Which Party Ruined the Economy?

Here’s a quick, hopefully thought-provoking post.

Under Pres. Reagan there was a large expansion in the size of the federal government. Who had control of Congress during those years? Democrats. Pres. Clinton gets credit for having a good economy and balancing the budget but who is responsible for making and passing budgets? Congress. Pres. Clinton did the politically expedient thing and worked with the Republicans in Congress to get the budget balanced (although, the budget would prove to be unsustainable because it was based on unrealistic expectations of future tax income; the balanced budget was in trouble starting in late 2000 and early 2001 when a recession hit).

We had a good economy in the 1990s with Republicans in charge of Congress and with a Democrat in the White House. Things went south with the Internet bubble burst in 2000 and 2001. That was the start of a recession made much worse by the events of 9/11. Thankfully, the “Bush” tax cuts (Republicans were still in control of Congress) were passed. They helped shorten the recession. What was not good was passing them and increasing our federal spending. The economy was going along quite well until the housing market crashed in 2006-2007. This was one of the main factors resulting in the biggest recession the U.S. has faced. I’m not going to blame any political party for the recession but I have to point out that Democrats (and many Republicans) helped put in place government housing policies in the 1990s that were factors in the housing bubble burst. Further, Democrats were the ones opposed to regulations Republicans were trying to put in place that might have reduced the housing market crisis. Both parties are culpable for their actions or inactions though.

In 2006 (2007) Democrats took control of the House and Senate. In 2007 the recession officially started. Things were bad with the Republican Pres. Bush and a Democrat majority in Congress. They passed some bailout policies that were weakly effective at best and harmful at worst. Then Pres. Obama took office in 2009 (2008 election). He nearly had a Democrat supermajority in Congress with which to work. It seemed the perfect time to get things done to help the economy but instead of focusing on the economy, or at least trying to stay out of its way (there were other bailouts, some that seemed effective – the auto bailouts – but most have no measurable effects other than a huge deficit), Pres. Obama and the Democrats passed an environmental bill (which no one had the opportunity to read before it was passed) and a gigantic health insurance bill (which also was not read before it was passed).

In 2010, after about 2 years in office, Pres. Obama said he was serious now about the economy. Things were still bad. In 2010 (starting tenures in 2011), Republicans took control of the House and gained seats in the Senate. In 2011 the economy finally started to improve after Democrats no longer had complete control of Congress. It’s still rough but getting better.

What I think is interesting is that the economy seems to flourish when Republicans are in charge of Congress and it seems to flounder when Democrats are in charge of Congress. It also seems that our economy is finally starting to recover in spite of the worst efforts of many Democrats (and many Republicans who either went along or didn’t fight bills enough). It seems like the best course of action would have been either to do nothing or pass smaller, more focused stimulus measures. Tax cuts always work to improve the economy and are usually the best way to stimulate the economy. They just have to be accompanied by a reduction in spending. Basically, the government should get out of the way of the economy and provide focused regulations when necessary.

This post is biased. I wrote it this way on purpose to provide a counter-point to many arguments I have heard or read that praise Pres. Clinton for the good economy of the late 1990s, blame Pres. Bush for the 2007 recession, and praise Pres. Obama for the current economic improvements. There are many people who blame all good things on actions of Democrats and all bad things on actions of Republicans. That’s such a gross oversimplification of who things actually work that it’s not an effective argument (well, it is often effective because many people do not think critically and just accept it as truth). I wrote this post to show that I can argue just the opposite – that poor economies are the result of the actions of Democrats; after all, Congress is in charge of spending and passing laws and our economy suffered the most with Democrats in charge.

What’s the truth? Probably something in the middle (Democrats and Republicans are both responsible). Our federal government is too big and certainly too inefficient. I’d argue that the inefficiency (bureaucracy) is worse than the size of government. We need a Congress and a president who are willing and able to increase the efficiency of the government in part by reducing its footprint.

Fare Thee Well – Updated

Tomorrow is the end of an era. Pres. George W. Bush – like him or despise him – has left a mark in U.S. history. Some of the most memorable events that occurred during his presidency, such as the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, were not things that he did but were things that simply happened. Other things, such as invading Afghanistan and Iraq were things that he authorized and pushed for. Most people thought he would be another Bill Clinton-type president, focused mainly on social and domestic issues and quickly forgettable. Bill Clinton was a fair president – he turned out to be quite centrist – but he was immoral and dishonest. Pres. Bush is also quite centrist, even if many people do not want to believe that, but he is far more honest and moral than Bill Clinton.

I’m not calling Pres. George W. Bush a saint, but he stood for something and always tried to do what was right. He is the type of person who cares very little for polls, in a day when most other politicians live for polls as if there is nothing more important than bending to every whim of their constituents.

Pres. Bush’s presidency was attacked by the media and by liberals from the beginning. When the Florida Supreme Court stopped the mayhem of the 2000 election vote recounts, where Al Gore and many Democrats tried to steal the election from Pres. Bush, many people instead accused Pres. Bush of stealing the election. I’m all for fair elections but the endless political maneuvering for more votes had to stop. Al Gore received more popular votes than George W. Bush but he did not win the electoral votes. Many people were so bitter over a small thing called the Constitution that they never gave Pres. Bush a chance. Sure, most forgave him in the days following Sep. 11, 2001 but their praise quickly turned to scorn. The rose blooms wilted leaving only thorns.

Meanwhile, the country was in economic turmoil. This turmoil started in 2000 and didn’t stop until 2002; even then, most of the problems were just postponed until 2007. These economic problems were not caused by any one entity. The root cause of them started many years ago as we became more and more greedy as a people. There is little the President could have done to stop the coming economic storms. Maybe the government should have kept out of the economy even less than they did (especially back in 1999 when the government basically forced lenders to approve mortgages to risky clients).

While I disagree with Pres. Bush on some issues (starting the war in Iraq and all the deficit spending, for example), I agree with his stances on abortion (no abortions except in cases of rape, incest, when the life of the mother is in serious danger, and when the fetus has no chance of viability outside the womb – even in those cases, abortion is not something that should be taken lightly or done without serious consideration of all other options. Abortion is only to be used as last resort). Pres. Bush signed an executive order that disallowed taxpayer’s money to be spent on international programs promoting abortion. He also did other positive things such as promoting abstinence education. He supports traditional marriage and constitutional amendments supporting traditional marriage. During his presidency, public libraries also had to install filters to protect children (and adults) from pornography. If that’s censorship, then sign me up for more of that type of censorship. Pres. Bush did increase science research funding as well, even if where funds were allocated changed.

Pres. Bush also signed in a sweeping educational reform bill. I’m not a fan of No Child Left Behind (it was poorly designed and poorly implemented) but it was an example of bipartisan reform (take whatever meaning you want from that). Pres. Bush also dramatically increased funding to fight HIV and AIDS around the world, saving many people’s lives. He pushed for more space exploration – including manned space exploration – as well.

During his presidency the farce of the “assault weapons” ban was repealed. It was a law that did nothing to reduce crime. Handguns are involved in more crimes than assault weapons and not just because there are more of them. I’m not in favor of banning handguns but the ban of assault weapons was nothing more than pure politics based on pathos instead of fact and reality.

Pres. Bush also appointed good strict constitutionalists to the Supreme Court. The Constitution is not a “Living Document.” It should not be reinterpreted based upon the whims and winds of social change. Pres. Bush’s appointees will likely serve very well as Justices.

Pres. Bush also is a conservationist. The problem is that he does not attend the Church of Environmentalism so extreme leftists painted him as someone who does not care for the environment. On the contrary, he has set aside large portions of the world for conservation. His ranch in Texas is also more “green” than most of the homes of other politicians who push “green” policies – including the Church of Environmentalism’s spokesman Al Gore. Pres. Bush also signed in fuel economy standards increases for cars; he additionally pushed for more research into alternative fuels.

While I don’t agree with Pres. Bush’s deficit spending, he did push for tax cuts. He also fought for removing the marriage tax penalty as well as increasing tax credits for children. Reducing taxes is almost always the best policy to help the economy.

Now we come back to the wars. Few disagree with Pres. Bush’s decision to topple the Taliban regime. Many people dislike the war in Iraq though. Contrary to popular opinion, Pres. Bush never lied to us to start the war in Iraq. He acted on what was the best intelligence we had on Hussein. That intelligence turned out to be wrong (or Hussein was able to destroy or hide any remaining WMDs) but Pres. Bush did not lie. In any case, if Pres. Elect Obama does not prematurely pull U.S. troops out, there will be a fairly stable democracy in Iraq, something radical Islamic terrorists dislike more than just about anything else. Terrorists have little power in democracies. Pres. Bush stood up to terrorism and never gave in. He spoke back in a language they understand – violence – and they trembled and were afraid. Bin Laden is little more than a figurehead now. He hasn’t been captured but he has very little direct power any more. Pres. Bush demonstrated a fairly mature understanding of geopolitics.

One additional thing that tells you something about Pres. Bush is the fact that he is happily married to Laura Bush. She is a genuinely nice and good person and must have seen and must still see something good in Pres. Bush. Who people marry can tell you a lot about them.

Pres. Bush has been painted by his political opponents and the media as both imbecile and fiendishly brilliant (he is quite intelligent by the way). They don’t, of course, call him brilliant outright but they imply it as they talk about conspiracies (e.g., that the war in Iraq was started to increase his oil profits; or, he drove up oil prices in order to make more money). Pres. Bush has been given both deity-like powers (e.g., he caused Katrina) and been called nothing but a puppet. Many view him as morally bankrupt and a liar, which simply demonstrates their lack of understanding about morals and honesty.

I for one, will miss Pres. Bush. It hasn’t been an easy 8 years but he stood up to the challenge and performed admirably. I believe history will vindicate many of his actions.