Monday, May 08, 2006

Worst. President. Ever.

It's sometimes hard to guess what history will judge to be BushCorp™'s greatest failure.

Its inability to protect American lives on 9/11 despite the warnings of the previous administration as well as that infamous PDB Osama bin Laden Determined To Strike in US?

Perhaps the needless loss of lives, limbs, treasure and international standing that is the Iraq war?

Or maybe the erosion of civil rights so well exemplefied by the Patriot Act and warrantless NSA wiretaps will be W's ticket to historical infamy.

Global warming anyone?

And certainly one of the clearest examples of BushCorp™'s incompetent legacy is the level of fiscal irresponsibility being demonstrated by a purportedly conservative administration. Even the Washington Post gets it:

SHEER COINCIDENCE: Last Monday, the Social Security and Medicare trustees released their annual depressing report. On Tuesday, congressional negotiators handed President Bush a "victory" -- his assessment -- in agreeing to extend his capital gains and dividend tax cuts. Mr. Bush and his fellow tax-cuts-above-all proponents would like you to believe that the two events are unrelated. But taken together they underscore the terrible fiscal predicament that Mr. Bush has chosen to bequeath to his successor.

According to the new estimates, the Social Security trust fund will be depleted in 2040, one year closer than last year's projection, while Medicare's will run out in 2018 -- two years sooner than last year's projection and 12 years earlier than estimated when Mr. Bush took office. These dates may still sound remote, but the problem is more imminent than the customary focus on insolvency suggests. Far earlier than the insolvency date, the programs will be spending more than they take in, in payroll taxes in the case of Social Security, in payroll taxes and premiums in the case of some parts of Medicare. Because of higher-than-anticipated hospital costs, the price of Medicare hospital benefits will exceed tax collections and other dedicated revenue this year -- a situation that will persist and worsen rapidly after 2010. And every year of procrastination makes the eventual solution more painful.

But the best Mr. Bush can come up with is a bipartisan commission -- yes, another one -- to study the problem. And even that seems to be only make-believe. He mentioned a commission in his State of the Union address but hasn't bothered to appoint members. He proposed minimal Medicare cuts in his latest budget and then emitted nary a peep of protest when Congress proceeded to ignore him.

When it comes to ensuring the permanence of his tax cuts, though, Mr. Bush is a lot more energetic. Last Tuesday, after he summoned Republican leaders to the White House, they agreed to extend Mr. Bush's cuts on capital gains and dividends, now set to expire in 2008, through the end of 2010. This means that all the tax cuts Mr. Bush has presided over are now set to expire on the same date, Jan. 1, 2011 -- draining the treasury of needed revenue until then and setting the stage for a difficult decision at that time. Allowing all the tax cuts to expire simultaneously is politically unthinkable and economically unwise. Yet this is also the time when strains on the budget from the retirement of the baby boomers will begin their unsustainable upward path.

The breathtaking irresponsibility of this won't become totally clear until Mr. Bush is back on the ranch. But history's verdict is predictable: bad enough to squander a chance to improve the nation's health while there was still time; unforgivable to make it so much worse. [Emphasis mine-SK]

Worst. President. Ever.

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