Straight from the I-can’t-believe-it’s-not-a-story-from-The-Onion file, George W. Bush has written the foreword to a new book being released today titled, The 4 Percent Solution: Unleashing the Economic Growth America Needs. The book is co-authored by a roster of second-rate voodoo economists with supply-side axes to grind in the wake of a Bush-assisted economic disaster of epic proportions. The fact that such a text exists is mind-boggling, but who knows? Maybe there’s a market out there for books that inherently carry giant amounts of irony. In which case, Bush’s next project could be a dissertation on how to win the war in Afghanistan.
The book advances the usual failed conservative remedies for stimulating growth, and at an annual rate of 4%. This includes cutting government spending, cutting taxes on the wealthy, and raising taxes on everyone else. Among the proposals is a plan for “broadening the tax base,” which is a euphemism for “raising taxes on non-wealthy Americans.” One of the long-running conservative complaints about the nation’s tax code is that it’s just so darn unfair to people in the higher brackets. As evidence of this, they point to the fact that about half of Americans do not make enough money to have to pay federal income taxes. One would think that conservatives would be delighted at the fact that so many Americans are not subjected to the indignity of paying federal income taxes. In reality, they want to raise taxes on these Americans, while cutting them for higher earners.
This is nothing new. It’s the same tripe we’ve heard from Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, and a slew of other Republicans who occasionally have the audacity to say they want to raise federal taxes on large swaths of Americans, while cutting them for the wealthy. Simultaneously, The 4 Percent Solution advocates cutting government spending as a means of achieving growth, which is just wrong. There is a curious belief among conservatives that economic growth is somehow an inevitable byproduct of cutting government spending and balancing the federal budget. If this were the case, achieving growth would be as simple as taking a chainsaw the budget. If it were true that growth results from a balanced budget, pressure to balance it would be immense and coming from every direction since that’s all it would take to stimulate serious growth throughout the economy.
Truth be told, the real story here isn’t about policy. It’s about one of the worst presidents in history having the nerve to proffer advice on how best to get the economy—the very economy he left in utter ruin not four years ago—back on track. For eight years, we watched as his administration was totally unphased by deficits, debt, spending, unfunded wars, bailouts, and other corporate giveaways. We watched as he set fire to trillions of dollars in taxpayer money, while at the same time cutting social programs for working Americas who can’t afford $50,000 per plate political fundraisers.
I don’t know how seriously this book will be taken. No doubt it will garner praise in the usual circles as a bold, straight-shooting plan for reining in spending and stimulating growth. But at this point, if George W. Bush is qualified to write the foreword for a book on getting the economy moving again, who isn’t?