Democrats should be thanking George W. Bush at this historic moment: the landslide election of Barack Obama to the presidency, at least 5 more senators and a great plurality in the House of Representatives.
What caused this enormous sea-change from the divisive 2000 election when the Supreme Court decided Bush should have the presidency or even the 2004 presidency which in the eyes of many Kerry conceded far too early? How has it happened that the 50/50 split of American politics seems to have disappeared, replaced by a new model?
Tine marches on. Nothing stays the same forever. It was inevitable that the pendulum would swing once again. Yet, I can’t help but think that the greatest reason for Obama’s massive victory is the legacy of Barbarian Bush and his horde of neo-cons.
When Bush came to power in a divided country, he had a Republican majority and he and his horde set to work intigating the policies that neo-cons had been espousing for 30 years. Small government, low taxes, little regulation…these are sacrosanct to neo-cons, first espoused on the national scene by Ronald Reagan whose name still rings like music to their ears.
Bush’s gang had the first chance to really activate these ideas. And, boy, did they with gusto and glee, appointing industry insiders to head the FDA, the EPA and other regulatory agencies. When they couldn’t get rid of the rules due to a pesky Congress, they made sure the rules were not enforced. They downgraded FEMA from cabinet post to a constituent part of a new agency, Homeland Security. The Justice Department was staffed with like-minded individuals who put party loyalty first. Bush had the opportunity to place two new Supreme Court Justices and he made sure they would be as right-wing as his neo-con friends…This is but a partial list. Eight years is plenty of time to gut almost every aspect of government.
These fabulous neo-con ideas of how a government should operate…how did they work out? We all know what happened. We see the result every day. Wall Street became populated with looters who fleeced first the American people individually and then as group after the catastrophic collapse of the stock market. What caused this? To a great degree, it was lack of regulation as Wall Streeters came up with and implemented exotic and complicated new “financial instruments”, as we learned to call them. These were then sold all over the world, trading on a brand name, Brand America, built up over 150 years. Again, we know the result–not only our own economy, but the global economy is on its knees.
The degradation of the American economy due to Bush’s neocons’ economic theories is only the tip of the iceberg. The US lost millions of jobs during Bush’s tenure. Why was that? The neocons believed that lessening the tax burden on the rich would encourage investment and allow income to “trickle down” to the masses. That bankrupt notion allowed the last of America’s manufacturing to head to foreign shores where the now richer rich spent their extra capital setting up off-shore factories to export product back to the US for a greater profit to themselves. Further, these tax breaks for the wealthy also encouraged some of America’s service sector to be sent off-shore. Now, the increasingly rare product support centers come with an Indian accent. Thanks, George Bush! Thanks, neo-cons!
It’s impossible to list the functions of government gutted or polluted by George W. Bush and his neo-con handlers. We saw in Katrina what happens when government does not do its job. Why not? Was it because the head of FEMA was a no-nothing political appointee? The people involved were the poorest of the poor and black to boot? Whatever it was, Brand America abroad became a loathsome thing. We, ourselves, began to lose faith. Our anger and disappointment became a palpable thing and focused on George Bush.
Lately, contempt for Bush is so pervasive that nobody even makes jokes about him any more. We all or most of us anyway, agree Bush is a joke and his presidency is the worst in our history. Bush is in some sense a figurehead. He represents the ideology of the neo-cons. Those who espouse that ideology would have us believe that Bush the man is the culprit. With a better man, more intelligent, more dedicated, these policies would have worked. That is not true. It is the policies which have created this destruction.
Neo-cons have held the stage here for so long that it’s hard for many to give up these ideas. They are still afraid of regulation–it will hurt business, it will hamper trade. Obama must not raise taxes on anybody, including the rich, which he has promised to do by a few points. The Big Three automakers are skirting bankruptcy, CEOs make 435 times the average wage, the stock market has sunk 35% in one year, millions of jobs were either lost or never created—and the answer is keep these old, useless policies.
These neo-con policies of George Bush are what sank the US economy. The only solution is to reverse them and try a different approach. Instead of discouraging labor unions, encourage them. Regulate Wall Street and the mortgage industry more effectively. Protect the consumer. Protect the environment. Tax those who make profit inthe US and disallow them from taking their American-gained funds tax-free off-shore. Encourage those who create jobs here in the US. Discourage those who take their business off-shore.
Democrats have now, thanks to George Bush and a charismatic presidential candidate, a historic chance to turn this country around into a place which is more just, more equal and with more opportunity for all.