York examines the time-honored tradition of Bush-bashing

He’s been out of office for more than 2 1/2 years, but George W. Bush continues to catch heat for his economic policies. Byron York‘s latest Washington Examiner article asks how much longer supporters of the current administration can get away with their Bush-bashing.

Revenues fell in Bush’s first two years because of a combination of the tech bust and the start of the tax cuts. But then things took off. After taking in $1.782 trillion in tax revenues in 2003, the government collected $1.88 trillion in 2004; $2.153 trillion in 2005; $2.406 trillion in 2006; and $2.567 trillion in 2007, according to figures compiled by the Office of Management and Budget. That’s a 44 percent increase from 2003 to 2007. (Revenues slid downward a bit in 2008, and a lot in 2009, when the financial crisis sent the economy into a tailspin.) “Everybody talks about how much the Bush tax cuts ‘cost,'” says one GOP strategist. “We’re saying, no, they led to a huge increase in revenue.”

And deficits shrank. After beginning with a Clinton-era surplus in 2001, the Bush administration ran up deficits of $158 billion in 2002; $378 billion in 2003; and $413 billion in 2004. Then, with revenues pouring in, the deficits began to fall: $318 billion in 2005; $248 billion in 2006; and $161 billion in 2007. That 2007 deficit, with the tax cuts in effect, was one-tenth of today’s $1.6 trillion deficit. …

… None of this is to say that George W. Bush had a good record on spending. He didn’t, and he’s fair game for criticism. But is it honest to condemn reckless spending in “eight years of Republican rule” when Democrats controlled the Senate for four of those years and the House for two? Is it honest to talk about the “cost” of the Bush tax cuts when federal revenues increased significantly while they were in effect? And is it honest to refer to Bush’s ballooning deficits when deficits actually trended down for much of his presidency — at least before Democrats won control of Congress?

Mitch Kokai / Senior Political Analyst

Mitch Kokai is senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation. He joined JLF in December 2005 as director of communications. That followed more than four years as chie...

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