The Bush Record of Tax Cuts, Failure and Betrayal
I'm not sure what good it does for progressives to delude themselves about Bush's success in passing pure domestic policy initiatives that easily overcame the opposition of Republican moderates, but the reality is that he saw his initiatives watered down at every turn.
Bush initially sought a $1.6 trillion tax cut. The votes didn't exist. So the price tag was reduced to $1.35 trillion, and since a filibuster looked unbreakable, the bill went through the budget reconciliation process, which meant that its deficit-increasing provisions — that is to say, most all of it — would sunset in 2010. For that reason, much of that bill evaporates this year. Interestingly, Olympia Snowe advocated a "trigger" option that year, too, which would have revoked the tax cuts if the budget surpluses were beneath expectations.
The 2003 tax cuts were trimmed from more than $700 billion to about $300 billion by a coalition of Senate moderates. Social Security privatization was, of course, quickly abandoned. Medicare Part D was loathed by many House conservatives. Tellingly, Dick Armey wrote an op-ed opposing it, and Tom DeLay had such trouble passing it over conservative objections that the Department of Justice opened an investigation into the tactics he used to pass it.
There's a sort of comfort in believing that George W. Bush got everything he wanted, because it suggests that if liberals could only emulate his tactics, they too could get everything they want. But Bush's domestic policy was appalling to most conservatives. His tax cuts were a victory, but he never matched them with spending cuts. No Child Left Behind, Medicare Part D, and McCain-Feingold looked a lot more like liberal efforts to increase the welfare state than anything the Heritage Foundation would produce. Ted Kennedy, in fact, was a key mover in each of those bills, though he voted against the final version of the Medicare expansion. Social Security Privatization was a bust.
The Bush White House was very good at leveraging 9/11 to ensure congressional support for Middle East adventurism, but they didn't crack the code unlocking a compliant Congress for a hard-line conservative agenda. That's why most conservatives think their domestic policy was a mixture of tax cuts, failures and betrayals, and they're right about that. The problems posed by the Senate are part of the system, not specific to a particular party.
Photo credit: By Roger L. Wollenberg Via Bloomberg News
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