About That Nostalgia For George W. Bush, Let’s Not Forget Reality Okay?

The release of former President Bush’s new book, as well as his interview last night with Matt Lauer, seems to have led some on the right to forget what the Bush Presidency was actually like.

As Michelle Malkin noted this morning, though, Bush’s fiscal and economic policies weren’t any better than President Obama’s:

In January 2008, Bush floated another massive housing entitlement package, followed by an economic stimulus plan in excess of $150 billion, and passage of the $2.7 billion Bush housing boondoggle.

In September 2008, I raised the alarm over the banking bailout from DAY ONE — excoriating Paulson’s pathetic track record on the subprime crisis and calling on fiscal conservatives to stand up against the Bush GOP capitulationists.


Bush then oversaw the $85 billion bailout of AIG and prepared the $25 billion auto bailout. In October, the Republicans swallowed the Bush crap sandwich and blindly bowed to naked emperor Paulson, and John McCain proposed a $300 billion mortgage bailout that dwarfed Obama’s campaign proposal.

And that’s not all. Shortly before Inauguration Day 2009, Michael Tanner of The Cato Institute noted the rather sorry fiscal record of the Bush Era:

  • Increased federal domestic discretionary spending (even before the bailout) faster than any president since Lyndon Johnson.
  • Enacted the largest new entitlement program since the creation of Medicare and Medicaid, an unfunded Medicare prescription drug benefit that could add as much as $11.2 trillion to the program’s unfunded liabilities;
  • Dramatically increased federal control over local schools while increasing federal education spending by nearly 61 percent;
  • Signed a campaign finance bill that greatly restricts freedom of speech, despite saying he believed it was unconstitutional;
  • Authorized warrantless wiretapping and given vast new powers to law enforcement;
  • Federalized airport security and created a new cabinet-level Department of Homeland Security;
  • Added roughly 7,000 pages of new federal regulations, bringing the cost of federal regulations to the economy to more than $1.1 trillion;
  • Enacted a $1.5 billion program to promote marriage;
  • Proposed a $1.7 billion initiative to develop a hydrogen-powered car;
  • Abandoned traditional conservative support for free trade by imposing tariffs and other import restrictions on steel and lumber;
  • Expanded President Clinton’s national service program;
  • Increased farm subsidies;
  • Launched an array of new regulations on corporate governance and accounting; and
  • Generally did more to centralize government power in the executive branch than any administration since Richard Nixon.

Shortly before he left office, Bush summed up his Presidency:

Reflecting on the recession that is ending his tenure, Bush said, “I inherited a recession and I am leaving on a recession.”

“I readily concede I chucked aside my free-market principles when I was told … the situation we were facing could be worse than the Great Depression,” Bush said. “(But) we’ve taken extraordinary measures to deal with frozen credit markets (that) have helped thaw the credit market.”

Chucked aside your principles ?

Mr. President, I doubt you ever really had any.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. anjin-san says:

    > Bush’s fiscal and economic policies weren’t any better than President Obama’s:

    I think you can make a reasonable argument they are not nearly as good. Bush led us into the disaster, and Obama is leading us out of it. Sorry to bring a pesky thing like reality into the discussion.


  2. reid says:

    I guess if we’re putting all of our criticisms under a “fiscal policy” umbrella, how about that very expensive, wasteful Iraq war? Oh, and the many thousands of dead and wounded, but I guess we’re not getting into that.

  3. tom p says:

    “Miss me Yet?”

  4. Tano says:

    “Chucked aside your principles ?
    Mr. President, I doubt you ever really had any.”

    Ahh, are you saying that one’ s principles must be adhered to even if they lead to policies that would throw the country into a depression?
    Yeah, lets hope that none of our leaders have principles they adhere to that tightly.

    Bush’s background support for the efforts to contain the meltdown in Oct. 08, were one of the few things he did roughly right. This financial crisis was a massive failure of the free market ideology – hell, even Alan Greenspan came to understand that…

  5. ussjimmycarter says:

    Michelle is right on with her assessment of the Bush administration. We must now guard that people from his administration (Karl Rove) do not infest the current Tea Party backlash! We need Conservatives! Not Compassionate Conservatives or RINO’s!