Bruce Bartlett reminds us of the George W. Bush: Screwup-in-Chief, 2001-2008. Short version: Iraq, WMD, unfunded Medicare Part D, Sarbanes-Oxley, Katrina, Harriet Miers, no vetos until second term, tax rebates+credits and nonpermanent tax cuts, steel tariffs, ag subsidies, keeping Cheney, compassionate conservativism, signing McCain-Feingold after threatening to veto, neutering SecTreas, and GSEs.
I don’t think all of these are such disasters, but the list does bring back memories. Here’s the list as Mr. Bartlett recounts it:
Over the weekend Republicans unveiled their brilliant new political strategy strategy: the George W. Bush years were the good old days and we should go back to them. A stupider strategy is hard to imagine. The Bush years were an unmitigated disaster. Here is a quick list of his screw-ups off the top of my head in no particular order. Readers are encouraged to add others in the comments.
Thinking that Iraqis would welcome liberation and immediately embrace Western-style democracy, and failing to manage the occupation of Iraq properly. (How can people defend Bush on the basis that he kept us safe after 9/11 without also blaming him for 9/11? If he had the power to keep us safe after 9/11 then why didn’t he keep us safe on 9/11?)
Bullying the intelligence community into giving him the justification to start a war in Iraq over non-existent WMDs.
Ramming through a massive new, unfunded Medicare drug benefit when the system was already broke.
Rushing to enact the hugely expensive Sarbanes-Oxley Act in reaction to the Enron scandal even though there was no evidence that it would have prevented it from happening.
The total failure to deal with Katrina.
Nominating the totally unqualified Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court and appointing other nincompoops to high level positions solely on the basis of slavish loyalty.
Not vetoing anything until two years into his second term.
Thinking that tax rebates and tax credits stimulate growth and failing to make any of his tax cuts permanent.
Destroying the Doha round of trade negotiations by imposing steel tariffs and enacting a massive new agricultural subsidy program at its outset. (The whole point of Doha was to reduce agricultural subsidies.)
Failing to name a new vice president in 2004 who would have been a viable Republican candidate for president in 2008.
Thinking that cooperating with Ted Kennedy on the No Child Left Behind Act was a good idea and believing in “compassionate conservatism.” (Made ordinary conservatism look uncompassionate.)
Signing McCain-Feingold after promising to veto it during the 2000 election.
Neutering the Treasury secretary and failing to push for tougher oversight of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, thus contributing to the housing crash and economic crisis we have experienced for going on two years with no end in sight.
Just to remember the fiscal disaster, here is the Federal budget balance, and cyclically adjusted budget balance:
Figure 1: Federal budget balance with (blue) and without automatic stabilizers (red bold). NBER defined recession dates shaded gray; assumes last recession ended 09Q2. Source: CBO (May 2010), 2010Q2 2nd GDP release, NBER and author’s calculations.