Skip to comments.Bush Was a Statist, Not a Conservative
Posted on 04/12/2010 10:30:40 AM PDT by rabscuttle385
A former White House speechwriter, Mark Thiessen, has jumped to the defense of his former boss, writing for the Washington Post that George W. Bush established a conservative record without parallel. Even by the loose standards of Washington, that is a jaw-dropping assertion. Ive been explaining for years that Bush was a big-government advocate, even writing a column back in 2007 for the Washington Examiner pointing out that Clinton had a much better economic record from a free-market perspective. I also groused to the Wall Street Journal the following year about Bushs dismal performance.
Bush doesnt have a conservative legacy on the economy, said Dan Mitchell, a senior fellow at the libertarian Cato Institute. Tax-rate reductions are the only positive achievement, and those are temporary Everything else that has happened has been permanent, and a step toward more statism. He cited big increases in the federal budget, along with continuing subsidies in agriculture and transportation, new Medicare drug benefits, and increased federal intervention in education and housing.
Lets review the economic claims in Mr. Thiessens column. He writes:
The thrust of their argument is that Bush expanded the size of government dramatically and they are absolutely right. Federal spending grew significantly on Bushs watch, and this is without question a black mark on his record. (Federal spending also grew dramatically under Ronald Reagan, though he was dealt a Democratic Congress, whereas Bush had six years of Republican leadership on Capitol Hill.)
Since federal spending almost doubled in Bushs eight years, its tempting to summarily dismiss this assertion, but lets cite a few additional facts just in case someone is under the illusion that Bush was on the side of taxpayers. And lets specifically compare Bush to Reagan since Mr. Thiessen seems to think they belong in the same ball park. This article by Veronique de Rugy is probably a good place to begin since it compares all Presidents and shows that Bush was a big spender compared to Reagan and to Clinton. Chris Edwards has similar dat, capturing all eight years of Bushs tenure. But the most damning evidence comes from the OMBs Historical Tables, which show that Reagan reduced both entitlements and domestic discretionary spending as a share of GDP during his two terms. Bush (and I hope nobody is surprised) increased the burden of spending in both of these categories. Thats the spending side of the ledger. Lets now turn to tax policy, where Thiessen writes:
Bush enacted the largest tax cuts in history and unlike my personal hero, Ronald Reagan, he never signed a major tax increase into law.
Using the most relevant measures, such as changes in marginal tax rates or comparing the impact of each Presidents tax changes on revenues as a share of GDP, Bushs tax cuts are far less significant than the Reagan tax cuts. But there presumably is some measure, perhaps nominal revenues over some period of years, showing the Bush tax cuts are larger, so well let that claim slide. The more relevant issue to address is the legacy of each President. Reagan did sign several tax increases after his 1981 Economic Recovery Tax Act, but the cumulative effect of those unfortunate compromises was relatively modest compared to the positive changes in his first year. When he left office, he bequeathed to the nation a tax code with meaningful and permanent tax rate reductions. The Bush tax cuts, by contrast, expire at the end of this year, and virtually all of the pro-growth provisions will disappear. This doesnt mean Bushs record on taxes was bad, but it certainly does not compare to the Gippers. But what about other issue, such as trade? Thiessen writes:
Bush enacted free-trade agreements with 17 nations, more than any president in history.
Those are some positive steps, to be sure, but they are offset by the protectionist moves on steel and lumber. Im not a trade expert, so I dont know if Bush was a net negative or a net positive, but at best its a muddled picture and Thiessen certainly did not present the full story. And speaking of sins of omission, his section on health care notes:
Bush created Health Savings Accounts the most important free-market health-care reform in a generation. And he courageously stood up to Congressional Democrats when they sought to use the State Childrens Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) to nationalize health care and defeated their efforts.
Conveniently missing from this analysis, though, is any mention of the utterly irresponsible prescription drug entitlement. There is no doubt that Bushs net impact on health care was to saddle America with more statism. Indeed, Id be curious to see some long-run numbers on the impact of Bushs prescription drug entitlement and the terrible plan Obama just imposed on America. I wouldnt be surprised to find out that the negative fiscal impact of both plans was comparable. Shifting gears, lets now turn to education policy, where Thiessen writes:
Bush won a Supreme Court ruling declaring school vouchers constitutional and enacted the nations first school-choice program in the District of Columbia.
Bush deserves some credit on school choice, but his overall education record is characterized by more spending and centralization. Thanks in part to his no-bureaucrat-left-behind plan, the budget for the Department of Education grew significantly and federal spending on elementary, secondary, and vocational education more than doubled. Equally worrisome, federal bureaucrats gained more control over education policy. Finally, Thiessen brags about Bushs record on Social Security reform:
Bush fought valiantly for a conservative priority no American president had ever dared to touch: Social Security reform, with private accounts that would have given millions of our citizens a stake in the free market system. His effort failed, but he deserves credit from conservatives for staking his second term in office on this effort.
This is an area where the former President does deserve some credit. So even though the White Houses failure to ever put forth a specific proposal was rather frustrating, at least Bush did talk about real reform and the country would be better off today if something had been enacted.
This addresses all the economic claims in Thiessens article, but we cant give Bush a complete grade until we examine some of the other issues that were missing from the column. On regulatory issues, the biggest change implemented during the Bush year was probably Sarbanes-Oxley a clear example of regulatory overkill. Another regulatory change, which turned out to be a ticking time bomb, was the expansion of the affordable-lending requirements for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
And speaking of Fannie and Freddie, no analysis of Bushs record would be complete without a discussion of bailouts. Without getting too deep in the issue, the most galling part of what Bush did was not necessarily recapitalizing the banking system (a good chunk of which was required by government deposit insurance anyhow), but rather the way it happened. During the savings & loan bailout 20 years ago, at least incompetent executives and negligent shareholders were wiped out. Government money was used, but only to pay off depositors and/or to pay healthy firms to absorb bankrupt institutions. Bush and Paulson, by contrast, exacerbated all the moral hazard issues by rescuing the executives and shareholders who helped create the mess. Last but not least, lets not forget that Bush got the ball rolling on auto-industry bailouts.
If all of this means Bush is a conservative record without parallel, then Barack Obama must be the second coming of Ronald Reagan.
No, Bush... like his father... are old fashioned liberals... today’s progressive party are America hating commies that embrace sharia under a one world banner... no comparison at all... and Ronald Reagan stands alone in comparison to any other Modern President.
Tax-rate reductions are the only positive achievement, and those are temporary
Everything else that has happened has been permanent, and a step toward more statism. He cited big increases in the federal budget, along with continuing subsidies in agriculture and transportation, new Medicare drug benefits, and increased federal intervention in education and housing.
GWB and GHWB are not conservatives. never have been. just less left than their opponents.
Everytime EVERYTIME you have to listen to that Marxist Muslim behind the Presidential Podium - don’t EVER forget who helped put him there - Bush II and John McCain.
America has had a succession of bad Presidents - Bush I, Clinton and Bush II, followed by an EVIL President - Barack Hussein Obama.
I’d men fences all week long in Texas before I rode in Scareforce One with PelObasi FrankInReid, Puppets Inc.
Jorge Big Government Bush alert.
Understand the past so as not to repeat it in the future.
No more Bushes.
OUR fault is that we mistakenly transformed his compassionate conservatism into actual conservatism when he transformed his presidency into one aimed at this country from MUSLIM terrorists. It still didn't erase his basic failings, that he is a go-along-get-along patriot. I don't fault him. He protected us, unlike our current White House resident. We should just be realistic in the assessment of what he actually was and IS, that's all.
Ambrose Bierce defined politics as the ‘strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principle’. Both major political parties are consumed by special interests, and personal freedom has been obscured by the flowery rhetoric.
There you go again, picking on Republicans :) shame on you! (Am I the first to lecture here?? Do I get a free toaster?)
Not much less left. Thanks to Jorge Busho many metropolitan areas of the US have become mexican shooting ranges.
George W. Bush, as personable as he is, is certainly no conservative. He comes from a one worlder family, and is parat of the Establishment.
Ask Israel, Czech Republic, Poland, etc. whether Bush was conservative. Meanwhile, Ron Paul looks like Chavez and Castro from those places.
Bush was elected by Americans and is thus accountable to Americans, not Israelis, Czechs, Poles, etc.
George W. Bush along with the help of the GOP run House and Senate, never saw a major spending bill he couldn’t sign. I still think the worst political mistake Ronald Reagan ever made was allowing the GOP to force him into choosing George H.W. Bush as his running mate and allowing the Bush dynasty to get a foothold on Pennsylvania Avenue.
Bush I and Bush II were clueless global enablers. Clinton and Obama were/are pure evil period. That doesn’t mean that Bush I and Bush II shouldn’t have known better. They both deserve our disdain for some of their programs.
History will be kind to Pres. GW Bush.