The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

January 9, 2013

It’s all Bush’s fault, right?

Bob Harper

TARBORO — Back in 1930 President Herbert Hoover made some bad mistakes when he first took office.  The stock market had just crashed and the country stumbled into The Great Depression.  It wasn’t Hoover’s fault, he had only been president about six months and he couldn’t have caused The Great Depression in that short period of time even if he had tried.  Also it was a world depression, not just here in the U.S.  Still, the decisions Hoover made were not good ones.  

Many people credit President Franklin Roosevelt with bringing the country out of The Great Depression, but he didn’t.  The country only emerged from the depression when we started mobilizing for World War II.  Still the Democratic Party blamed Hoover for The Great Depression and they continued to keep this as a political campaign slogan for the next twenty years, when finally Republican Dwight Eisenhower was elected president in1953.

So we see the blame game can work for a long period of time if the public doesn’t wise up to what’s going on.  The same blame game has been going on against President George W. Bush for at least five years now.

During Bush’s two terms as President he faced a number of crises, including 9/11/2001 when this nation was attacked and around three thousand lives were lost.  Remember the Japanese attack in December 1941 cost about two thousand lives.  In 1941 the Japanese targets were military; on 9/11/2001 the targets were all against innocent civilians.

So Bush, with the best intelligence available, and the backing of the majority of congress, ordered a military response.  The results were the capture, trial and death of Saddam Hussein.  Soon after that some liberals declared that this might be good for political purposes.  Many, on the left, wanted us to immediately pull our military out of this area.  Bad idea, as this would have given our enemies a free staging area to once again foster other attacks.  But, it did serve as a political purpose and Obama used it in his presidential election run.  After he was in office he was shown how it would be a bad military move, and so a postponement and slowdown was the decision.

But, as many of us know, truth doesn’t always matter when politics are involved.  Still President Bush’s first term was good enough for us to reelect him for another term.  This second term went relatively well also, although he did make some misstates, as all presidents do.  These few errors helped the Democrats capture both the House and Senate for his last two years of his term in office.

That’s when some of the real mischief began.  With the Democrats controlling both houses they decided that sub-prime mortgages were a wonderful thing, in that everyone should own a home no matter what their income was or what their credit rating was.  All of this was to be supervised Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.  But, Fannie and Freddie weren’t supervising…they needed supervision.

The Bush administration sought to create a new agency to carry out such supervision, but this reform was blocked by Senate Democrats, including the blocking vote of Senator Obama.  All this spread the contagion that started to melt our financial system.

This was a huge factor in the biggest stock market crash since the 1930s.  In 2008 the market (as represented by the S&P 500 Index) fell over 36 percent and many stocks fell over 50 percent.  “So what!” some people might say.  “Only rich Wall Street billionaires are affected by the stock market, why should I worry.”

Well, if you have a 401 (K), IRA or almost any kind of retirement plan, including a refined plan that might go belly-up, you just might be concerned.  Also the condition of the stock market can have a strong effect on how our economy will perform.

It seems that whoever is President (the guy whose watch it’s on) will get the blame, no matter what Congress does.  I suppose this might be true no matter which political party is in control.

President George W. Bush did many things while he was President…some good, some maybe not so good.  However, he did one other thing that’s getting some attention now.  President Bush cut taxes.  And, that’s getting some real attention now.

It seems that most of President Bush’s tax cuts have been restored.  With a large majority of Democrats in Congress virtually all of Bush’s tax cuts (about 98 percent) are back.  Jennifer Rubin writing for The Washington Post said it best.  “George W. Bush has a legacy that is becoming more impressive with time.”  Rubin also quoted Kevin Hasset at the American Enterprise Institutes, “After everything settles, people of both parties will have to agree that this was a big win for Bush.  Almost all of Bush’s favored tax policies have become a permanent part of the tax code.”

All of this does not mean that everything has changed.  We still have leadership that believes that “Tax and spend” and higher and higher debt is the way to go.  But, it is hopeful that good decisions can still be made in Washington.

(Bob Harper is a Tarboro resident who writes a twice-monthly column of general interest.)