Reidblog [The Reid Report blog]

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Friday, January 30, 2009
The Bush 400
If a presidency's success or failure is judged on how the country as a whole changed during its time, how its people are doing by the end of his term or terms, or how America's standing in the world changed, relative to where it was when the president's reign began, then George W. Bush's presidency can rightly be judged an abject failure. The vast majority of Americans are worse off economically than when Bush came into office in the closing months of the heady days of boom and surplus during the Clinton years. The United States remains mired in an unnecessary war in Iraq, for which an astounding 650,000 Americans have already paid the price in physical and mental injuries serious enough to require medical treatment or disability. The war in Afghanistan rages on, and the world economy has been dragged into the tar pit of mortgage backed securities and derivatives invented on Wall Street.

But if a presidency is to be judged on whether it achieved its prime directive -- whether it lived up to the implicit promise made by its leadership on their way in, campaign rhetoric aside -- then George W. Bush's presidency has to be judged a resounding success. George W. Bush came into office calling the very wealthy his "base." He rode in on a promise to restore the full promise of trickle down "Reaganomics" in Washington, complete with neutering the federal government through deregulation, fattening the wealthy's pockets through corporate tax cuts and the virtual elimination of the concept of taxing wealth, and making war a permanent fixture of the American GDP. And Bush did just that, and more.

Per ThinkProgress:
Bloomberg reports that, according to recently released IRS data, “the average tax rate paid by the richest 400 Americans fell by a third to 17.2 percent through the first six years of the Bush administration and their average income doubled to $263.3 million.” Much of their income came from capital gains resulting from the Bush tax cuts.
The Bloomberg report states specifically, that:

The 17.2 percent tax rate in 2006 was the lowest since the IRS began tracking the 400 largest taxpayers in 1992, although the richest 400 Americans paid more tax on an inflation-adjusted basis than any year since 2000.

The drop from 2001’s tax rate of 22.9 percent was due largely to ex-President George W. Bush’s push to cut tax rates on most capital gains to 15 percent in 2003.

Capital gains made up 63 percent of the richest 400 Americans’ adjusted gross income in 2006, or a combined $66.1 billion, according to the data. In all, the 400 wealthiest Americans reported a combined $105.3 billion of adjusted gross income in 2006, the most recent year for which the IRS has data.

“The big explosion in income for this group is clearly on the capital gains side, although there are also sharp increases in dividend and interest income,” said Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic Policy and Research in Washington.
In other words, Bush did precisely what he came to Washington to do: namely, to pull of the largest bank robbery in history -- a "reverse Robin Hood" scheme that consists of stealing from the United States treasury to give to the rich, and not just to individuals, but also to the energy industry, particularly oil and gas, which reaped huge profits from his presidency, and from the defense contractors from whence his chief henchmen, Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld, slunk.

Ah, success...

The only trouble is, Bush also succeeded in thoroughly discrediting the idea of "trickle down" a/k/a "supply side" economics or "Reaganomics," revealing, ironically, that his father was right when he called it "voodoo." Because, though dummies and ideologues like Rudy Giuliani (who is both) still believe that you have to feed the rich so they'll keep holding up the economy on their strong, broad shoulders, the rest of us are on to the fact that it is the middle class, not the wealthy, who carry the economy with our spending. That's why the suddenly robust personal savings rate of 2.9% last quarter helped tank economic expansion by 3.5 percent. No middle class buying TVs and computers and clothes, on credit, usually ... no economic growth, which leads to layoffs that even further restrict spending. The middle class -- wage earners -- not Wall Street fat cats and richie rich's who plough their extra duckets into really bad investments (and bubbles) drive the economy. If you want to help the economy, help THEM.



It's a painful lesson that an entire nation, and indeed the world, has now learned, the hard way.

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posted by JReid @ 10:09 PM  
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