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Eugene Robinson
NationofChange / Op-Ed
Published: Sunday 4 September 2011
Bush was hewing to what had already become Republican dogma and by now has become something akin to scripture: Taxes must always be cut because government must always be starved

Bush And Cheney Remind Us How We Got Into This Mess

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Thank you, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, for emerging from your secure, undisclosed locations to remind us how we got into this mess: It didn’t happen by accident.

The important thing isn’t what Bush says in his interview with National Geographic or what scores Cheney tries to settle in his memoir. What matters is that as they return to the public eye, they highlight their record of wrongheaded policy choices that helped bring the nation to a sour, penurious state.

Questions about whether President Obama has been combative enough in dealing with the Republican opposition — or sufficiently ambitious in framing his progressive agenda — seem trivial when viewed in this larger context. Obama is tackling enormous problems that took many years to create. His presidential style is important insofar as it boosts or lessens his effectiveness, but its importance pales beside the generally righteous substance of what he’s trying to accomplish.

It was the Bush administration, you will recall, that sent the national debt into the stratosphere and choked off federal revenue to the point of asphyxiation. Bush and Cheney decided to fight two wars without even accounting — let alone paying — for them. Rather than raise taxes to cover the cost of military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq, Bush opted to maintain unreasonable and unnecessary tax cuts.

So far, the wars and the tax cuts have cost the Treasury between $4 trillion and $5 trillion. If Bush had just left income tax rates alone, nobody except Ron Paul would be talking about the debt.

My aim isn’t to attack Bush but to attack his philosophy. When he was campaigning for the White House in 2000, the government was anticipating a projected surplus of roughly $6 trillion over the following decade. Bush said repeatedly that he thought this was too much and wanted to bring the surplus down — hence, in 2001, the first of his two big tax cuts.

Bush was hewing to what had already become Republican dogma and by now has become something akin to scripture: Taxes must always be cut because government must always be starved.

The party ascribes this golden rule to Ronald Reagan — conveniently forgetting that Reagan, in his eight years as president, raised taxes 11 times. Reagan may have believed in small government, but he did believe in government itself. Today’s Republicans have perverted Reagan’s philosophy into a kind of anti-government nihilism — an irresponsible, almost childish insistence that the basic laws of arithmetic can be suspended at their will.

The Bush administration also pushed forward Reagan’s policy of deregulation — ignoring, for example, critics who said the ballooning market in mortgage-backed securities needed more oversight. When the 2008 financial crisis hit, Bush did regain his faith in government long enough to throw together the $800 billion TARP bailout for the banks. But he failed to use the leverage of an aid package to exact reforms that would ensure that the financial system served the economy, rather than the other way around.

Faced with similar circumstances, would today’s Republican leadership react at all? Or is it the party’s view that the proper role of government would be to stand aside and watch the world’s financial system crash and burn?

This is a serious question. Just a few weeks ago, the Republican majority in the House threatened to force the United States government to default on its debt obligations — a previously unthinkable act of brinkmanship. Everything is thinkable now.

The Bush administration took Reagan’s tax-cutting, government-starving philosophy much too far. Today’s Republican Party takes it well beyond, into a rigid absolutism that would be comical if it were not so consequential.

We face devastating unemployment. Many conservative economists have joined the chorus calling for more short-term spending by the federal government as a way to boost growth. But the radical Republicans don’t pay attention to conservative economists anymore. The Republicans’ idea of a cure for cancer would be to cut spending and cut taxes.

Perhaps they’re just cynically trying to keep the economy in the doldrums through next year to hurt Obama’s chances of reelection. I worry that their fanaticism is sincere — that one of our major parties has gone completely off the rails. If so, things will get worse before they get better.

Having Bush and Cheney reappear is a reminder to step back and look at what Obama is up against. You might want to cut him a little slack.

© , Washington Post Writers Group

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ABOUT Eugene Robinson

Eugene Robinson writes a twice-a-week column on politics and culture, contributes to the PostPartisan blog, and hosts a weekly online chat with readers. In a three-decade career at The Post, Robinson has been city hall reporter, city editor, foreign correspondent in Buenos Aires and London, foreign editor, and assistant managing editor in charge of the paper’s Style section. He started writing a column for the Op-Ed page in 2005. In 2009, he received the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary for “his eloquent columns on the 2008 presidential campaign that focus on the election of the first African-American president, showcasing graceful writing and grasp of the larger historic picture.” Robinson is the author of “Disintegration: The Splintering of Black America” (2010), “Last Dance in Havana” (2004), and “Coal to Cream: A Black Man’s Journey Beyond Color to an Affirmation of Race” (1999). He lives with his wife and two sons in Arlington.



It is a wonder that still

It is a wonder that still many of the unemployed, underemployed, families of our soldiers who have given up their lives in the uncalled for wars and our seniors and other unfortunate citizens who have to depend on our governments “hand out”, are still the ardent supporters of the party that was the root cause of all their folly and sorrow. They may never change their mind and leave their enclave because they erroneously think that Republicans have a so called ‘superior Christian social agenda’.

As a man who voted for Obama,

As a man who voted for Obama, I am profoundly saddened by the way he has handled things. He allowed his detractor's to go unchallenged for far too long. His noble gestures of being open to compromise are wasted on those whom will never compromise. And still he tries to compromise.

He stayed away from the WI fight, saying (rightfully) that it was a State, not National, issue. But at the same time, Labor has been a strong ally of the Democrat Party.

The idea of the Shrub and the Shootist walking away scot free nags at me. I recognize that neither could ever be brought to Justice. They would both flee to undisclosed locations before an investigation could get started. Just as Halliburton moved its HQ to the Mideast. We all know that they are guilty and that is about the best we are going to get. Dammit.

I'd cut Obama some slack if

I'd cut Obama some slack if he weren't making the correct economic policies look more ineffective than the bad ones.

I no longer think that Obama has any strong conviction that fiscal stimulus is the right policy. I don't think he gets how harmful the tax favoritism for the wealthy is to our possibilities of recovery.

Some guy pretending to be Obama made an excellent speech in Detroit today. I say it must have been a guy pretending to be Obama because he didn't talk like the way Obama governs. He defended policies that Obama has failed to stand for. This must have been the body double.

Norman Allen's picture

Bush and his DICK will tell

Bush and his DICK will tell as much "truth" as they did while in office... Now to cover up the previous "truths"! How can psycho/sociopaths know truth from lies?

In a sane society, they would be on public trial for treason against the US and crimes against humanity. Go figure why they are free and still polluting our minds, printed media and airwaves?!!

Its all about the golden

Its all about the golden rule. He that has the gold rules. Now that foreign corporations have belly buttons given to them by the right wing US Supreme Court, we the people have to be abused by the multi-national corporations. The people buy anything that is said in the 5 second sound bites on TV. We have a foreigner buying up the US media and is confusing journalism with infotainment. FOX is really FAUX news....Bush and Cheney stared in the wisard of OZ. If I only had a heart and if I only had a brain.

Boris Badenov's picture

Why aren't these two in jail?

Why aren't these two in jail?

Robinson: "...his progressive

Robinson: "...his progressive agenda - ..." WTF??? Progressive? You, Mr. Robinson, are just carrying water for Obama. I'm not cutting you or Obama an inch of slack.

Thank you. This is exactly

Thank you. This is exactly what happened.

Gangsters only succeed when

Gangsters only succeed when their victims acquiesce to give up their goodies without a fight. A history of the defense of liberty in USA suggests that Americans do not give up. Sure it takes leadership to direct their efforts to resist abuse of greater powers ... but once awakened, the sleeping American giant becomes a juggernaut and nothing, not even the power of an Empire can stop them from overcoming the banksters ... Amschel Bauer's claims to the contrary notwithstanding.

Borderline, I do believe the


I do believe the people will react to defend their rights and way of life from the economic abuse that has been heaped upon them.

A list for you: "top 43

A list for you: "top 43 appointees who helped Bush to..."

I fully concur. Yet, you are

I fully concur.

Yet, you are only describing a symptom of what the real encumbrance is.

The basic moral fiber of what ‘We the people’ are at this very nexus of time. For decades we have slipped farther and farther from our possible better self.

What are being characterized as corporate greed, disparity in wealth et al are the manifestations of that national cultural moral fiber’s manipulation. Where the individual can pillage for shameful profit, where only the strong (read as Christian, but only certain versions) survive & prosper?

We the people have conscientiously ignored the genesis of what America only is.

We the people.

To be proud of? Only we the people can make it so. Are we?

We the people are the ones

We the people are the ones rolling with the punches. They are crooks and sacred cows with a lot of money and don't suffer. Sooner or later they will face justice for managing the country as gansters

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