Friday, June 12, 2009

George H.W. Bush -- Part 2

Continuing the story I started here, about our 85-year-old birthday boy:

Economic Policy

About half-way through George H.W. Bush's presidential term, America experienced its mildest recession since the Great Depression. Even though growth resumed in 1991, and was robust by the time of the 1992 election, the economy contributed to Bush's defeat, because:

  • Unemployment is a lagging indicator. It always stays relatively high for a period of months or years, after the economy has started to grow again.
  • Large employers were turning to outsourcing. Therefore, there were several shocking headlines about large layoffs, many of which merely involved shifting people's status from employee to vendor. That made the mild recession seem worse than it was.
  • Bill Clinton aggressively pushed the notion that the recession continued into 1992, notwithstanding the facts. Bush failed to effectively explain the truth to the electorate.

And, of course, there was Bush's strange ventriloquist act. Unlike any ventriloquist other than Edgar Bergen, Bush's lips were moving. But, what we all failed to notice was that, when the sound that came out was "no new taxes", the lips were actually saying "don't you believe it".

Only four years after a Congress in which each party controlled one house, voted nearly-unanimously to reduce the top income tax rate to 28%, Bush and congressional Democrats considered it absolutely necessary in 1990 to start the tax rates on an upward trend once again.

Republican voters, who could swear he had said "no new taxes", were not amused. Since 1993, Bush has had plenty of time on his hands, to reconsider that decision.


Since Gerald Ford died in 2006, Bush has been the oldest living former president. However, Jimmy Carter is only about 3 1/2 months behind him. They both have more than eight years to go, if they want to challenge Ford's record longevity of 93 1/2 years.

The last time I saw them together, which was at President Obama's inauguration, Carter was looking much more sprightly than Bush. The way things look right now, Carter can challenge both Ford's longevity record, and Herbert Hoover's record of the longest ex-presidency. Hoover lived for 31 years after leaving the White House. Carter is at 28 years and counting.

Before I almost have Bush dead and buried though, I have to acknowledge that there is apparently a lot of life still in him. Once more, he has done a birthday parachute jump.

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