Some historians and other commentators are already suggesting that the Bush and Obama presidencies are more alike than different. The Wall Street Journal made this observation recently, among others.
Both presidents increased domestic spending drastically. Bush was doing this before the 2008 crash, and he began the spending spree on “emergency” measures that Obama has continued on a permanent basis. Big Government has never been bigger, and it’s growing faster than anyone can calculate. The national debt was $16 trillion the last time I checked, and the next time you check it will probably be higher. No national debt in human history ever approached this level prior to George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
It’s as if our politicians have concluded that it really doesn’t matter how much debt the federal government has piled up. Debt used to be limited to severe crises, such as the Civil War or World War II. Now, escalating debt is considered the norm, even as those same politicians claim we are in an economic “recovery.” If that recovery is so great, why does domestic spending continue to rise in the name of helping those who are suffering economically? It’s not about helping. It’s about power. And forget the “sequester.” That only refers to a small percentage of a cut in the rate of increase in government spending. Most of the cuts have come from defense, anyway.
The most important thing about the Bush presidency is the massive increase in the size and scope of government. George W. Bush was, by this measure, the Lyndon Baines Johnson (another big spending president) of his time — not the Calvin Coolidge of his day, nor even Ronald Reagan.
Obama is the FDR of our day, although his spending spree and expansion of government goes beyond anything Franklin D. Roosevelt ever proposed. It’s widely believed, at least as reflected in polls, that the United States is in trouble. Even before Obama’s reelection last year, a majority were saying the country was on the wrong track. Most people feel this way, and there’s plenty of evidence to back this up. There’s even more evidence being evaded, such as the statistics showing that a growing number of citizens are receiving just as much if not more money from government payments as from the private sector. The public sector is growing, and it’s all based on debt and inflationary policies at the Federal Reserve, policies which economists will tell you mask the problem. The private sector is barely growing at all, and depending on how you interpret the numbers it may even be shrinking. Obamacare is about to go online, imposing new mandates on private enterprise, and taxes are all going up.
In order to solve a problem, it’s necessary to first identify its underlying causes. People who fight over Democrats vs. Republicans fail to see how on matters most important to us all — economics and freedom — the two parties are more alike than different. Fights over abortion or gay marriage, while relevant to some, distract us from the fact that the two parties now have more in common than ever before. It’s not a question of whether to increase spending at all, but by how many trillions. It’s not a question of whether we should have Big Government, but how big it should get. Tea Party Governors in places like Florida abandon their promises to fight Obamacare and instead get on board. Of course, even Tea Party politicians would never have proposed something like privatization of health care, or providing tax credits for people to purchase their own health insurance. Instead, conservatives fight over whether socialized medicine should cover abortions, or not. There’s no dispute over socialized medicine, just how to implement it. If conservatives cared as much about the survival of our economy as they did about sex, we might have a real alternative in government.
All this should tell Americans something, especially as things continue not to get better or even get worse. As things continue not to improve, we have to look at what Democrats and Republicans have in common. This means more than simply pointing out the obvious, that most of them are corrupt. Probably not all of them are. But regardless of the personal moral status of any politician, it’s clear that the ideas they’re implementing are toxic and hampering economic growth. Those ideas are ones of big, expanding government, massive debt and massive deficit spending.
It’s easy to see that almost nobody gets their money’s worth out of this government. People receiving Social Security and Medicare get far less back on their investment than they put in, even if they had relied on the stock market and you take into account economic downturns (which with the stock market have always reversed themselves). It’s remarkable that these programs are so popular. Any private insurance program that gave you less back than you put into it would not be popular. Of course, the government debt and expansion of the money supply disguise, for now, the inherent insolvency and unsustainability of those programs. Also, the number of people paying income taxes shrinks as those taxes are made more “progressive,” and this began in earnest under George W. Bush.
More and more people depend on government money and fewer pay taxes for it. Increasingly, we have two classes: A working/productive class, and an entitlement class. When the bubble eventually bursts, as the real estate bubble eventually did from government intervention in that marketplace, those programs aren’t going to be nearly so popular. Already, politicians in both parties are starting to quietly acknowledge that the only answer for Social Security and Medicare will be to trim benefits for “the rich” (meaning anybody who makes enough money to pay taxes), and sustain them for everyone else (even if their poverty is the result of a willful refusal to work or save). The true victims are those who wish to work but can’t find jobs because the government is stifling the free market economy. And, an bigger problem looms: In an economy that is no longer growing to keep up with our existing standard of living, much less provide opportunities for the millions of immigrants flooding in to the country, how will there be enough “rich” people to keep paying for the endless growth of gigantic government?
Yes, Bush and Obama are much more similar presidents than different. Before their presidencies, there were unresolved issues such as Medicare and Social Security’s unsustainability which were inevitably coming to the surface. But these two presidents took an already troubled situation and made it much worse via their massive expansion of government spending and, in the process, government interference in the economy. It’s really, really important for Americans to understand this fact. Because without a course reversal away from each of these president’s policies, this society—at least as we’ve known it—is frankly not going to make it.