Posted by Damozel | Did you know that George W. Bush is still president? It's true. And at the moment he is busy trying to persuade himself and Americans that the economy isn't as bad as it is.
I've come to the conclusion that W really believes that the difference between a statement that's true and one that isn't has to do with how many people you can persuade to believe you. Or else he really believes what he's saying about the economy and the magic power of tax cuts to solve every problem. I don't know which is more worrying. When you continue stubbornly to pursue a course of action you can see isn't working, it reflects on your intelligence and also, a bit, on your connection to reality. But if the problem is that you can't see it, what does that reflect? Rose-colored glasses can't correct severe myopia.
But Bush seems to be stuck in a happy place where his failed policies work, or might still work, or both. After admitting, "that times are tough...[he] went on to paint a false picture of the economy (NYT). I've come to the conclusion that W really believes that if you're president and assert a fact enough times, it becomes true, and that what's 'true' has little, if anything, to do with what's 'real.'
He dismissed virtually every proposal Congress is working on to alleviate the mortgage crisis, sticking to his administration’s inadequate ideas. And despite the rush of serious problems — frozen credit markets, millions of impending mortgage defaults, solvency issues at banks, a plunging dollar — he said that a major source of uncertainty today is whether his tax cuts, scheduled to expire in 2010, would be extended.
This was too far afield of reality to be dismissed as simple cheerleading.... Mr. Bush said he was optimistic because the economy’s “foundation is solid” as measured by employment, wages, productivity, exports and the federal deficit. He was wrong on every count. On some, he has been wrong for quite a while. (New York Times)
That's what I'm saying. Is it possible that Bush's much-touted stubbornness is indicative of deeper problems? Honestly, at this point, I just can't explain it any other way. How can he go on denying reality and deferring action? Is it possible he really DOESN'T know what's happening or understand what it means?
I consider this piece to be a crucial read because of the way it sums up, then sees off, each of Bush's demonstrably distorted views of what's really happening now:
Mr. Bush boasted about 52 consecutive months of job growth during his presidency. What matters is the magnitude of growth, not ticks on a calendar. The economic expansion under Mr. Bush — which it is safe to assume is now over — produced job growth of 4.2 percent. That is the worst performance over a business cycle since the government started keeping track in 1945.
Mr. Bush also talked approvingly of the recent unemployment rate of 4.8 percent. A low rate is good news when it indicates a robust job market. The unemployment rate ticked down last month because hundreds of thousands of people dropped out of the work force altogether. Worse, long-term unemployment, of six months or more, hit 17.5 percent. We’d expect that in the depths of a recession. It is unprecedented at the onset of one.
Mr. Bush was wrong to say wages are rising. On Friday morning, the day he spoke, the government reported that wages failed to outpace inflation in February, for the fifth straight month. Productivity growth has also weakened markedly in the past two years, a harbinger of a lower overall standard of living for Americans.
Exports have surged of late, but largely on the back of a falling dollar. The weaker dollar makes American exports cheaper, but it also pushes up oil prices. Potentially far more serious, a weakening dollar also reduces the Federal Reserve’s flexibility to steady the economy.
Finally, Mr. Bush’s focus on the size of the federal budget deficit ignores that annual government borrowing comes on top of existing debt. Publicly held federal debt will be up by a stunning 76 percent by the end of his presidency. Paying back the money means less to spend on everything else for a very long time. (NYT; emphasis added)
The purpose of the editorial is to urge Congress to act, and that right swiftly. Here's hoping that they're listening.