President Bush and the Great Republican Shellacking
By Peter Morici
On Election Day, voters will take Republicans to the woodshed, and they can thank George Bush.
At some point, politicians have to deliver on their promise—not their shallow campaign promises—and deliver a government that reflects the aspirations of their supporters. For years, Republicans have boasted they can do a better job of defending American shores, managing the national economy, and shielding our civilization from the liberal social agenda embraced by the likes of John Kerry and Nancy Pelosi.
Whether we are talking about foreign affairs, the domestic economy or the culture wars, George Bush has disappointed the voters that put Republicans in the White House and control of the Congress.
Without the missiles and European army of the old Soviet Union to worry about, no one can doubt the greatest threats to U.S. national security come from radical Islamic terrorism, nuclear proliferation and our tightening dependence on Middle East oil.
After Nine-Eleven and the invasion of Afghanistan, President Bush ignored the root sources of Islamic terrorism: Saudi Arabia and several other gulf states, where the Madrassas teach contempt for the West and oil wealth finances and provides safe passage for terrorists. Instead, the President trumped up intelligence and invaded Iraq, a country with a contemptuous regime but little documented connection to terrorism. Ultimately, President Bush has transformed Iraq into a country full of terrorists, and inspired hatred for Americans among disaffected young Muslims throughout the region. Americans are less secure, not more, for this misadventure.
On arms control, the President, earlier this year, gave India access to critical U.S. civilian nuclear technology, while ignoring its advanced nuclear weapons program. The President did not seek consent from the other significant signatories to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, like China, our allies in Europe, and Japan. Having unilaterally welcomed India into the club of nuclear weapons powers, is it even a small puzzle why President Bush is hamstrung in his efforts to do something about the weapons programs in Iran and North Korea?
Since Mr. Bush took office, our monthly bill for petroleum imports has nearly tripled, rising from $9.5 billion to $27 billion. Yet, a 2004 Rocky Mountain Institute study, endorsed by former Republican Secretary of State George Schultz, concluded the United States could eliminate most U.S. dependence on foreign oil, without sacrificing our SUVs. This could be accomplished by deploying technologies, such as hybrid engines and light weight materials that are already at hand and could be built out fairly quickly at a reasonable cost. Instead, Mr. Bush’s dark alter ego, Vice President Cheney cooked up an energy policy that makes Exxon and other oil giants happy, and increases the choke-hold the Saudis and other “friendly” Middle East states enjoy over U.S. foreign policy.
On the economic front, the President boasts creating 7.1 million new jobs and booming house prices on the East and West Coasts and in the Sunbelt. What he does not remind Americans is that, during his tenure, the monthly U.S. trade deficit has rocketed from $35 billion to $70 billion.
Americans have enjoyed a flood of cheap Chinese goods that benefit from government subsidies exceeding 25 percent from state banks that don’t expect loans to be repaid and an undervalued currency.
To finance the U.S. trade deficit, Americans borrow about $60 billion each month from China’s central bank and other foreign governments and investors, and that debt will top $6 trillion by early 2007. The interest the United States pays to China and others comes to about $2000 a year for every working American, and that is quite a legacy to bequeath our children.
In the bargain, United States has lost 3 million manufacturing jobs, and 7.5 million more adults have quit looking for work. Falling real wages, vanishing health benefits, and in several Mid-Western cities, collapsing housing prices bedevil working class families, even as the rest of the country boasts good times. Many of those jobs lost are in congressional districts that define the border between Red and Blue America, spanning from western New York and Pennsylvania to Michigan and down the Ohio Valley into the upland South. Enough Reagan Democrats will return to their roots in those districts to deliver a majority to the Democrats in the House of Representatives.
On social issues, the President on has come up weak on affirmative action, Title 9 for gender neutral funding of college athletics, fringe benefits for gay partners, and just about every other issue, save stem cell research, that social conservatives care about deeply. Intellectuals and comfortable professionals can think what they like about those issues, but Republican conservatives are irked enough that many will just stay home on November 7.
On Election Day, Republicans in House and Senate will take a shellacking. They need only look up Pennsylvania Avenue for the man responsible.
Peter Morici is a professor at the University of Maryland School of Business and former Chief Economist at the U.S. International Trade Commission.
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