the humble libertarian

out of many one

Monday, January 19, 2009

George W. Bush's Sorry Record in Office: A Review of The Bush Presidency

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With just a day left before he leaves office, here is a review of the major actions and results of George W. Bush's presidency, a post-mortem- if you will- on the Bush Administration. As the title of this article discloses, the review is quite unfavorable. Twice, the so-called conservative wing of the Republican Party was instrumental in electing Bush to office on promises of limited government and reform. It was the con of the century. Bush's presidency has looked nothing like his campaign promises.

If we assign to the words "conservative" and "liberal" their conventional (and confused) meanings in modern American usage, with "conservative" meaning "someone who supports more limited government" and "liberal" meaning "someone who supports more active government," then Bush is by far the least conservative and most liberal president we have had in decades, or possibly even our entire history as a nation. If we use these words in their classical sense, Bush is neither conservative, nor liberal. More apt descriptors would include: statist, imperialist, autocratic, warmongering, socialist, fascist, and on and on the list could go!

The following is a list of Bush's accomplishments as president:

1. Steel Tariff- Right off the bat, he did not work to improve international relations and free trade, but antagonized the European Union and blocked free trade with the passage of a protective steel tariff. He bought this favor for the steel industry at the expense of every other domestic industry that uses steel by forcing them to pay artificially-enforced, higher-than-market prices for steel.

2. Regulation- Businesses in the United States are strangled by a vast array of pointless regulations that cost billions in compliance costs. Instead of acting to reform these in favor of a healthy and free economy, uninhibited by the arbitrary interventions of the state, Bush has added to them over his presidency, most notably with the passage of Sarbanes-Oxley, an unprecedented Federal expansion into American business.

3. Welfare state/Entitlement Programs- Rather than working to reform and eliminate the wasteful spending of the Federal government's entitlement programs, Bush has worked actively to increase their size, power, and budgets. The prescription drug benefit that he pushed for to expand Medicare was the biggest infusion of money to any government program in 40 years. It will ultimately cost as much as $7 trillion to taxpayers. To ensure passage, his administration knowingly gave a deflated price estimate to Congress and as a matter of record, threatened to terminate certain Medicare employees if they disclosed the true estimate of its costs.

4. No Child Left Behind- The NCLB Act represented an unparalleled expansion of Federal power over education, which has traditionally been, and Constitutionally should be, a local and state issue. It also represented an unprecedented increase in Federal dollars for education, but its requirements have prompted many to call for even more, and depending on your philosophy of education, these dollars are being wasted.

5. Socialization- While John McCain- the GOP's candidate to succeed Bush in office- was smearing his opponent Barack Obama as a socialist (which is incidentally true, by the way), the Bush Administration was busy nationalizing Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac, buying toxic assets from the finance industry for $700 billion (actually, that's how much Congress authorized for this purpose when it passed TARP, the administration has currently spent more than a trillion dollars bolstering the finance industry, much of it unaccounted for), and illegally and unconstitutionally using funds from TARP to extend loans to the auto industry (much of this was done with both McCain's and Obama's help and support).

6. Deficit Spending- To finance his expansive government agenda, Bush has run deficits greater than any other in US history, pushing the United States National Debt to unprecedented levels. This is quite an impressive feat when you stop to consider that his administration inherited a budget that was yielding surpluses. Though America went into the new millennium with a reasonable hope of getting its debt situation under control, it now looks as though the national debt will grow exponentially to unsustainable levels in our lifetimes.

7. Department of Homeland Security- Instead of acting to slim and streamline government in the aftermath of 9-11, Bush's solution to government inefficiency and disorganization was to create another entire department of the Executive Branch, which has since then become notorious for its wastefulness and inefficiency.

8. The Patriot Act- Conservatives should have been alarmed at an act that grants the Federal government greatly-increased and broadly-defined powers over it citizens, increasing its surveillance abilities and allowing it to act with greater impunity and less accountability for its actions. Its Orwellian name and hurried passage give it a chilling touch. Bush took it even further however, when he issued an executive order to allow the NSA to engage in warrantless, illegal wiretapping of US citizens in violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

9. Guantanamo Bay/Abu Ghraib Prisons- With the passage of the Military Commissions Act of 2006, Bush and Congress suspended habeas corpus for enemy combatants, and while it also outlawed torture (as if we needed more legislation to outlaw torture), it provided for the president to use his discretion in determining what constitutes torture. Bush himself noted that the purpose of building Gitmo in Cuba was to put enemy combatants in legal "outer space."

10. Iraq War- Bush's doctrine of preemption set a dangerous and aggressive precedent for US foreign policy. He explicitly campaigned on a foreign policy of no wars, no major troop deployments, and no nation building. He campaigned on what he called a "more humble foreign policy" and argued that we should not police the world. Instead he has stretched the military and treasury to their limits waging a very questionable war.

11. Global War on Terrorism- Defending America is an important role the Federal government plays. George W. Bush used it as an excuse to declare a "Global War on Terror." Notice that the enemy is not defined. It's not a war against a specific organization or country, but against a tactic, a broadly-defined abstraction. Thus it is unlimited in time and could proceed indefinitely. Notice that it is not confined to a geographic location, but is "global." Thus it is unlimited in space and justifies possible government involvement anywhere and everywhere. Notice that the war has been pitched to Americans not as a matter of national defense against radical terrorist organizations, but a "clash of civilizations" that we fight for our very existence.


In closing, let me say that I do not hold George W. Bush exclusively responsible for all the things I list above. He is very responsible and holds a hefty share of the blame, but Congress shares equally in that blame. Legislators in D.C. like Hillary Clinton who posture against Bush, yet vote for many of the policies he has signed into law are guilty of all the things listed above as well as lying about it. We as Americans must hold them responsible as well and vote like it!

Also let me say that I am not thrilled about our incoming president, Barack Obama. My criticism of Bush should in no way be misconstrued to imply an endorsement of Obama. Please join me again tomorrow, on the day of his inauguration, for a list of my appraisals and predictions for the incoming administration.