Did Bush Leave Us Bankrupt, Corrupt, Ungovernable?

From Open Left
When you sell the farm, the farm’s gone.

Is it already too late for America? I’m starting to think that the anti-tax, anti-government conservative movement that started in the mid-70s, elected Reagan and led to the terrible Bush Presidency may have effectively destroyed the country, leaving it bankrupt, corrupt,ungovernable, ruled by a wealthy elite — and we’re only now just starting to realize it. To cover tax cuts we stopped maintaining the infrastructure and started borrowing. To satisfy their hatred of government we increasingly stripped away rule of law, regulation, and belief in one-person-one-vote. We are seeing the consequences of all of that coming back to roost now.

Reagan left us with massive debt and ever-increasing interest payments. Bush left us with $1.3 trillion deficits and a destroyed economy that would force further increases in the borrowing for years – to be blamed on Obama. The “free marketers” gave away our manufacturing base that will take decades and massive capital investment to recover. Obama can try, but it may just be too late to do anything about the borrowing. We need massive investment in jobs and infrastructure, and a national economic/industrial plan. But, with their own Reagan/Bush debt as ammunition, conservative ideologues continue to block every effort at investment to get out of the mess we are in.

The conservatives destroyed the regulatory structure of the government. They removed the inspectors, administrators, regulators and replaced them with corrupt cronies.

The conservatives killed off, contracted out or sold off – “privatized” – so much of our in-common resources and heritage of public structures. Water systems, oil and mineral leases, government functions, elements of the military, etc.

The conservatives destroyed the rule of law, leaving behind public perception of rule by cronyism, favoritism and mob.

The conservatives destroyed public understanding of democracy, leaving behind a one-dollar-one-vote system that their Supreme Court just formalized, along with a corporate media that works to keep people uninformed. And to make matters worse, now the telecoms can argue before Federalist Society judges that their “speech rights” are violated by rules making them carry labor and progressive websites over the internet lines they control. And forget about the idea of them ever letting anti-corporate-rule candidates raise money on “their” internet.

I hate to reference Friedman but this from last week has been sticking in my mind. He says the world is looking at the mess in the US and is turning away from democracy as a result.

[Foreigners] look at America and see a president elected by a solid majority, coming into office riding a wave of optimism, controlling both the House and the Senate. Yet, a year later, he can’t win passage of his top legislative priority: health care.

“Our two-party political system is broken just when everything needs major repair, not minor repair,” said … who is attending the forum. “I am talking about health care, infrastructure, education, energy. We are the ones who need a Marshall Plan now.”

Indeed, speaking of phrases I’ve never heard here before, another goes like this: “Is the ‘Beijing Consensus’ replacing the ‘Washington Consensus?’ ” Washington Consensus is a term coined after the cold war for the free-market, pro-trade and globalization policies promoted by America. … developing countries everywhere are looking “for a recipe for faster growth and greater stability than that offered by the now tattered ‘Washington Consensus’ of open markets, floating currencies and free elections.” And as they do, “there is growing talk about a ‘Beijing Consensus.’”

The Beijing Consensus, … is a “Confucian-Communist-Capitalist” hybrid under the umbrella of a one-party state, with a lot of government guidance, strictly controlled capital markets and an authoritarian decision-making process that is capable of making tough choices and long-term investments, without having to heed daily public polls.

It is too late to recover?

Accountability is a first step. If the current administration would hold the corrupt actors accountable, maybe we could begin to restore governance. And the public would know who to blame for what has happened to us, enabling them to support policies that will get us out of this. But so far they won’t. If they won’t even investigate torture and illegally invading a country why should we expect any accountability for the financial collapse, corrupt government contracts, bribery, embezzlement, corruption and other crimes of the Bush era?

More equitable distribution of the fruits of our economy is another step. Our system worked so much better back when the top tax rate was 90%. The returns from our investment in infrastructure were more widely shared. And back when it took many years to build a fortune businesses had an interdependence with their communities. Executives needed the schools and roads and other public structures functioning well. They needed long-range business and community planning. But just imagine trying to do something about the concentration of wealth today.

So where do we go from here. Is democracy over? Is rule of law a thing of the past? Is predatory monopoly control by the largest corporations the way things are and will be? Does the world now move to governance by a wealthy elite?
Or is the winter and the rain and the snow just getting to me?

What are your thoughts?

Roots Of Conservative Failure: Bush Called Deficits “Incredibly Positive News”

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
Lest we forget where the huge deficits and debt came from…
On August 25, 2001, just seven months after taking office, George W. Bush learned that his budgets had already erased the previous administration’s huge surplus — that was paying off our country’s debt at a rapid rate — and had instead forced the country to start borrowing again. Bush said it was “Incredibly Positive News”

President Bush said today that there was a benefit to the government’s fast-dwindling surplus, declaring that it will create “a fiscal straitjacket for Congress.” He said that was “incredibly positive news” because it would halt the growth of the federal government.

Bush certainly wasn’t the first conservative to think deficits and debt were a good thing. Conservatives had for years advocated a strategy to “starve the beast” by intentionally plunging the country into debt, forcing cutbacks in government oversight of corporate behavior such as regulatory oversight, safety inspections and consumer protections.
In the 1980 campaign for President, Reagan explained his tax cut strategy, after candidate John Anderson called for spending cuts,

“John tells us that first we’ve got to reduce spending before we can reduce taxes,” Ronald Reagan declared in reply to the independent candidate, John Anderson. “Well, if you’ve got a kid that’s extravagant, you can lecture him all you want to about his extravagance. Or you can cut his allowance and achieve the same end much quicker.”

In his two terms Reagan quadrupled the federal debt.

Cato: Don’t Blame Obama for Bush’s 2009 Deficit

Republicans like to claim that Obama “tripled the deficit” and point to the huge 2009 budget deficit. They use charts that show the 2009 deficit was, indeed, huge and about triple the prior year’s borrowing. But the 2009 budget was the last year of BUSH budgets.
When you look at charts or hear descriptions from Republicans, they always say that this was Obama’s deficit. This is just propaganda- lies intended to deceive. For example, when Obama spoke at the Republican caucus retreat yesterday, GOP Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas said that Obama had “tripled the deficit.” A CNN fact check addresses this,

Obama was essentially correct when he said he inherited a budget deficit of $1.3 trillion. Though the budget deficit for 2008 was a then-record $458.6 billion, the CBO issued a projection in January 2009, just days before Obama took office that the budget deficit would reach $1.2 trillion that year, before the cost of any new stimulus plan or other legislation was taken into account.

So again, Republican claims that Obama has somehow increased the deficit are just lies intended to trick people. This massive increase that was reported after the fiscal year ended Sept. 20 occurred under Bush.
Don’t believe me? See the conservative Cato Institute on this: Don’t Blame Obama for Bush’s 2009 Deficit | Cato @ Liberty,

Listening to a talk radio program yesterday, the host asserted that Obama tripled the budget deficit in his first year. This assertion is understandable, since the deficit jumped from about $450 billion in 2008 to $1.4 trillion in 2009. As this chart illustrates, with the Bush years in green, it appears as if Obama’s policies have led to an explosion of debt.
[chart]
. . . But there is one rather important detail that makes a big difference. The chart is based on the assumption that the current administration should be blamed for the 2009 fiscal year. While this makes sense to a casual observer, it is largely untrue. The 2009 fiscal year began October 1, 2008, nearly four months before Obama took office. The budget for the entire fiscal year was largely set in place while Bush was in the White House.
[corrected chart]

Please click through to see the charts. And then look at Cato: Who’s To Blame for the Massive Deficit? for an even better explanation,

What about the so-called stimulus, they will ask, with its $787 billion price tag? Or the omnibus fiscal-year 2009 appropriations bill? And how about Cash for Clunkers and Obama’s expansion of the children’s health insurance program? Didn’t these all boost spending in 2009?
The answer is yes. But these boondoggles amounted to just a tiny percentage of FY2009 spending — about $140 billion out of a $3.5 trillion budget — as the pie chart nearby illustrates.

Here are some examples of how this propaganda is applied. keep in mind as you read these and look at the charts that the 2009 budget was Bush’s last budget, and began before Obama even took office.
Heritage Foundation: Bush Deficit vs. Obama Deficit in Pictures. Look at how the chart tricks you into think that 2009 is an Obama budget year.
Here is Heritage directly labeling the 2009 budget as Obama’s in a chart.
Here is a similar use of deception in charts, by right-wing blogs.
More: Federal budget triples under Obama – yes TRIPLES, and After Tripling The Deficit, Obama To Try And Create Jobs With More Government Spending, and Obamanomics: Deficit Tripled in One Year
Fox News: Obama Triples Budget Deficit to $1.4 Trillion (they have since changed the headline but here is it as it appeared:) fox nation clip
Here’s a good one, using a Heritage propaganda chart: Obama’s Tripling of the National Debt in Pictures
The right’s noise maching is good, though, there are 18,200 websites listed if you search for “obama tripled the deficit” in quotes, another 1,790 searching for “Obama triples deficit” in quotes

Final Bush Budget Year Ends – $1.4 Trillion Deficit

Well the last Bush budget year just ended. So how did the Republican budgets do? When Bush took office we have a HUGE budget surplus – over $230 billion. Alan Greenspan warned that we were paying off the debt too quickly. Then came Bush and his tax cuts for the rich, and the Republican spending binge.
So now? Record-High Deficit May Dash Big Plans,

The federal budget deficit soared to a record $1.4 trillion in the fiscal year that ended in September, a chasm of red ink unequaled in the postwar era that threatens to complicate the most ambitious goals of the Obama administration, including plans for fresh spending to create jobs and spur economic recovery.

Update – Oh, look, Republican blogs are claiming that the budget for the fiscal year that ended in September is Obama’s budget, even though he didn’t even take office until January! That;s like how FOX News puts an R after a Democratic legislator’s name when they do good things, or a D after a Republican’s when another one gets caught lying about an affair.

Paying Off Italy?

Read about how a contract for petentially unsafe Italian helicopters that will be used to fly the President might just be a Bush payoff to Italy for helping get us into the Iraq war, in Is the U.S. Paying Off the Italian Government for Forging the Niger Documents?,

that they were doing something extraordinarily wrong. The rigged bidding process bypassed, for example, Marine One pilots who repeatedly sought to give input. They had many safety concerns. At the time of the bid, the helicopter chosen was not certified to fly in the U.S. It was an old model made of heavy materials; this flew in the face of why the President supposedly needed a new fleet: i.e., so many extra security devices had been added to Marine One after 9/11, it was struggling to lift off. In its losing bid, the Connecticut-based Sikorsky, which had manufactured virtually all presidential helicopters since Eisenhower first ordered one, proposed a new model made of much lighter, composite materials.

Investigating Bush Crimes

Ivan Eland of the Independent Institute says Prosecute George W. Bush for Illegal Acts. The piece begins,

The Obama administration is reluctant to turn over too many rocks in the Bush administration’s conduct in the War on Terror. Obama has pledged to reach a post-partisan nirvana, and Republicans could condemn any investigation of Bush administration abuse of the republic as a partisan witch-hunt. Also, the Obama administration has a conflict of interest in pursuing investigations and prosecutions against Bush administration officials because now that Obama is president, he may not want to entirely discredit Bush’s precedents, which significantly expanded executive powers.

We Haven’t Been Attacked

We were attacked on 9/11 after the Bush administration ignored a memo titled, “Bin Laden Determined To Strike In US,” and went on vacation. Never forget that.
But the Republicans are spouting the “We haven’t been attacked since 9/11″ as an accomplishment!
We were attacked on 9/11 because they screwed up, and then they used that to divide the country and push a right-wing agenda, Dept of Homeland Security getting unions out of the government, tax cuts, invading Iraq, etc.