To address Bobby’s comments, here’s why I don’t like about Bush, in two (long, probably boring) parts.
I should say up front that I’m actually a registered Republican. So I obviously believe you can be intelligently informed and Republican, although I’m not totally certain where I lie politically anymore. It’s difficult being a conservative in the Bay Area. You’re shunned in work conversation, embarrassed to have your differently colored sample ballot as you go to the polls. There’s just not a lot of tolerance for that around here. Anyway, I mention that just to say I’m not just blindly against Republicans, just bothered by this administration for (hopefully) substantive reasons.
One big problem I have is with his economic policy. I think it’s disastrous and will have long term effects on our economy. The administration has been pursuing a policy of running huge deficits, and as a fiscal conservative, I’m against that. The rationale is also nonsensical. Pre-bubble bursting, the argument was that it’s bad to run a surplus because it keeps money out of the economy, so we need tax cuts. Post bubble, we need tax cuts to spur the economy. So when don’t we need tax cuts? There’s a flaw somewhere in the reasoning.
(SN. The same thinking has been used with the Iraq insurgents. Before, there was less resistance, which was said to be a sign that we’re winning. When insurgency increased, it showed they were getting desperate, another sign that we’re winning. What isn’t a sign that we’re winning? Bay Area realtors say the same thing with buying a house. When mortgage rates are dropping, it’s a good time to buy because rates are getting lower. When they’re rising, we should buy now before rates get too high. When isn’t it the right time to buy? I can’t accept reasoning like that.)
Deficits are long term harmful to the economy, and as a fiscal conservative, I’m very bothered by that. I’m also bothered by the size of government: revenue cuts haven’t been matched by spending cuts. They’ve cut things from the federal budget, but it’s a game, they cut necessary things in a way that requires states to handle them, often in a less efficient way. It seems like the federal government is spending less, but cumulatively, government is spending more.
Plus, there have been massive increases to military spending, so the size of government isn’t actually being reduced. All this to say, we’re spending way more than we’re collecting, which will have adverse consequences, and maintaining big government.
There are also lots of little side things with things like inheritance taxes and stock dividends that I disagree with not as being bad economics but as being bad policy. Like cutting taxes on dividends would probably have a good effect on the economy. But the distribution of the benefit is tilted so heavily towards the rich that it’s socially unjust. I’m doing an awful job explaining this. But yeah, not a good thing.
I’ve read enough to know that Presidents actually have only a marginal effect on the economy so I give Clinton and Bush neither significant credit nor blame for the economy being good/bad. I can only measure what they actually control, and Bush’s economic policy worries me a great deal.
It’s not just me. I’m definitely not an expert. Like I say all the time, I’ve taken one econ class in my life, in high school. So I depend on the opinions of people much more knowledgeable. And many hugely influential people in the financial world, people you think would be Republicans, are anti-Bush, like Warren Buffett and George Soros. As well as most of the economic writers I respect (like Sloan and Samuelson in Newsweek). When nearly all people I respect have problems with Bush’s economic policy, that’s significant to me. A sign that there’s something wrong.