Tag Archives: George W. Bush

Fixing “Warren Buffett Fixes Congress! Part 2”

The other day I added a post that had errors in it—Part 2 of  “Warren Buffett Fixes Congress!”. Part of the problem is that I was using an unposted draft written in response to an earlier “Buffett” email, and the data was old. But a more serious error is treating the gross national debt as just so many trillions of dollars. Today it’s maybe $16 trillion, a big scary figure, as deficit hawks and debt fanatics keep reminding us. But we can best make sense of the debt as a ratio, typically a percentage of the nation’s output, or GDP, because that tells us whether it is debt we can handle.

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Bruce Bartlett, Keynesian conservative? Really?

Paul Krugman today writes in praise of Bruce Bartlett as a mensch—someone who has the moral courage to stand up and admit he has been wrong. Krugman is responding to an autobiographical essay Bartlett just published detailing the long narrative of his experience as a conservative Republican: present as the birth of Reaganomics, in-demand writer of conservative political analysis, longtime adviser and staffer in Republican administrations, but finally disillusioned and openly critical of George W. Bush and the hard-right turn of the party in the last decade.

Recalling the work of writing his 2006 book—Impostor: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy—Bartlett tells how he came to loath Bush and the damage he caused:

…my utter disdain for Bush grew, as I recalled forgotten screw-ups and researched topics that hadn’t crossed my radar screen. I grew to totally despise the man for his stupidity, cockiness, arrogance, ignorance, and general cluelessness. I also lost any respect for conservatives who continued to glorify Bush as the second coming of Ronald Reagan and as a man they would gladly follow to the gates of hell. This was either gross, willful ignorance or total insanity, I thought.

Then, in 2007, researching a book on economic theory, Bartlett is surprised by his own conclusion that Keynes was “100 percent right” on what to do about the economic collapse of the 1930s. In 2008, he publishes an op-ed in the New York Times recommending a Keynesian policy solution for the fiscal crisis—just when Paul Krugman (hated enemy of the right) is recommending the same thing in the same newspaper.

Bartlett is an interesting figure, one of a handful of post-Republican conservatives, like David Frum and Andrew Sullivan, who are struggling to reform the party from within or revive core conservative principles—what the American Conservative magazine (publisher of Bartlett’s essay) lists as “fiscal restraint, civil liberties, and a prudent foreign policy,” principles thrown overboard by George W. Bush and his administration, and by most Republicans in Congress today.

Bartlett now represents a political understanding that progressives might actually have a conversation with. But make no mistake, Bartlett insists he is “not a liberal or a Democrat.” Still, the phenomenon of a Keynesian conservative active in the world is a hopeful sign.

The Presidential Job Creator Scorecard

So, you want to be president. Are you a job creator? Or a job destroyer?

Presidential candidates these days seem compelled to make dubious claims about opponents as “job destroyers,” compared to their own record as “job creators.”  This has been Mitt Romney’s theme song about himself and President Obama from the beginning. We can expect no less in the presidential debate this week.

Figure 1

Do presidents create jobs? Yes, indirectly, as a result of policy decisions, but how would we measure that? When Obama took office in January, 2009, jobs were in free-fall (Figure 1), with 4.4 million jobs lost since the start of the recession a year earlier, and with monthly losses stuck at their maximum of 700,000 to 800,000 through March. It wasn’t until July that the monthly drop slowed to somewhere below 300,000, reaching zero only in March, 2010, when losses turned to gains. So where does Obama’s responsibility begin? And, when he leaves office, where will it end?

These are not the only questions we must consider if we’re going to take the measure of presidential job creation since the end of World War II. That’s the goal here.

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