President George W. Bush running the United States has been similar to if Captain Ahab were to have captained the Titanic. Bush leads the country on a combination of charisma and instilling fear in a quixotic quest to “vanquish evil.”
Meanwhile, the country’s economy plods along and is crushed by the icebergs of deficits, job losses, increasing oil prices and tax breaks for tax-evading companies, among other things. The United States will have to change captains, if it wishes to avoid sinking.
It is ironic that presidents garner so much merit and blame for the economy because it is least affected by the executive branch. However, because Bush claims so much credit for the economy, he must also be willing to accept its dismal failures. The most dismal economic failure of the Bush administration is his mad desire to give unaffordable tax credits whenever possible. Granted, some tax rebates to the rich of this sort would make good policy in special circumstances, but certainly not at the time Bush has chosen.
If Bush truly wanted to stimulate the economy, he would have given the great majority of the tax rebates to quick-spending middle-class individuals. Instead, the middle class is left without cash to spend while rich Americans reap the profits of their investments.
While investment can boost an economy in the long term, the short-term goal – escaping a recession – is more attainable with middle- and lower-class tax cuts. The sacrifices of the many have been to pay tribute to the affluent few. The rich are rewarded. The poor are punished.
Bush’s policy related to employment, which most directly affects people, has been appalling. Bush claims the unemployment rate has fallen since last summer, but that has only occurred because many unemployed have given up hope and stopped searching for jobs.
Bush will be the first president since the depression era to have a net decline in jobs in a single term. To be fair, the outsourcing that Bush is derided for is a result of cut-throat capitalism and not necessarily a result of his economic goals.
However, Bush can be blamed for doing next to nothing to slow the flow of labor to other countries. If trade agreements included even minimal human rights and labor requirements, overseas help would not be so cheap.
Wage levels are also very telling. The minimum wage has been the same for seven years. It remains at a pathetically low $5.15 an hour. God knows that isn’t enough to support a small family, let alone a single individual. The minimum wage has been undermined by inflation. $5.15 now will not buy what it did seven years ago.
For the elderly, Medicare premiums have increased 17 percent. Take-home pay as a share of the economy is the lowest since the beginning of the Great Depression. The enfeebled dollar struggles to compete with the Euro. Crude oil prices have increased 30 percent. Higher gasoline prices have resulted, and profit margins for many industries have been squeezed as well. Consumer confidence is low.
The national debt’s size makes Moby Dick look like a guppy. The Treasury Department announced a $413 billion deficit for the 2004 fiscal budget, which broke a $374 billion deficit for the year before. These records are not meant to be broken. The children of today will be forced to drown in the sea of red in the future.
The national debt truly jeopardizes the future of the United States, and it is the current generation in college and the generation following it that will be paying for it.
Bush’s economic policies are proving disastrous for average U.S. citizens. Bush was fairly granted some leeway following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. But instead of using the upswing in national unity after the attacks as a vehicle to tackle difficult problems, he has used it as an excuse for faulty decisions.
The next president will be anchored down by the economic blunders of the current administration. Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry has proposed a restrained economic policy aimed at rescinding insane tax cuts, cutting down the deficit, offering various forms of assistance to help lower- and middle-class college students and relieving average citizens of some of their burdens.
As Kerry managed to right the paths of Swift boats in Vietnam, he too can help salvage the wreckage of the U.S. economy.