Jay Ambrose: We've had very little but failure from President Obama, but never mind, because he has an answer for you as he avoids what is needed: Blame Bush.
From his inaugural speech to his recent State of the Union address, President Obama has had a common theme. Bush did it, the one known as George W., his predecessor. Bush gave us the recession, he gave us the deficits, he stunk up the place but good, and if everything has gotten worse with Obama in power, well, Bush did that, too.
This is gracelessness writ large, petty, political and nastily partisan, but is something else, as well — a mistreatment of truth even if Bush did run up spending and make myriad mistakes, and worst of all, an evasion of responsibility, excuse-making, the leader of the world's greatest nation hiding out from his job.
Bush could conceivably have done more to forestall the recession, but he did not create it; that was the work of too many people thinking the good times would keep on rolling more than anything else. He did push for some to get homes they could not afford, but was less guilty of this than Bill Clinton and the left generally.
Ultimately, Bush tried to reform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac over the opposition of Democrats and some in his own party, and if he stepped back from some regulations while increasing them overall, so did Clinton. Even to this day, there are arguments about what regulatory mechanisms were needed to stop catastrophe and what will be needed to prevent the next boom and bust. We can't be sure. The business cycle may go on forever.
As for fiscal folly, Bush's tax cuts were not the disaster they are made out to be. Deficits arose not because revenues were in sharp decline, but because spending was in sharp ascent. We had two wars going, and there was his Medicare prescription drug program (urged by the Democrats), a crazy farm bill (Democrats liked this, too) on top of all kinds of increases, including increases in poverty programs.
Add it all together and Bush increased the budget over his eight years in office something like $300 billion less than Obama has in one year, and that's just the beginning. Over the next decade, according to projections in the Obama budget, the deficits will keep coming like so many grizzly bears facing us on a mountain path.
And what do we have in defense? Pea shooters: an itsy bitsy cut here, a smaller one there, spending increases that wipe out those cuts, a meaningless spending freeze on a few over-funded agencies and the formation of a debt-reduction commission to make it look like something real is being done.
What we need is courage, big thinking, an understanding that the problem is not just deficits, as dangerous as they are for the future of this republic, but taxes, too. Government spending is the killer, for it takes money needed by private enterprises to start, expand, make life better, hire people, pay them more and on and on, and the only way to control spending is to take on entitlements, Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid, for starters, and find ways to restructure them.
We had some possibility of Medicare changes under the Obama health legislation, but that legislation itself amounted to a new, hugely expensive entitlement, a very intimidating thing to businesses that could see their own costs going up to pay for it. And we've also had a stimulus bill that cost as much as the Iraq war and did nothing to stop us from the highest unemployment in a quarter of a century.
We've had very little but failure from President Obama, but never mind, because he has an answer for you as he avoids what is needed: Blame Bush.
Jay Ambrose is formerly Washington director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard newspapers and the editor of dailies in El Paso, Texas, and Denver. He lives in Colorado.