Will someone please ask President Obama who exactly he thinks it is who wants to return to George W. Bush-era economics? This is no trivial matter; it's the centerpiece of the president's re-election strategy.
The president -- whose campaign slogan ironically is "Forward" -- is stuck in the past, looking backward as he rails against boogeyman Bush at every campaign stop. He thinks his ticket back to the White House is to campaign against the history books as he tells audiences that "the last thing we can do is go back to the same failed policies that got us into this mess in the first place."
Mr. President, let me be clear: Nobody wants to go back to Mr. Bush's economics. Not Paul Ryan. Not Mitt Romney. Not anybody. Sure, the 5.3 percent average unemployment rate during his presidency might be nice compared to the "new normal" 8.2 percent you've delivered. But still, no one is clamoring to return to Bush economics.
Here's why: Mr. Bush spent too much -- way too much.
Among grass-roots conservatives, there is every bit as much frustration over Mr. Bush's profligate spending as there is over Mr. Obama's. As I travel the nation speaking primarily to conservative audiences, the reactions are unmistakable and nearly universal. These are people who have enormous respect for Mr. Bush and, like myself, will forever be grateful that he protected our nation in our hour of need, and still their reactions are the same: outrage at Mr. Bush's wild spending, which weakened our nation.
Mr. Bush understood that lower tax rates often yield increased total tax revenues. Indeed, more tax revenues were collected under Mr. Bush than during President Clinton's supposed great economy and certainly more than under Mr. Obama. It's a myth that the Bush tax cuts caused the debt explosion. Mr. Bush's undeniable and abject failure was his uncontrolled spending.
Mr. Bush burned through more taxpayer money than any president before him, much of which was borrowed from our children. He unleashed the largest expansion of Medicare in the program's history and ushered in "no bureaucrat left behind" levels of increased education spending. The final straw was his $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program bank bailout.
Mr. Bush failed to comprehend that every dollar spent by the government is a dollar taken from the private sector that otherwise could be used to create jobs, wealth and prosperity. Worse still, every borrowed dollar spent by the government must be repaid eventually -- by our children.
Let's face it: Mr. Bush and Mr. Obama are the "dumb and dumber" of reckless spending.
In 2008, candidate Obama declared that Mr. Bush was "unpatriotic" for adding $4 trillion to the debt "by his lonesome" in eight years. As president, Mr. Obama has added $6 trillion -- so far. Since our nation's founding, for 142 years, peacetime federal spending never exceeded 4 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). Presidents Herbert Hoover and Franklin D. Roosevelt abandoned this fiscal responsibility and reached 10 percent. Mr. Bush, 20 percent. Mr. Obama, 24 percent.
If Mr. Bush's spending was a misdemeanor, then Mr. Obama's is a felony. Either way, nobody wants to return to Mr. Bush's economics. It's simply a slower road to the fiscal cliff toward which Obamanomics is racing.
We've tried Mr. Bush's way (lower taxes and higher spending) and Mr. Obama's way (higher taxes and wildly higher spending) and neither worked. There's a common theme here, and it doesn't take a Harvard Law graduate to see it. It's the spending, stupid.
So what does work? Where would Mitt Romney lead America? Fortunately, we don't need to reinvent the wheel here. Reaganomics embraced the free market with four principles: (1) lower taxes, (2) lower spending, (3) fewer regulations and (4) strong-dollar monetary policy. This created 20 million jobs, reduced unemployment to 5.3 percent, raised the GDP growth rate to 6.8 percent and even decreased inflation.
Mr. Obama, without a record to run on, is campaigning against a ghost. He fantasizes that Republicans are clamoring to return to Mr. Bush's failures. We're not. What's more, this fantasy of his has sparked other unchallenged fantasies. Mr. Obama says we should all play by the same rules, but he should tell that to the Delphi auto parts manufacturing employees who lost their pensions so General Motors union employees could keep theirs. The president rails against "top-down" economics and at the same time dictates what health insurance you must buy and presides over a government that determines how much water your toilet can flush and what light bulbs you may use.
It's embarrassing enough that four years into his presidency, the most powerful man in the world still won't take responsibility for his record -- but, but -- Bush! And now the centerpiece of Mr. Obama's basis for re-election is empty. It's a lie. Republicans don't want to return to Mr. Bush's wild spending ways, and our children certainly can't afford the spending of Mr. Obama.
Dr. Milton R. Wolf, a Washington Times columnist, is a radiologist and President Obama's cousin. He blogs at miltonwolf.com.
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