The first graph shows the difference between budget projections and budget reality. In 2001, President George W. Bush inherited a surplus, with projections by the Congressional Budget Office for ever-increasing surpluses, assuming continuation of the good economy and President Bill Clinton’s policies. But every year starting in 2002, the budget fell into deficit. In January 2009, just before President Obama took office, the budget office projected a $1.2 trillion deficit for 2009 and deficits in subsequent years, based on continuing Mr. Bush’s policies and the effects of recession. Mr. Obama’s policies in 2009 and 2010, including the stimulus package, added to the deficits in those years but are largely temporary.
Anybody seen George W. Bush lately?
Other than a brief period where he came out of hiding at his mansion complex near Dallas to bask off the reflected glory of Bill Clinton's trip to meet and talk to Haitian earthquake victims (and wipe his dirty hand on Clinton's shirt at one point) or a few book signings for his "Decision Points" book (all done here in the United States to avoid problems with torture and the World Court) George is AWOL.
It is odd that Bush wants no part of the limelight for the job he did for the two terms he and his merry men and women served as the Chief Executive of the USA. Or maybe it isn't, given that the job was probably a major contributor, but not the only one, to the enormous recession we are still suffering from as a nation.
O.K., so Bush left the nation as it was swirling down from huge losses of credit in confidence in the wake of under regulated "too-big-to-fail" investment banks and a series of major tax cuts that benefited the wealthy but added no income to a national government busy fighting two major wars halfway across the globe. Add to this the Prescription Drug Plan for Medicare he got through Congress, which cost hundreds of billions but didn't raise taxes nor even allow the government to bargain with Big Pharma for reduced prices on drugs (as the Veterans Administration does) and the beginnings of the great corporate banking bail-out and the housing bubble burst that somehow he and his cabinet and their friends at the Federal Reserve never saw coming, or saw and just didn't care, and you have the situation for which the present administration is taking the majority of the blame.
Could it be that George W is lying low to not remind people he deserves a hefty share of the blame for the troubles we're in? He is, after all, an exercise buff and hardly in his dotage. Why was not out campaigning for his flock back in 2010? Why isn't he part of the current deficit debate, as is President Clinton who recently said he would allow the Congress to default on government debt and would invoke the 14th Amendment to stop such shenanigans?
I got an idea. Maybe George knows he screwed up and, indeed, just wants to lay low.
O.K, what did Georgie Boy leave us in economic terms when he left in January 2009?
According to two articles by Paul Wiseman of the Associated Press, the United States has the fifth highest debt percentage in the world among developed nations, comparing what it owes ($14.3 trillion) to the total economy. What the federal government takes in is 14.4 percent of the gross domestic product, the lowest share since 1950. (Thank the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2002 for most of that. Also thank the GOP Congress from 2001 to 2007 whose rank and file uped the debt ceiling several times.)
17.4 percent of the GDP of the USA is spent on health care. The next highest is twelve percent, spent by the Netherlands. It's the highest percentage among wealthy countries. Among 34 other wealthy nations, the average spent on health care is only 9.5 percent, according to the Organization for economic Cooperation and Development. (What did Bush do about that. Preach about "individual health care accounts", as if the average family could salt away 100,000 bucks in case one of their children gets in a car accident or contracts leukemia. Nice try , George.)
Surely, health care reform wasn't a silly idea after all.
"We as a society will either have to pay more our government, accept less in government benefits, or both," according to Douglas Elmendorf of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.
I'm guessing the only rational way to go about this is to look seriously at both revenues and cuts in benefits. Obviously, with the diminishing power of the middle class in America, any choices not cutting entitlements will be much harder to achieve unless voters stop accepting the "trickle-down" economic policies and the Lords of the Flat Tax and the No New Taxes-Ever Bunch like radicals Michelle Bachmann and the pledge-happy lobbyist Grover Nordquist stalk the country, offering simple 19th Century panaceas to 21st Century issues. Bush provided cover for these nimrods for eight years.
But has the middle class really lost so much clout since Bush the Younger left office? Well, yes. "Wages and salaries account for just one percent of economic growth since the (US) recession officially 'ended' in June of 2009." Corporate growth on the other hand, according to the Wiseman Article "Boom in Corporate Profits, Bust in Jobs and Wages" accounted for 88 percent of the growth in the economy. (This is unprecedented in recent American history. Prior to Bush assuming office, previous recessions over the last thirty years had seen middle-class buying power rise anywhere from 15 to 50 percent after a recession receded. The average corporate gains after a downturn were anywhere from 28 to 53 percent.
US Corporations are seeing that the middle class has lost its buying power and is either rushing new jobs overseas or simply holding onto their accumulated post-recession bank of funds (estimated at 1.9 trillion dollars.)
And because of the present gridlock in Washington, in part caused by Bush's role of letting the adjustable-rate mortgage and over-the-counter derivatives breeds of foxes to guard the financial hen-house, we have a nation where there is no clear way ahead for the government to form a fiscal policy on. (Bush could have rectified some of this by impasse by coming forward and supporting a new series of regulations and strengthened agencies to stop what happened on his watch from happening again.)
Instead, he works out in his home gym and keeps his head low. Ex-Presidents are supposed to help the nation with their collective wisdom, not hide like a bandit on the lam. Surely Bush has learned something from the Economic Titanic he helped steer the nation into. You'd think he'd want to help make up for it, if only to get another big book deal.