in 1923, Calvin Coolidge ably did nothing in his stead, then was elected to do nothing in his own right in 1924.  What the unchecked corporatists did in the Roaring ’20s is borrow, spend, and speculate their way into a series of real estate and stock market bubbles that made a few people rich…then made a lot of people poor when the final bubble burst spectacularly in 1929.  The government did nothing to stop the excess and–here’s the difference–because another Republican was elected in 1928, it did nothing to cushion the impact when it all collapsed.  The extraordinary measures taken by the Treasury and the Fed in the final months of the Bush Administration and the first year of the Obama Presidency were in stark contrast to the ‘all is well’ approach Herbert Hoover took.  Even when FDR took over in 1933, adopting far more extreme measures than Obama has ever considered, the economy didn’t recover until WWII jump-started industrial production in the 1940s.  That was an entire decade lost to the aftermath of epic speculation and government negligence.  We’re on year four; it’s too early.

Second, Romney wants to be Herbert Hoover, if Herbert Hoover had been evil.  If we were having a debate about which policy course to take over the next four years, and the alternative to the current policy was something–anything–other than a return to the disastrous policies of the prior decade, I would welcome that debate.  This isn’t a debate–it’s a black comedy.  Are Americans really going to go for Romney after they’ve had time to reflect on how badly his approach screwed us all already?  Supply-side economics won’t work–the model is broken.  Indiscriminate deregulation leads to disaster–it happens every time.

I would love to stop talking about George W. Bush.  The Republicans want us to forget about him, though, and that’s something we can’t afford to do.


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