Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Wising up, part 2

Bruce Bartlett, author of the new book "Impostor", is former executive director of the Joint Economic Committee of Congress, he worked in the administrations of Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush and he wrote the 1981 supply-side manifesto "Reaganomics." He is the second Republican in as many days to be profiled due to his pithy criticism of the current President. A review of his new book notes:

Mr. Bartlett sees Mr. Bush as a "pretend conservative" — "a partisan Republican, anxious to improve the fortunes of his party" but "perfectly willing to jettison conservative principles at a moment's notice to achieve that goal." He writes that the current White House is "obsessive about secrecy," argues that Mr. Bush has pursued "what could be described as a Nixonian agenda using Nixon's methods" and declares that when it comes to the federal budget, "Clinton was much better." Mr. Bush, he contends, has set the country on "an unsustainable fiscal course," resulting in a ballooning deficit that will inevitably lead to tax increases.
As Mr. Bartlett sees it, "the 2002 collapse of Enron" — the giant energy trading company, which "borrowed heavily, paid little in taxes, and made big profits in ways that were known to be contrary to sound business practices" — "may in some ways be a metaphor for the Bush Administration's economic policy."
His critique extends well beyond the economic sphere. He argues that "Bush has driven away and even humiliated the few intellectuals in his midst, preferring instead the company of overrated political hacks whose main skills seem to be an ability to say yes to whatever he says and to ignore the obvious." And he declares that the president's "unwillingness to properly utilize the traditional policy development process" lies "at the heart of the failure of his Social Security proposal and possibly the Iraq operation as well."
"One of the hallmarks of George W. Bush's approach to policy that is disturbing both to friends and foes alike," Mr. Bartlett writes, "is an apparent disdain for serious thought and research to develop his policy initiatives. Often they seem born from a kind of immaculate conception, with no mother or father to claim parentage."
Mr. Bartlett argues that the failure of "the administration to chart or articulate a consistent economic policy" stemmed, in large measure, from "Bush's disinterest in serious policy analysis" and his sidelining of people with genuine expertise. He writes that Treasury Secretary
Paul O'Neill and his successor, John Snow, were treated as "little more than errand boys," and that the Council of Economic Advisers was accorded little influence as well. It became clear, Mr. Bartlett writes, that the main job of the Council's chairman, R. Glenn Hubbard, "was not to devise economic policies, but only to offer support for those Bush had already decided upon."

Read the entire article here.

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