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The Worst President in History? : Rolling Stone

Last year, a historian weighed in on Bush’s potential legacy as well. Here’s the bit on the economic record….

The Worst President in History? : Rolling Stone

The heart of Bush’s domestic policy has turned out to be nothing more than a series of massively regressive tax cuts — a return, with a vengeance, to the discredited Reagan-era supply-side faith that Bush’s father once ridiculed as “voodoo economics.” Bush crowed in triumph in February 2004, “We cut taxes, which basically meant people had more money in their pocket.” The claim is bogus for the majority of Americans, as are claims that tax cuts have led to impressive new private investment and job growth. While wiping out the solid Clinton-era federal surplus and raising federal deficits to staggering record levels, Bush’s tax policies have necessitated hikes in federal fees, state and local taxes, and co-payment charges to needy veterans and families who rely on Medicaid, along with cuts in loan programs to small businesses and college students, and in a wide range of state services. The lion’s share of benefits from the tax cuts has gone to the very richest Americans, while new business investment has increased at a historically sluggish rate since the peak of the last business cycle five years ago. Private-sector job growth since 2001 has been anemic compared to the Bush administration’s original forecasts and is chiefly attributable not to the tax cuts but to increased federal spending, especially on defense. Real wages for middle-income Americans have been dropping since the end of 2003: Last year, on average, nominal wages grew by only 2.4 percent, a meager gain that was completely erased by an average inflation rate of 3.4 percent.
The monster deficits, caused by increased federal spending combined with the reduction of revenue resulting from the tax cuts, have also placed Bush’s administration in a historic class of its own with respect to government borrowing. According to the Treasury Department, the forty-two presidents who held office between 1789 and 2000 borrowed a combined total of $1.01 trillion from foreign governments and financial institutions. But between 2001 and 2005 alone, the Bush White House borrowed $1.05 trillion, more than all of the previous presidencies combined. Having inherited the largest federal surplus in American history in 2001, he has turned it into the largest deficit ever — with an even higher deficit, $423 billion, forecast for fiscal year 2006. Yet Bush — sounding much like Herbert Hoover in 1930 predicting that “prosperity is just around the corner” — insists that he will cut federal deficits in half by 2009, and that the best way to guarantee this would be to make permanent his tax cuts, which helped cause the deficit in the first place!
The rest of what remains of Bush’s skimpy domestic agenda is either failed or failing — a record unmatched since the presidency of Herbert Hoover.

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