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Tilting at Windmills

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September 12, 2009

FLUNKING EVERY TEST.... Ron Brownstein took a closer look at the Census Bureau's latest report on income, poverty, and health insurance, and what the data tells us about "the economic record of George W. Bush."

On every major measurement, the Census Bureau report shows that the country lost ground during Bush's two terms. While Bush was in office, the median household income declined, poverty increased, childhood poverty increased even more, and the number of Americans without health insurance spiked. By contrast, the country's condition improved on each of those measures during Bill Clinton's two terms, often substantially.

The Census' final report card on Bush's record presents an intriguing backdrop to today's economic debate. Bush built his economic strategy around tax cuts, passing large reductions both in 2001 and 2003. Congressional Republicans are insisting that a similar agenda focused on tax cuts offers better prospects of reviving the economy than President Obama's combination of some tax cuts with heavy government spending. But the bleak economic results from Bush's two terms, tarnish, to put it mildly, the idea that tax cuts represent an economic silver bullet.

When it comes to judging presidents by their economic performance, Brownstein noted, Bush "flunked on every relevant dimension." After eight years of Clinton's presidency, the nation saw improvements on median household income, poverty rates, and the uninsured. After years of Bush's presidency, the nation saw striking declines in every category. (Indeed, Bush is the only recent president to "preside over an income decline through two presidential terms.")

This seems relevant for a couple of reasons. First, I continue to believe Bush simply hasn't been blamed to the extent he should be. Indeed, his name has all but disappeared from the national discourse, despite the fact that his spectacular failures are at the root of almost every relevant challenge the nation is current facing (economy, budget, health care, environment, national security, etc.).

Second, the Republican Party still believes Bush's policies -- the ones that failed on a historic level and created messes we're still struggling to clean up -- were right. If given the opportunity, they'd like to implement them again. GOP lawmakers endorsed these failures as they occurred, and don't regret their positions in the slightest. They're proud to have supported misguided policies that didn't work, and insist that voters should reward them for failing -- and help them bring back the very policies that produced disastrous results.

[A]t the least, the wretched two-term record compiled by the younger Bush on income, poverty and access to health care should compel Republicans to answer a straightforward question: if tax cuts are truly the best means to stimulate broadly shared prosperity, why did the Bush years yield such disastrous results for American families on these core measures of economic well being?

That's not a rhetorical question. Bush had a vision, and with Republican lawmakers' help, it was implemented. It failed miserably. Why does the GOP suppose that is? And why does the party want to bring those same policies back?

Steve Benen 10:00 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (34)

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if tax cuts are truly the best means to stimulate broadly shared prosperity

This assumes "broadly shared" means shared among everyone in the US. What it really means is broadly shared among the upper income earners who support the Republican party. On that level, Bush was a major success. Except for those last few months when it all went to hell.

Posted by: martin on September 12, 2009 at 10:08 AM | PERMALINK

George W Bush did not fail.

George W Bush has had a life long success in turning everything he touches to shit. This was known in 19-god damn-99.

Thanks to the Supreme Court, and then the stoopid American people, Geroge W Bush was able to turn this entire country into shit.

His last act, which was and still is only sloowly coming into perspective, is destroying the economy by hollowing out all of the wealth of this country -- into the dastardly hands of his rich friends' corporations.

Thru George W Bush, the Christian Jehovah God has truly damned this country. (Well, him, the stoopid citizenry, and the clown car congress).

Nice job, George, and may you rot in hell.

Posted by: neill on September 12, 2009 at 10:08 AM | PERMALINK

As others have noted many times on other threads, Bush policies were aimed at taking from nearly everyone and making the very rich even richer. In that regard, they worked precisely as they were intended.

Posted by: N.Wells on September 12, 2009 at 10:08 AM | PERMALINK

improvements on median household income, poverty rates, and the uninsured

Those are librul measures of success. What really matters to so called conservatives are improvements in income for the wealthy, progress of corporate hegemony over government, and increased fear of American military might around the world.

Who cares about the people?!?! As long as they can profit on whatever they want whenever they want without government - US and otherwise - interference, the "public welfare" is served.

Posted by: John Henry on September 12, 2009 at 10:16 AM | PERMALINK

Republicans have an answer -- "911, 911, 911."

Fortunately for the Republicans, the talking heads on the cable news programs are never going to challenge them on that answer because it would disrupt their narrative.

Posted by: karen marie on September 12, 2009 at 10:18 AM | PERMALINK

The Republicans want to bring back Bush's policies because they benefited that top one percent. The rest of us, not so much.

This just confirms Bush and crew should be dragged before the judiciary, indicted, tried and when convicted (my assumption) sent to face Texas justice. They would be dead within the week.

Posted by: Darsan54 on September 12, 2009 at 10:29 AM | PERMALINK

"And why does the party want to bring those same policies back?" Because those policies win elections. "Government isn't the solution; it's the problem" is now embedded in the American psyche. The average middle class voter loved the credit bubble. They felt they were getting rich with no effort in a deregulated economy. Great. It's the American dream. It's Las Vegas where you're always going to be a winner, baby.

Posted by: E L on September 12, 2009 at 10:33 AM | PERMALINK

The Republicans want to bring back Bush's policies because they benefited that top one percent. The rest of us, not so much.

The truly amazing thing is that this is true, yet a large portion of that bottom 99% continue to support them, against their best interests.

Neill's analysis of Bush is right on.

Posted by: qwerty on September 12, 2009 at 10:38 AM | PERMALINK

>"the talking heads on the cable news programs are never going to challenge them on that answer because it would disrupt their narrative."

The talking heads know damn well who is paying their salaries.

Posted by: Buford on September 12, 2009 at 10:45 AM | PERMALINK

Right Bush and his evil goons rewrote the tax code so that the poor and middle class ended up subsidizing the rich. This is why of course that during the 8 years of Bush over 10 million Americans became poor, and the concentrated wealth in the hands of the few became even more concentrated. These pigs 'somehow' managed to convince a majority of middle class people, and the poor, to VOTE AGAINST THEIR OWN SELF INTEREST. And, of course, many of those idiots are the very same folks showing up at the town hall meetings and then booing, yes booing, the news that the employment rate is slowing down and falling, booing the creation of new jobs in their state because of the stimulus bill of Obama's, believing the death panel lies, and all the rest of this propaganda. The corporations of course have learned how to manipulate this lowest common dominator of our country to their benefit. And this people are so stupid they have zero idea that they are indeed being sadistically manipulated for the corporations benefit.

Posted by: stormskies on September 12, 2009 at 10:46 AM | PERMALINK

2001 to 2008 -- the Bust Out Era.

Posted by: hells littlest angel on September 12, 2009 at 10:51 AM | PERMALINK

Agreed. However, let's not forget that those disastrous policies had a lot of help from some amazingly spineless democrats too. There were only a few democrats with the conviction to stand against legislating the largest transfer of wealth in the history of the world. The majority just went along and collected bribes from the same sources that benefited from these policies, all the while offering only weak statements of opposition.

Posted by: Bigsky on September 12, 2009 at 11:03 AM | PERMALINK

George W Bush has had a life long success in turning everything he touches to shit. This was known in 19-god damn-99. - Neill

Absolutely correct. The tiny little aspect that was different during Bush's gig as president was that this time the toy he was allowed to play with was too big so that even his dad couldn't find anybody to bail out little George.

Posted by: SRW1 on September 12, 2009 at 11:07 AM | PERMALINK

Why does the GOP suppose that is? And why does the party want to bring those same policies back?

As others note, income for the top 1/10th of 1% grew over 30% during the period. Sure it was a failure for almost everyone, except the actual small number of people who matter to politicians. For them it was nirvana, and they want that back.

Posted by: Shalimar on September 12, 2009 at 11:50 AM | PERMALINK

The general consensus among conservatives is that only a second Great Depression will save the country. Read the comments on any wingnut blog.

Posted by: dr sardonicus on September 12, 2009 at 12:09 PM | PERMALINK

The general consensus among conservatives is that only a second Great Depression will save the country. Read the comments on any wingnut blog.

Much like Doug Feith and the neo-con think tanks pushed the notion that what this country needed was another Pearl Harbor to allow them to follow through on their own agenda.

The wingnut bloggers prove the fact that 50% of everybody are below average. They just happen to be above the innocently brain damaged.

Posted by: jcricket on September 12, 2009 at 12:27 PM | PERMALINK

Compare Bush dismal numbers to Clinton numbers as reviewed by Brownstein,

"The 1990s were unquestionably a good time for Americans in the penthouses. Yet the boom of the Clinton years was defined not only by its length but also by its breadth and depth; it reached even workers on the margins of the economy, minorities, single mothers, and people with limited education. Census Bureau statistics paint a portrait of the decade recognizable in none of these books.

Consider the median income. Overall, in real terms, the median income--the income level achieved by half of American families--increased by almost 15 percent from 1993 to 2000. But it rose much faster for blacks (33 percent) and Hispanics (24 percent) than it did for whites (14 percent). It rose faster in central cities (18.5 percent) than it did in suburbs (12 percent). Despite all the warnings about welfare reform impoverishing single mothers, the median income for female householders jumped nearly 29 percent from 1993 to 2001, significantly more than the 17 percent increase for married couples.

In percentage terms, families on the lowest rung of the income ladder scored the biggest income gains from 1993 through 1999. According to Economic Policy Institute calculations, families in the bottom fifth of the income distribution saw their average income increase nearly 19 percent from 1993 through 1999--while families in the top 5 percent enjoyed an average increase of about 15 percent. By comparison, in the expansion of the 1980s, the average income of the top 5 percent grew more than five times faster than the incomes of the bottom 20 percent. "

Posted by: bakho on September 12, 2009 at 12:27 PM | PERMALINK

Our current economic collapse is due to the fact that upward redistribution of wealth left the poor, working class and middle class people with too little income to continue consuming. That day was long coming, but had been put off by the credit bubble, which had allowed consumption to continue by converting the inflated value of real estate to be cashed out. Now that we are all broke, deep in debt and the economy is stalled out, the awareness of what has been done to us IS spreading. The teabaggers are not typical.

Posted by: Tom in Ma on September 12, 2009 at 12:27 PM | PERMALINK

Second, the Republican Party still believes Bush's policies -- the ones that failed on a historic level and created messes we're still struggling to clean up -- were right.

Believing them after the failure is a good thing.

Movement conservatism is a revealed religion -- it doesn't need any evidence in its support, it needs faith. And faith, not works, is the path of salvation.

The greater the faith, the greater the merit in the (low-tax, low-service, union-free, unregulated, white, straight, Protestant) world-to-come).

Anyone can believe in what the evidence of their own eyes supports -- that earns no merit.

Believing in things that manifestly just aren't so requires the greatest faith, and therefore earns the greatest merit.

Credo, quia absurdum.

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on September 12, 2009 at 12:35 PM | PERMALINK

The Republican Party doesn't give a rip about poverty or the people at the bottom of our economy.

Under Bush, Exxon made record profits. Mission accomplished. By that measure, Bush succeeded in his main goal- enrich his cronies.

Posted by: bakho on September 12, 2009 at 12:54 PM | PERMALINK

"Bush had a vision, and with Republican lawmakers' help, it was implemented. It failed miserably. Why does the GOP suppose that is?"

The typical GOPer would mumble some response that blames the "Clinton/Gore recession", 9/11, and the America/God-hating liberal media.

Posted by: 2Manchu on September 12, 2009 at 2:22 PM | PERMALINK

The Republican purpose is to destroy society.

George Bush did as much harm to America as the Chicxulub asteroid.

Posted by: cld on September 12, 2009 at 2:23 PM | PERMALINK

Couldn't agree more....but, then again, it just continues the pattern of his entire life -- fuck up royally, and walk away with no consequences to himself...

And what makes it worse, in this case, he gets to live out his days as a millionaire....

Posted by: marty on September 12, 2009 at 2:33 PM | PERMALINK

The tragic/annoying thing is that Bush's policies were bad for many wealthy people as well, if they lived beyond 2008. It was he biggest redistribution of wealth from tomorrow's wealthy to the past's wealthy, destroying more wealth than it created.

Posted by: stefan on September 12, 2009 at 3:16 PM | PERMALINK

There is not a coherent argument on the Bush record coming from Republicans because they make absolutely no attempt to be honest. Thus, they basically argue three incompatible themes simultaneously.

George Bush's economic policies were successful because he was able to turn the economy around after inheriting a recession from Bill Clinton and facing 9/11.

George Bush may have been a failure but that was only because he was a big spending liberal and not a fiscal conservative at all.

George Bush was a Republican not a conservative and his failed policies should be blamed on Barak Obama who is continuing Bush's policies as his heir apparent.

The last line of argument is Newt Gingrich's who is trying to rescue the Conservative Movement from the tarnished Republican brand by laying all of the failures of Bush at Obama's feet (and treating them as one and the same) with his dishonest rheotrical formulation: "The Bush/Obama Big Government Plan."

Posted by: Ted Frier on September 12, 2009 at 3:19 PM | PERMALINK

I'm still amazed at how many middle class and poor Republicans got the $hit beat out of them by the Bush "economy", but still want Republicans in charge.

If you're not part of the top .1% raking in all the loot, you're just getting hosed. Oh sure, some of them think they're going to be "rich" tomorrow not realizing that it's easier to live the American dream of working hard and getting rich in Europe that it is in the US. The Republicans are turning the country into a plutocracy rather than a meritocracy: them's that got the gold get more and everybody else gets f&cked.

Posted by: Glen on September 12, 2009 at 4:04 PM | PERMALINK

following up on glen @4:04....in 08, mccain won whites without college degrees by 20 percentage points...in the south, the margin was 40+. they are still the single biggest voting block...and they vote for the folks that are sending them to the poorhouse....was just reading about louisina in the nyt....over 30% of whites don't have health insurance and they are the group most opposed to reform

Posted by: dj spellchecka on September 12, 2009 at 4:50 PM | PERMALINK

Bush had a vision, and with Republican lawmakers' help, it was implemented. It failed miserably. Why does the GOP suppose that is? And why does the party want to bring those same policies back?

I am becoming more and more convinced that the fuel that feeds Republican ideology is racism. Republicans want to destroy the American federal government because it keeps insisting that people of color, women, homosexuals, Muslims, have rights that must be respected.

From that perspective Bush exceeded expectations. As the Onion put it so well, thanks to Bush (and the conservatives) "the long national nightmare of peace and prosperity is over."

Posted by: PTate in MN on September 12, 2009 at 5:09 PM | PERMALINK

Let me repeat what was said by Stefan @ 3:16:

"The tragic/annoying thing is that Bush's policies were bad for many wealthy people as well, if they lived beyond 2008. It was he biggest redistribution of wealth from tomorrow's wealthy to the past's wealthy, destroying more wealth than it created."

Did the wealthy actually declare Class Warfare on the rest of us? Apparently so, because they seem more satisfied seeing their own wealth stagnate rather than see the rest of us prosper.

Posted by: BuzzMon on September 12, 2009 at 5:30 PM | PERMALINK

Number of years poverty rate FELL - Clinton: 7

Number of years poverty rate ROSE - Bush: 6

Posted by: mr. irony on September 12, 2009 at 5:57 PM | PERMALINK

OK, I'm not defending bush here... but maybe all bush did was implement the misguided beliefs of the born-again right wing, of which he was a card carrying member. They weren't really bush's policies. He was never smart enough to come up with his own policies. That's why the right wing folks still think these will actually work.

Posted by: kanopsis on September 12, 2009 at 7:49 PM | PERMALINK

Why do white, middle class/blue collar Republicans root against their own self interest in voting for Bush, Mccain, Et al??

Because their main self interest is deeply rooted in racist views that they believe Republicans will preserve. As my white/blue collar next door neighbor used to proudly state, "I dont want one dime of my money going into the pocket of no
nigger."

Now that the demographics of this country have shifted beneath the feet of these racist, flag waving hypocrits, their desperate attempts to cling to power are shameful and embarassing.

Posted by: rab on September 12, 2009 at 9:58 PM | PERMALINK

The tragic/annoying thing is that Bush's policies were bad for many wealthy people as well, if they lived beyond 2008. It was he biggest redistribution of wealth from tomorrow's wealthy to the past's wealthy, destroying more wealth than it created.

Here's the big secret about big tax cuts for the wealthy: it usually ends up destroying the econ.

Here's the thumbnail explanation: The wealthy can only buy so much bling, so the bulk of their windfall tax cuts gets invested; but -- and here's the key -- the vast majority doesn't go into job creating venture capital, but instead gets put into the supposedly low-risk secondary market, which does little to help expand the econ or create jobs, but instead has the primary effect of bidding up the price of equity beyond tenable PE ratios, creating a bubble, which eventually bursts, and crashes the econ.

Posted by: Disputo on September 12, 2009 at 10:36 PM | PERMALINK

why does the party want to bring those same policies back?


because they know the suckers who help them...

NEVER learn...

Average pre-tax incomes - top 1% - 2006: up about $60,000

Average pre-tax incomes - bottom 90% - 2006: up $430

(IRS 8/7/08)

Posted by: mr. irony on September 13, 2009 at 5:16 AM | PERMALINK
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