Flunking every test

FLUNKING EVERY TEST…. Ron Brownstein took a closer look at the Census Bureau’s latest report on income, poverty, and health insurance, and what the data tells us about “the economic record of George W. Bush.”

On every major measurement, the Census Bureau report shows that the country lost ground during Bush’s two terms. While Bush was in office, the median household income declined, poverty increased, childhood poverty increased even more, and the number of Americans without health insurance spiked. By contrast, the country’s condition improved on each of those measures during Bill Clinton’s two terms, often substantially.

The Census’ final report card on Bush’s record presents an intriguing backdrop to today’s economic debate. Bush built his economic strategy around tax cuts, passing large reductions both in 2001 and 2003. Congressional Republicans are insisting that a similar agenda focused on tax cuts offers better prospects of reviving the economy than President Obama’s combination of some tax cuts with heavy government spending. But the bleak economic results from Bush’s two terms, tarnish, to put it mildly, the idea that tax cuts represent an economic silver bullet.

When it comes to judging presidents by their economic performance, Brownstein noted, Bush “flunked on every relevant dimension.” After eight years of Clinton’s presidency, the nation saw improvements on median household income, poverty rates, and the uninsured. After years of Bush’s presidency, the nation saw striking declines in every category. (Indeed, Bush is the only recent president to “preside over an income decline through two presidential terms.”)

This seems relevant for a couple of reasons. First, I continue to believe Bush simply hasn’t been blamed to the extent he should be. Indeed, his name has all but disappeared from the national discourse, despite the fact that his spectacular failures are at the root of almost every relevant challenge the nation is current facing (economy, budget, health care, environment, national security, etc.).

Second, the Republican Party still believes Bush’s policies — the ones that failed on a historic level and created messes we’re still struggling to clean up — were right. If given the opportunity, they’d like to implement them again. GOP lawmakers endorsed these failures as they occurred, and don’t regret their positions in the slightest. They’re proud to have supported misguided policies that didn’t work, and insist that voters should reward them for failing — and help them bring back the very policies that produced disastrous results.

[A]t the least, the wretched two-term record compiled by the younger Bush on income, poverty and access to health care should compel Republicans to answer a straightforward question: if tax cuts are truly the best means to stimulate broadly shared prosperity, why did the Bush years yield such disastrous results for American families on these core measures of economic well being?

That’s not a rhetorical question. Bush had a vision, and with Republican lawmakers’ help, it was implemented. It failed miserably. Why does the GOP suppose that is? And why does the party want to bring those same policies back?