Meet George W. Bush, the real face of the GOP

My friends and I played a fun little party game to pass the time during last week’s Republican National Convention. Every time one of the speakers mentioned George W. Bush, you had to drink, take a hit of weed, do meth, freebase coke, drop acid, swallow a jelly bean jar full of west Mexican peyote buttons, spend two and a half hours in a Native American sweat lodge covered head to toe in extra strength nicotine patches, and shoot up a kilo of black tar heroin. It was a pretty boring week.

Jeb Bush did come to the defense of his brother once, saying, “He is a man of integrity, courage, and honor, and during incredibly challenging times, he kept us safe.” Then little brother piled on: “So Mr. President, Mr. President, it is about time to stop blaming your predecessor for your failed economic policies. … In the fourth year of your presidency, a real leader would accept responsibility for his actions, and you haven’t done it.”

Yeah, this is the same reason I tell my relatives not to defend me in the comments section of this blog. If your brother is the only one who dares speak your name at your party’s convention just four years after you left office, you’ve got troubles.

Another fun party game goes like this: Find the most vocal Republican in the room and mention Dubya’s economic record. Oh, the temerity! How dare you mention a two-term president who served almost four full years ago and fully embodied Republican values while indulging our every whim? Besides, Sean Hannity told me Obama was a socialist.

Last week’s spectacle (some would say lie-a-palooza) was truly something to behold. First of all, the central theme of the convention, “We Built It,” was inspired by a brazen, easily debunked, and embarrassing (to anyone over the age of 5) lie. Secondly, the convention itself was held in the Tampa Bay Times Forum, which was built primarily with government funds. Oops.

Of course, if Obama’s really this bad, you’d think they wouldn’t have to go to such lengths to smear him. Then again, when you’re trying to make an entire eight-year presidency disappear, you need to resort to some serious, GOB Bluth-worthy sleight of hand.

Indeed, a more honest convention theme would have been “Obama Hasn’t Cleaned Up Our Grisly, Horrifying Mess Fast Enough.”

But you can’t have an honest advertising campaign when you’re essentially trying to get voters to hand the controls back to the same people who crashed the economy in the first place. Imagine this ad:

“Say, honey, for our trip to Europe this year, how about we give Acme Airlines another try?”

“But didn’t the last Acme jet we took crash into the sea, and didn’t our daughter almost instantly sink to the ocean floor and get devoured by a pod of unruly harbor porpoises because the president of the corporation removed all the lifejackets in order to lower first-class fares?”

“Yes, but this other airline’s pretzels are far too salty, and last time we had an almost two-hour layover.”

“Yes, you’re right. Acme deserves another chance.”

“Acme: Just the right proportion of salt in its 1.25-ounce bag of complimentary airline pretzels.”

So for anyone who really needs to be reminded of the gruesome legacy of George W. Bush – the darling of Republicans for 7.5 years, or until their 401(k)s turned to moldy orphan porridge, whichever came first – here’s a thumbnail comparison between Young Bush’s record and Obama’s:

Bush came into office facing a troublesome budget surplus, which he quickly and decisively addressed with tax cuts that were heavily weighted toward the wealthy. In his Feb. 24, 2001 weekly radio address, Bush proposed $1.6 trillion in tax cuts over 10 years in order to whittle down a projected $5.6 trillion surplus. However, in his Democratic response, Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack sounded a note of caution: “If we over-commit on tax cuts, what happens if we have a recession? Do we risk going back to the days of record deficits like those during the Reagan-Bush years, which led to a growing national debt?"

Silly, mopey, glass-half-empty Democrats. There’s not going to be a recession!

Obama, on the other hand, was faced with the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. Since times were not flush like they were when Bush came into office, he launched a classic Keynesian response: Spend stimulus dollars, keep his predecessor’s tax cuts in place for the time being, and as part of the stimulus package, create additional targeted tax cuts. (Yes, about a third of Obama’s stimulus consisted of tax cuts, a strong majority of which were targeted to the lower and middle classes and businesses.)

So why didn’t Bush save for a rainy day while he still could? Because the Republican answer to every economic situation – good times (the late ’90s), bad times (2008), and mediocre times (present day) – is more tax cuts for the wealthy. So guess what they’re proposing now? Yes, of course.

Meanwhile, Bush also launched two costly, unfunded wars. One of them was a sensible, appropriate response to the terror attacks of 9/11. The second, and costlier, one clearly had nothing to do with 9/11.

Now, Republicans have complained bitterly about Obama’s stimulus, missing no opportunity to refer to it as “the failed stimulus bill.” But most economists agree that the stimulus did succeed in improving the economy and lowering unemployment, and some say it may have helped avert another depression.

So would you rather spend hundreds of billions in order to find WMDs that don’t exist or to keep the country from falling into an economic sinkhole? Hmm, tough one.

Anyway, when George W. Bush left office, our country’s fiscal house was a hovel. Every serious observer will tell you that the mess was caused by Wall Street greedheads – not by shirtless, anti-capitalist protesters or shiftless welfare queens. And who was at the controls when Goldman Sachs and their ilk were running rampant? Not the black guy, but hey, let’s arrest him anyway.

As for the deficit, there are a lot of culprits there, but the Bush-era tax cuts and the deep recession that started under Bush’s watch are two of the biggest. Indeed, in January 2009, before Obama had even taken office, the Congressional Budget Office projected a deficit for the year of $1.3 trillion.

So now Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have entered the picture at a time when the economy is vastly improved but still finding its bearings. Their message? We need much deeper tax cuts for the wealthy and, oh, government needs to get off our backs and leave the free market alone.

I just wish government had gotten off the backs of Wall Street sooner and cut all those Goldman Sachs executives’ taxes even more. I could have spent the last four years vulturing local real estate with the money from the change jar in our laundry room.

We lost 800,000 jobs in the month when Barack Obama was inaugurated, and we gained 160,000 jobs in July. That’s a difference of nearly 1 million jobs. Still think this country isn’t better off now?

Make no mistake about it: A vote for Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan is a return to yesteryear. But it’s not a trip down memory lane that any of us should feel warm and fuzzy about.