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Friday, July 23, 2010

Paul Krugman: Addicted to Bush

Just say no:

Addicted to Bush, by Paul Krugman, Commentary, NY Times: For a couple of years, it was the love that dared not speak his name. In 2008, Republican candidates hardly ever mentioned the president still sitting in the White House. ...
The truth, however, is that the only problem Republicans ever had with George W. Bush was his low approval rating. They always loved his policies and his governing style — and they want them back. In recent weeks, G.O.P. leaders have come out for a complete return to the Bush agenda, including tax breaks for the rich and financial deregulation. They’ve even resurrected the plan to cut future Social Security benefits.
But they have a problem: how can they embrace President Bush’s policies, given his record? ... What’s a Republican to do? You know the answer. There’s now a concerted effort under way to rehabilitate Mr. Bush’s image on at least three fronts: the economy, the deficit and the war.
On the economy: Last week Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, declared that “there’s no evidence whatsoever that the Bush tax cuts actually diminished revenue. They increased revenue, because of the vibrancy of these tax cuts in the economy.” ...
I guess it depends on the meaning of the word “vibrant.” The actual record of the Bush years was (i) two and half years of declining employment, followed by (ii) four and a half years of modest job growth, at a pace significantly below the eight-year average under Bill Clinton, followed by (iii) a year of economic catastrophe. In 2007, at the height of the “Bush boom,” such as it was, median household income, adjusted for inflation, was still lower than it had been in 2000.
But the Bush apologists hope that you won’t remember all that. And they also have a theory ... that President Obama, though not yet in office or even elected, caused the 2008 slump. You see, people were worried in advance about his future policies, and that’s what caused the economy to tank. Seriously.
On the deficit: Republicans are now claiming that ... the deficit is Mr. Obama’s fault. “The last year of the Bush administration,” said Mr. McConnell recently, “the deficit as a percentage of gross domestic product was 3.2 percent, well within the range ... most economists think is manageable. A year and a half later, it’s almost 10 percent.”
But that 3.2 percent figure, it turns out, is for fiscal 2008 — which wasn’t the last year of the Bush administration, because it ended in September of 2008. In other words, it ended just as the failure of Lehman Brothers — on Mr. Bush’s watch — ... caused the deficit to soar: By the first quarter of 2009 ... federal borrowing had already reached almost 9 percent of G.D.P. To some of us, this says that the economic crisis that began under Mr. Bush is responsible for the great bulk of our current deficit. But the Republican Party is having none of it.
Finally, on the war: ...Karl Rove now claims that his biggest mistake was letting Democrats get away with the “shameful” claim that the Bush administration hyped the case for invading Iraq. Let the whitewashing begin!
Again, Republicans aren’t trying to rescue George W. Bush’s reputation for sentimental reasons; they’re trying to clear the way for a return to Bush policies. And this carries a message for anyone hoping that the next time Republicans are in power, they’ll behave differently. If you believe that they’ve learned something — say, about fiscal prudence or the importance of effective regulation — you’re kidding yourself. You might as well face it: they’re addicted to Bush.

    Posted by on Friday, July 23, 2010 at 01:08 AM in Economics, Politics | Permalink  Comments (134)


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