On January 20, the Constitution ended the reign of Calamity George, fake cowboy and illegitimate president. At the inauguration of Barack Obama, ex-President Bush prompted loud cheers by boarding a helicopter and leaving. Dick Cheney also attended the event, showing up in a wheelchair, due to a backinjury or perhaps as a bizarre tribute to his heroes, Dr. Strangelove and George Wallace.
As we begin the post-Bush clean up, it’s time to assess the damage. A pair of economists, including a Nobel Prize winner, recently published a report stating that the Bush administration cost American taxpayers $10.35 trillion. That figure includes a $4.9 trillion increase in the national debt, caused primarily by the Iraq War and the president’s tax cuts for the extravagantly wealthy. Another budget-buster is Medicare Plan D, which is projected to cost $800 billion over the next decade. Expenditure on that program is grossly inflated, thanks to Republican lawmakers’ insistence that the government not negotiate with pharmaceutical companies to achieve bulk price discounts. The drug manufacturers were opposed to discounts, and they gave a lot of campaign donations to the GOP, so that settled the matter.
And let’s not forget the interest payments on all the money borrowed by George & Co.: $1.5 trillion over the next ten years alone. Our current debt burden is a far cry from Bush’s promise in 2001: “My plan reduces the national debt, and fast. So fast, in fact, that economists worry that we're going to run out of debt to retire.” For an administration that will be remembered for its lies, that one may be the most blatant.
Unfortunately, the $10 trillion figure is actually a low estimate. Thanks to the Bush depression, tax revenues will fall during the near future (and maybe the far future too). On the expenditure side, President Obama has no choice but to implement further deficit spending in order to revive an economy that flatlined on Bush’s watch. That’s something to keep in mind when Republicans rediscover their opposition to deficits and start chiding Obama for budget shortfalls.
Other statistics are equally grim. Unemployment is at a 16-year high and consumer debt has reached record levels, along with home foreclosures. Then there’s the rising death count from Bush’s needless war in Iraq.
However, not everyone suffered under Bush’s reign. The richest 1% of Americans received 75% of all income gains during George Junior’s time in office. Likewise, OPEC states and China bought a large ownership stake in America by loaning money to our government. Those countries also used proceeds from exports to the U.S. to acquire American banks and prime real estate.
Al Qaeda also benefited enormously during the last eight years. As Bush’s former anti-terrorism chief stated, the administration was incompetent in responding to the terror threat, both before 9/11 and thereafter. The invasion of Iraq compounded the damage. Not only did the Second Gulf War divert precious resources from the fight against Osama bin Laden and his allies, but it allowed al Qaeda to enter Iraq and make it a key base of operations and recruitment. Karl Rove and other GOP con men packaged candidate Bush as the man to keep America safe, but the 43rd president’s performance on that front was just as miserable as the rest of his record.
So is Bush II the worst president ever? We won’t know the full impact of his tenure for a while, since it is unclear whether the ecological damage inflicted during the last eight years is reversible. The planet may have already crossed a point of no return on climate change. However, given the information currently on record, we can compare Bush to his predecessors.
John Adams used the judicial system to persecute political opponents. James Madison failed to prevent a devastating attack on America. Rutherford B. Hayes undermined black citizens’ voting rights. Ulysses S. Grant and Warren Harding let wealthy cronies loot the Treasury. William McKinley intensified corporate domination of society and engaged in imperial expansion. Calvin Coolidge allowed irresponsible practices on Wall Street. Herbert Hoover presided over an economic catastrophe.
Dwight Eisenhower used the CIA to subvert democracy and support fascist dictatorships around the world. Lyndon Johnson involved the nation in a disastrous war. Richard Nixon illegally spied on Americans, prolonged a futile war, and violated the basic tenets of the Constitution. Gerald Ford excused lawbreaking in the White House and boosted the careers of dangerous authoritarians (Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, for instance). Jimmy Carter did a poor job of dealing with Middle Eastern extremists. Ronald Reagan and the first Bush ran up record deficits, assailed the rights of workers, radically redistributed wealth to the rich, and provided Muslim terrorists with weapons. Bill Clinton supported economic “reforms” that eliminated good jobs and hurt consumers.
But only George W. Bush did all of the above.