With the passage of the ironically titled American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, Congress has avoided—at least temporarily—the severe spending cuts and tax increased required under the Budget Control Act of 2011. In addition, Congressmen loaded the bill will pork to award diverse special interests.
In the course of passing this legislation, Congress retained some of the Bush administration tax cuts. Some conservatives critics of the deal expressed relief that it preserved some of the Bush “legacy.” The fight over the tax cuts created the stalemate that delayed action until the eleventh hour. Although the Republicans tried to put the spotlight on the issue of taxes, the issue was really just a sideshow in our Congressional Carnival.
The Republicans should have conceded immediately the President's desire to let the tax cuts expire. Republicans subsequently should have demanded spending reductions. That way, Republicans avoid confirming the suspicion of many voters that they are for “The Rich.” More important, Republican can focus on the real issue.
Taxes are not the real issue. Its spending.
And how the Bush era tax cuts became such a sacred cow mystifies me. They were the residue of the undisciplined and fiscally irresponsible Bush administration, one of the worst in recent memory.
What was so bad about Bush?
He was a liberal.
He called himself a “compassionate conservative,” bringing a kinder, gentler, conservatism to American public life. Kinder and gentler than who? Well, Ronald Reagan. As George Will put it, Bush set out to “distinguish himself from Reagan by disparaging Reagan.”
While trying to enhance the success of the Republican Party, Bush threw out whatever inconvenient conservative principles
When he came into office, Bush inherited a budget surplus (depending, of course, on who counts and what is counted.) The United States government still carried a five billion dollar debt from borrowing during previous administrations. Instead of attempting to pay off the debt with surplus revenue, Bush introduced tax cuts that eventually amounted to about 1.5 billion dollars. We began running budget deficits.
In addition to cutting tax rates, Bush secured a tax rebate. He promoted this gimmick to stimulate the economy. One shot deals like this never work. Most recipients paid off existing personal debt (thereby exhibiting better sense about their own household budgets than Bush showed regarding the federal budget). Other simply put the money away for some future purchase.
The tax cuts, however, only tell part of the story.
Bush also created a host of tax credits and exemptions including doubling child credit, teacher supplies purchasing credits, health insurance account credits, educational account credits, and a host of others.
The spending side of the budget looks no better.
He increased domestic spending across the board and brought about a large expansion of the workforce of the federal bureaucracy.
The largest of these expenditures was the Medicare Prescription Drug Improvement and Modernization Act of 2003 that created the Medicare Part D prescription drug program. In an age in which reform of existing entitlements grows increasingly urgent, Bush saddled us with a new one. Not only did the program saddle future generations with unaffordable obligations, because of the way lawmakers wrote the legislation, billions of dollars in subsidies went to companies who already provided prescription drug coverage, including GM (4 billion), Verizon (1.3 billion), Bell South (572 million), American Airlines (415 million), and United Airlines (280 million).
Bush also bought into the “affordable housing” mantra of the Social Democrats:
He supported the role of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to support mortgage lending to those who cannot afford it. Bush's policies partly caused the housing bubble and subsequent crash that brought his administration to an ignominious end and swept the Democrats into power in the White house and in Congress.
His last acts of “compassionate conservatism” included the bailouts.
Republicans should not have been surprised that President Obama blamed Bush for the economic woes facing the country. Republicans should not have been surprised that he continued to run against Bush in 2012. And Republicans should not been surprised that this campaign theme resonated with voters.
Bush has become our Jimmy Carter.
There is a reason behind it.
Bush was, like Carter, simply one of the worst Presidents since the turn of the 20th century.