As Barack Obama nears the three-quarter’s mark of his presidency, it is natural that he and George W. Bush will be compared to one another. I consider them both to be disappointing presidents but in very different ways.
First, the sins of George Bush:
- The Bush Tax Cuts of 2001-2003 lowered tax rates without being offset by closing loopholes and/or shrinking tax deductions. This made his huge budget deficits much worse than they otherwise would have been and without helping the economy.
- The Iraq War. Regardless of whether or not the U.S. was justified in invading in 2003, the current ISIS uprising of Sunnis is likely to result in a worse outcome than existed before the U.S. invasion. This will come to mean that Iraq was a mistake.
- Medicare Part D (2003). The Prescription Drug program now costs the federal government about $100 billion per year. It makes the unsustainable cost of Medicare that much worse.
- The Financial Crisis of 2008. This represents an even bigger stain on his record. He appointed all of the key players such as Ben Bernanke, Tim Geithner and Henry Paulson who failed to see it coming. He also appointed Sheila Bair as head of the FDIC in 2006. She did see it coming but it was too late and she didn’t have enough clout.
Mr. Obama is very bright and articulate. But he has made many serious mistakes including:
- His total immediate attention in 2009 should have been on reviving the economy. Instead he and the filibuster-proof Democratic Congress pushed through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The employer mandate of Obamacare, even though postponed by the administration, has slowed down the economic recovery by making it more expensive for businesses to hire full time employees.
- For all of his nonpartisan campaign rhetoric about “change we can believe in,” he has been one of the most divisive and partisan presidents in many years. This has created huge animosity and distrust amongst his political opponents which makes it difficult for the two sides to negotiate differences in good faith.
- The most glaring example of this is the anemic 2.2% annual growth of the economy since the Great Recession ended in June 2009. Many economists agree that cutting both individual and corporate tax rates, offset by closing loopholes and deductions, would be hugely beneficial in boosting the economy. It would put millions of people back to work and shrink our huge deficits. Why isn’t the President talking about this and leading the charge? But, of course, this was the Romney tax plan in 2012. What’s wrong with the election winner adopting the best parts of the program of the election loser? Now that would be demonstrating real leadership ability!