The Self Made Pundit
Wednesday, February 26, 2003
OEDIPUS W. BUSH: I know Bush and his handlers have dedicated themselves to not repeating the mistakes of his father, but they seem to be working towards this goal with all the determination of Oedipus.
In the Tragedy of Oedipus, everything he did to escape his predicted fate led him to fulfill his doomed destiny. So it seems to be happening with Bush the Younger.
Bush is determined not to repeat the mistakes of his father. After leading the country to victory in a glorious little war with Iraq, Bush the Elder made the fatal error of ignoring the economy, which led to his humiliating defeat to Bill Clinton.
Although Bush has been pitching a drastic tax cut plan that he claims is an economic growth package, recent polls indicate that Americans are slowly awakening to the fact that this President Bush is truly his father’s son. Just as Bush the Elder was clueless about the economy, so is Bush the Younger.
According to a new Pew Research Center poll, Americans are becomingly increasingly dissatisfied with Bush’s handling of the economy. (Link via Daily Kos.) The poll, conducted Feb. 12 to 18, finds that:
President Bush's tax-cut plan is getting a tepid reception from the public and has failed to stem a steady erosion of his ratings on the economy. Barely four-in-ten Americans (43%) approve of his handling of the economy, while 48% disapprove. This marks the first time in Bush's presidency a Pew survey has shown his economic rating in negative territory. His approval mark on tax policy is equally low (42%), despite a high-profile campaign on behalf of his tax plan.
Bush's overall job approval rating has slipped to 54%, down four points since last month and seven points since December.
This poll, and other recent polls showing growing public dissatisfaction with Bush’s stewardship of the economy, are warning bells for the Bush administration. While demonstrating that he hears the sounds of the bells, Bush is proving himself to be as tone deaf about the economy as his father. Despite the reverses the economy has suffered since Bush took office, Bush is still peddling the same economic approach he campaigned on in the salad days of the Clinton era budget surpluses.
Bush, who lives in apparent dread of repeating his father’s mistake of ignoring the economy, certainly wants to be seen as focusing on the economy. That is why Bush and his sycophants are constantly trumpeting his economic plans as BOLD.
Unlike Bill Clinton’s focusing on the economy like a laser beam, however, Bush is focusing on the economy like a sledge hammer, with radical tax cut plans that will wreck the federal budget.
As Paul Krugman has discussed at length on The New York Times Op-Ed page, Bush’s obsession for cutting the taxes of the rich continually leads him to proposing massive tax cuts as the cure for the economy – regardless of the ailment. Back in the days of the 2000 campaign, Bush proposed huge tax cuts to shrink the Clinton budget surplus. Now, he proposes huge tax cuts for their stimulative effect to shrink the ever-expanding Bush budget deficit. For Bush the salesman, a tax cut for the wealthy is snake oil that should be taken for both its stimulative and its calming effects.
While Bush may be sociopathic enough to manufacture rationales to fit the political needs of the day, he cannot change reality. Even if purchased and consumed, Bush’s snake oil is not likely to help the economy much, if at all.
The Democrats’ proposal of an immediate tax cut directed at the poor and middle class – the people who are likely to spend any additional money right back into the economy – could give a boost to the economy. In contrast, Bush’s massive tax cuts for the super-rich spread out over years would do little to spur the economy now. What is more likely is that the specter of Bush's mushrooming budget deficits will increase economic uncertainty and continue to drag the economy down.
Bush’s economic policy has become so single minded in its tax-cutting mania, it is unlikely that Bush will deviate from this approach regardless of how poorly the economy fares. Bush is far too arrogant and close minded to admit a mistake of this magnitude.
Despite his BOLD approach, Bush’s fear of repeating his father’s mistakes is edging ever closer to being realized. Ironically, like Oedipus, Bush is attempting to escape his fate with a journey that leads him right back to his father.
Unlike Oedipus, however, Bush may still escape his fate. If Bush’s war in Iraq turns out as short and as glorious as the neocons have been telling him, he will certainly get a boost in the polls – as did his father after Gulf War I. But, as the Bush the Elder discovered, a disappointing economy can matter more to voters than a successful foreign adventure.
While it is far too early to predict what will happen with Iraq, the 2004 economy and the 2004 presidential election, Bush’s hubris is leading him toward fulfilling the Tragedy of Bush.