Tag Archives: bush

Bush’s Third Term Continues

President Obama’s policies are remarkably similar to President Bush’s. Most of their differences are in matters of degree, not principle. Both presidents believe in expanding federal involvement in health care, education, energy, you name it. Both grew regulation, spending and deficits at tremendous rates. Even their foreign policy is almost identical.

Over at the Daily Caller, I analyze last night’s State of the Union address (I also live-blogged it here) and find it wanting. There are some real stretches of logic:

In 1957, the Soviet Union launched a satellite into space. Therefore, taxpayers should give more money to politically favored corporations. This is not a rigorous line of thought. But it was typical of yesterday’s State of the Union address.

It wasn’t all bad, though:

There was some good in yesterday’s speech. The president would like to lower corporate tax rates. After Japan’s recent rate cuts, America now has the highest corporate tax rate in the developed world — nearly 40 percent in most states. This is not the way to encourage businesses to invest in America.

I wish the president had spent a little more time on the rate cut. He could have explained to the country and his party that businesses don’t actually pay corporate taxes. That’s because businesses pass on their costs. Consumers — you and I — foot the bill.

Read the whole thing here.

State of the Union Wrap-Up

I’ll post the full text of tonight’s live-blog sometime tomorrow.

Until then, here’s my one-sentence reaction: Bush’s third term continues.

2010 Federal Register is Third-Largest Ever

Today is the last working day of 2010 which means the last edition of the 2010 Federal Register came out this morning. The final unadjusted page count is 82,589 pages. That’s the third highest ever.

Page counts are typically highest in years when power changes hands. This year was no exception. The two other highest unadjusted page counts occurred when Carter handed off to Reagan, and when Clinton handed off to Bush. The Bush-Obama handoff featured the largest-ever adjusted page count, 79,435.

This time, the spike happened with only the House changing parties. The next few years will tell us a lot. 2010’s high page count may have been a combination of this year’s ambitious legislation plus a midnight rush to get the White House’s regulatory wish list in place before the other team can block it.

Or, as in the past, it could be that we have reached a new, permanent plateau of frenzied federal activity.

I’m hoping for the former. But the Republicans in Congress are no friends of limited government, so one never knows. They will reliably oppose anything the other team comes up with. But as the Bush years showed, they’ll also vote for the exact same policies so long as it’s their team that’s proposing them. This is not a recipe for fiscal or regulatory health.

Federal Register Hits 75,000 Pages

The Federal Register is not a perfect barometer of how active government is. Sometimes rules that ramble on for dozens of pages are almost innocuous. An economically disastrous regulation can take up less than a page. But in general, high page counts mean a more active government.

Over at the AmSpec blog, I break down some of the numbers behind the Federal Register’s latest milestone — 75,000 pages.

President Bush still holds the adjusted page count record. But President Obama is putting up quite a challenge; at its current 327-page per day pace, the 2010 Federal Register would be 81,560 unadjusted pages long.

Study: Cash for Clunkers Didn’t Work

A new NBER working paper from Atif Mia and Amir Sufi finds that the Cash-for-Clunkers program didn’t work. Here’s part of the abstract:

We find that the program induced the purchase of an additional 360,000 cars in July and August of 2009. However, almost all of the additional purchases under the program were pulled forward from the very near future; the effect of the program on auto purchases is almost completely reversed by as early as March 2010 – only seven months after the program ended. The effect of the program on auto purchases was significantly more short-lived than previously suggested. We also find no evidence of an effect on employment, house prices, or household default rates in cities with higher exposure to the program.

In other words, cash for clunkers didn’t change how much people spent. It only changed when they spent. Sales were higher than normal during the program, and lower than normal after.

As the data come in, they are proving what theory predicts: fiscal stimulus doesn’t work. President George W. Bush tried Keynesian stimulus in 2001. It didn’t work. He tried again in 2003. It didn’t work then, either. President Obama’s stimulus programs aren’t faring any better. It’s time for a different approach.

The Iraq War Isn’t Over

Invading Iraq was one of the Bush administration’s worst mistakes. It is a waste of blood and treasure to send troops to a country that never attacked us and poses no security threat. I’ve been looking forward to the day when President Obama would announce that misguided war’s end.

Today is that day. He has declared an official end to combat operations. But the announcement rings hollow.  There are still 50,000 troops in Iraq. They are still being fired upon. They are still firing back. Their lives are still at risk every day. That sounds an awful lot like “combat operations.”

Iraq will be a free country some day. But that requires massive institutional reform. That kind of sea-level change will take a generation or more. And it has to come from within. It cannot be imposed from without by a foreign army.

Armies can fight wars. They cannot build nations. Freedom is not a top-down construction. It is a bottom-up process. It is well past time to withdraw all troops from Iraq and put a real end to combat operations.

America does have a role in Iraq’s future. Engaging in trade and commerce with Iraqis will help build the economy there, while benefiting consumers in both countries. Tourism and cultural exchange can build up good will for a nation currently viewed by many Iraqis as an occupier.

Most importantly, intellectual exchange can give Iraq’s future leaders an understanding of liberalism that they can make their own and adapt to Iraq’s unique circumstances.

It’s a long and messy road. But nobody can take the first step until combat operations actually end. We are still 50,000 troops away from that noble goal.

Federal Register hits 30,000 Pages

With a notice from the Defense Department that it is selling $122 million of equipment to Great Britain, the 2010 Federal Register passed 30,000 pages.

After 103 working days, the total page count is 30,265. Assuming 250 working days in a year, this year’s Federal Register is on pace for 73,459 pages.

The average count during the Bush administration was 73,416 pages.

Like most of President Obama’s policies, this represents less than a one percent change from the Bush years.

The Myth of Bush the Deregulator

Here’s a letter I sent recently to The New York Times:

May 14, 2010

Editor, The New York Times
620 Eighth Avenue
New York, NY 10018

To the Editor:

Your May 12 article “With Obama, Regulations Are Back in Fashion” (page A15) asserts that the Bush administration had a “deregulatory agenda.” If that is true, then President Bush failed miserably in executing it.

His administration added 31,634 new regulations to the books, and repealed hardly any. The cost of complying with federal regulations exceeded $1 trillion for the first time on Bush’s watch. 587,321 new pages were added to Federal Register during the Bush years.*

Even the regulation-intensive Obama administration is passing new regulations at a pace nearly ten percent slower than President Bush.

Contrary to the article, the Bush administration was the best friend regulators have had in a generation or more.

Ryan Young
Warren T. Brookes Journalism Fellow
Competitive Enterprise Institute
Washington, DC

*All data from Wayne Crews, Ten Thousand Commandments.

The Kagan Nomination: What Matters, What Doesn’t

One of the criticisms being hurled at Elena Kagan from the right is that she might be a lesbian. This concerns me.

Not the lesbian part; few things are less important to one’s judicial qualifications. My worry is that Republicans have so atrophied intellectually that this is their loudest reason for opposing her.

A thoughtful soul (I forget who) recently remarked that twenty years from now, almost everyone currently on the wrong side of gay rights issues will be embarrassed to admit it. Yet the obsolete epithets being hurled at Kagan — which may or may not be accurate, and frankly, who cares — are what many of Kagan’s opponents seem to care about the most.

And people wonder why I often take visible offense when someone tries to call me a conservative.

There are substantive reasons to be skeptical about Kagan. One of them is how she views the executive branch. “She is certainly a fan of presidential power,” one scholar remarks. This is important.

Chief Justice Roberts has similar views. He was picked in part because the Bush administration knew he wouldn’t strike down that administration’s more controversial power grabs. Harriet Miers was not rejected for her views, which are utterly conventional. Her nomination was only struck down because her lack of subtlety in expressing those views was considered gauche.

While I have never been an Obama fan, one of my hopes for his administration was that he would repudiate Bush-era excesses such as the PATRIOT Act. He embraced them instead. Having all those cool powers at his disposal was just too much to pass up.

President Obama’s Supreme Court nominees so far seem no different from Roberts or Miers: what the other branches of government want, they shall get. The exceptions, such as the Citizens United decision, are so rare that they garner weeks worth of headlines; such outbursts must be kept to a minimum. Hence Kagan.

What the Supreme Court needs is a healthy dose of judicial activism. Kagan, like Roberts, Sotomayor, and other recent nominees, is a judicial passivist. They reflexively defer to the executive and legislature, right or wrong.

What we need are Justices who will stand up and say “no” when Congress passes a law that is unconstitutional, or when the president abuses his powers. That’s why judicial review exists in the first place. This tradition goes all the way back to Marbury v. Madison, often the very first case that students read in undergraduate constitutional law classes.

As Kagan goes through the pomp and circumstance of the confirmation process, maybe she’ll prove better than her likely soon-to-be colleagues. Maybe she won’t. But so long as her Republican opponents are fixated on something so trivial as her sexual orientation, we may never find out. Given her relative youth, three decades or more of jurisprudence are at stake.

Grading Obama’s First Year

CEI has just released a comprehensive report card on the administration’s first year in office. My contribution is below. The full report card is here.

C- Office of Management and Budget – Peter Orszag, Director
Grader: Ryan Young, Journalism Fellow

Spending and deficits are far higher than under President George W. Bush, himself a big spender. But Obama can’t be given all the blame. The bailout and stimulus spending programs that caused much of the fresh red ink got their start under Bush. In a potentially positive regulatory development, the number of pages in the Federal Register decreased from 79,435 in 2008 to 69,676 in 2009. Of course, the contents of those pages matters more than how many of them there are. And on that front, the new administration is business as usual.