The Fiscal Recklessness of the Bush Administration

The fiscal recklessness of the Bush administration’s economic policies, if you can dignify them with that name, presents a greater danger to the American people than terrorists.

Terrorism can always take a few individual lives, but a financial collapse can ruin the lives of millions. The Bush people have taken the country from a projected surplus of trillions of dollars to a projected deficit of trillions.

That multitrillion-dollar debt, coupled with the already enormous corporate and personal debt levels, represents a clear danger to the future of this country. The postwar generations don’t know what an economic depression is, but their grandparents could tell them it makes our little recessions seem like boom times.

Being a country boy, I’ve always been suspicious of Wall Street financial gurus, but there is one area in which I at least respect them. That area is knowledge of high finance. And the really smart financiers are voicing genuine alarm at the direction the Bush administration is taking this country. Robert Rubin, President Clinton’s Treasury secretary, and George Soros, the billionaire, are two. They are not academics who play games with computers; they are street-smart guys who learned from experience and made their fortunes in the toughest game in the world. Rubin, I should point out, is acting as an adviser to John Kerry.

Far from being the conservative he claims to be, President Bush has allowed discretionary spending to increase at a far greater rate than it did during the Clinton years. Bush has abandoned the pay-as-you-go principle and chosen to combine drastic tax cuts with fighting two wars. Lyndon Johnson tried the guns-and-butter route during the Vietnam War, and we paid for it with double-digit inflation and double-digit interest rates, followed by a severe recession. Bush is going the guns, butter and cream route, and the consequences will be bad, very bad.

The cruelest, most despicable form of theft is inflation — or, put another way, the devaluation of the currency. To hide its crime, the U.S. government periodically changes the base year on which inflation is measured. Even by its latest base year, inflation has robbed people of about 40 percent of their purchasing power. Not long ago, a dollar would buy one euro and some change; today, it takes $1.20 to buy one euro. That’s not a good trend.

Right now, we are running record deficits and record trade deficits, and there is no end in sight, except a looming economic disaster that could impoverish millions of people, virtually wiping out what’s left of the middle class.

Some years ago, I spent several hours reading old newspapers on microfilm from the weeks leading up to the stock-market crash of 1929. There was not a word of warning in those newspapers. What economic stories that were printed sounded eerily like today’s talk — e.g., "the economy is basically sound," etc.

No, it’s not, folks. It’s on dangerous ground. John Kerry has a lot of faults, but he at least understands the seriousness of the economic situation and is committed to correcting it. People had better get over this liberal/conservative nonsense or red-herring issues like gay marriage and put a man in the White House who has the IQ to keep this country from going over an economic cliff.

Bush lives in a Technicolor world, but he can only see black and white. The world isn’t that simple. We cannot afford a president who wants a two-paragraph summary of a complex issue and who thinks anybody who disagrees with his impulses is an enemy.

Yes, Kerry is a boring speaker. Yes, Kerry doesn’t know the seat of his pants from a hole in the ground when it comes to firearms issues. And yes, oh Lord, I wish there were a different choice. But for the sake of economic survival, we’d better send Bush back to his comfortable life in Texas, lest his reckless policies make the lives of the rest of us uncomfortable in the extreme.

Charley Reese [send him mail] has been a journalist for 49 years, reporting on everything from sports to politics. From 1969—71, he worked as a campaign staffer for gubernatorial, senatorial and congressional races in several states. He was an editor, assistant to the publisher, and columnist for the Orlando Sentinel from 1971 to 2001. He now writes a syndicated column which is carried on Reese served two years active duty in the U.S. Army as a tank gunner. Write to Charley Reese at P.O. Box 2446, Orlando, FL 32802.