Historians may remember George W. Bush as the president who used the September 11 attacks to promote a war of choice as a way to advance his failed agenda of exploiting Iraq’s oil riches for the benefit of himself and his cronies. Certainly, this war has lasted far too long, and President Obama’s failure to bring it to a conclusion will be a stain on his presidency, also.
Yet, someday this war will end, Iraq will again flourish, and like Viet Nam today, it will become a trading partner and an acquaintance, if not a friend, in the international community. But there are two aspects of Bush’s reign that will be a longer-lasting detriment to the well-being of the United States and its citizens.
First is Mr. Bush’s placement on the Supreme Court of two ideological activists who, along with their conservative co-conspirators, have transformed the Court into a potent regressive force that will be difficult to overcome. Notwithstanding the utterly silly attempt to place Harriet Miers on the Court, Justice Alito and Chief Justice Roberts have solidified the ultra-conservative leaning on the Court that was initiated by Justices Scalia (Reagan) and Thomas (Bush père). Justice Kennedy (Reagan) is the swing vote who has been siding with the forces of corporatism more often than not.
Of course, it all started before Mr. Bush became President. Or more accurately, the activist mien of the Court in usurping Florida’s election laws was the reason Mr. Bush was selected as President. The current court has continued along these lines – suppressing the individual rights that were guaranteed by our Founding Fathers, and instead promoting rights of corporations which they quizzically define as “persons.” The bad news is that both of Bush fils’ appointments are relatively young, and the two Obama appointees are further to the right than the justices they replaced. So this repressive and regressive slant will be with us for decades to come.
While we won’t be able to rectify the scourge of Bush’s reshaping the Court, there’s another aspect of his reign that we have an opportunity to fix. The Bush tax cuts will expire at the end of this year, and the Pied Piper-like drumbeat to extend those cuts is coming from all Republicans and some Democrats. This at a time when we have record deficits, the gap between the “haves” and “have-nots” is expanding, and we are fighting two unfunded wars. Economists tell us that while a dollar in tax cuts puts $1.02 back into the economy, a dollar in stimulus funding puts $1.60 back. We need to increase the stimulus, pay for it with the restoration of the former tax rates – especially for the rich – and stop the waste of lives and treasure in wars that seem to have no goals and no end.
While Bush’s tax cuts were not the only source of today’s economic woes, they were a significant factor. Extending these cuts, especially for the wealthy, is not only irresponsible, but immoral. Placing the financial burden of our adventures in the Middle East on our children is wrong. Yes, the economy is still suffering from the effects of the Bush Recession, but the wealthy are doing better than they ever have. Letting the ill-advised tax cuts expire is the right thing to do – for us, for our economy, and for our children.