Saturday, April 5, 2008

Bushwacked -- the Sequel: Jobs Down, Unemployment Up

Bushwacked -- the Sequel: Jobs Down, Unemployment Up

By Daniel DiRito

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By all accounts, George W. Bush was determined to win reelection and thus avoid a repeat of his father’s embarrassing defeat. Unfortunately, they say the sins of the father shall be visited upon the son. If true, the declining economy at the close of this Bush administration may well be a revisiting of his father’s misfortune. While George W. Bush may have charted a different course than his father, he appears to be arriving at the same destination.

While the promise of the senior Bush to enact no new taxes is thought to have been a key component of his downfall; the cutting of taxes by his son was touted as the ultimate economic elixir. Given the economic status at the end of both Bush administrations, it seems to have been a difference without a distinction.

It’s likely that the slow slog towards recession has now become a snowball racing rapidly down a slippery slope; headed for an unknown destination. Despite the repeated assurances from the Bush administration that a sound economy underlies the current downturn, the ride to the bottom may be a long one and it may end with a thunderous thud. When it’s all said and done, the consequences of this Bush administration may mirror the misfortunes that befell the GOP in the wake of the prior Bush administration.

From Reuters:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) — Employers cut payrolls for a third month in a row in March and the unemployment rate jumped to a 2-1/2 year high, more evidence that a housing downturn and credit crisis may have pushed the economy into a recession.
The Labor Department on Friday reported that March non-farm payrolls fell 80,000, biggest decline in five years.
It also said the March unemployment rate jumped to 5.1% from 4.8%, highest since a matching rate in September 2005.

Adding to the bleak picture, the department revised the first two months of the year’s job losses to a total of 152,000 from a previous estimate of 85,000.

The March job report was more bleak than expected. Economists had forecast a decline of 60,000 in non-farm payrolls and a rise in the unemployment rate to 5%.
“There doesn’t appear to be any silver lining. It shows that we’re right in the middle of a recession that will probably take a while,” said Carl Lantz, U.S. interest rate strategist at Credit Suisse in New York.
“Our expectation is that it will be a longer recession than the last two and we’re just in the beginning,” Lantz added.

It has taken George W. Bush two terms to reach an endpoint that will undoubtedly be seen as very similar to that of his father’s presidency. Both men watched as the economy tanked…unaware of the plight of the working class. The first Bush didn’t know the price of milk - the second seemed oblivious to the rising cost of gas. During their presidencies, both men invaded Iraq - the first Bush having the good sense to limit the scope of the incursion - the second determined to one-up daddy regardless of the cost.

In 1988, when Anne Richards spoke her oft quoted words about the senior Bush, “Poor George. He can’t help it. He was born with a silver foot in his mouth”; little did we know how prescient her observation would be with regards to the second Bush. In recalling the expression, “The acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree”, one could also argue that the electorate bears responsibility for succumbing to another well known idiom…the one that posits, “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me”.

Sadly, a new poll provides a grim assessment of the degree to which voters may be experiencing buyers remorse. Unfortunately, what’s done is done…and we’re left to hope that the damage can be undone.

From The New York Times:
Americans are more dissatisfied with the country’s direction than at any time since the New York Times/CBS News poll began asking about the subject in the early 1990s, according to the latest poll.
In the poll, 81 percent of respondents said they believed “things have pretty seriously gotten off on the wrong track,” up from 69 percent a year ago and 35 percent in early 2002.
Although the public mood has been darkening since the early days of the war in Iraq, it has taken a new turn for the worse in the last few months, as the economy has seemed to slip into recession. There is now nearly a national consensus that the country faces significant problems.
A majority of nearly every demographic and political group — Democrats and Republicans, men and women, residents of cities and rural areas, college graduates and those who finished only high school — say the United States is headed in the wrong direction. Seventy-eight percent of respondents said the country was worse off than five years ago; just 4 percent said it was better off.

In the end, there is also an abundance of irony to be found in the two Bush presidencies. The former president Bush spoke of mobilizing 1,000 points of light…the latter nearly succeeded in turning off all of the lights. When the senior Bush called Americans to service, it was impossible to know that his son would enlist 1,000’s of young Americans in the prosecution of an ill-advised war.

When the current president pledged to unite us, we should have realized that the ability to unite emanates from the capacity and the willingness to hear, understand, and appreciate the views of others. When he pledged compassionate conservatism, we missed the numerous indications that compassion would only flow to those who adopted his brand of conservatism. Hence, compassion modified by conservatism is more likely an ideology of intransigence than an expression of empathy.

As we await the passage of the second Bush administration, it should be abundantly clear to voters that we can ill-afford a third Bushwhacking. Hopefully voters won’t be fooled by the cleverness of the GOP to choose another Bush as their candidate. Lest there be any confusion, I’m not talking about an eventual Jeb Bush candidacy…I’m talking about none other than John “W” McCain.

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