While addressing an audience at Florida Atlantic University on Tuesday, President Obama took aim at Republicans and their economic proposals. Eight years of tax cuts for the wealthy, loose regulations, and lack of government investment into the economy under President Bush, Obama argued, did not result in faster job growth and prosperity.
In the speech, and on the campaign trail in general, Obama uses this type of rhetoric to distance himself from the Republicans and portray them as some government-slashing, rich-friendly free market fundamentalists. Although Obama is completely correct when he says that the policies of the Bush administration did not create economic growth and prosperity, he is completely wrong on why.
Obama’s portrayal of the Bush administration — and of the GOP in general — is completely false. Under President Bush, the federal budget and deficits exploded. Corporate welfare and subsidies flowed, the Department of Education was doubled, and Medicare entitlements were expanded. Bush “abandoned free market principles in order to save it” with federal bailouts. After 9/11, the Federal Reserve lowered interest rates below market levels, flooded the housing industry with cheap credit, and the bubble predictably burst in 2008. Eight years of Republican rule did incalculable damage to the economy and the country, but it had nothing to do with limited government, spending cuts, or free markets as Obama claims.
It’s easy to pick on Bush, but government spending and “investment” increase with every administration, Democrat or Republican, like it’s on autopilot. This is why Obama is forced to use leftist populist rhetoric and create a straw man out of the GOP. Spending cuts? Tax cuts? Governor Mitt Romney and congressional Republicans’ budget proposals all make federal spending, borrowing, and deficits skyrocket, which all have to be paid off eventually through taxation.
Other than rhetoric, both President Obama and his GOP opposition subscribe to slightly different variations of the same philosophy of Keynesian economics, foreign aggression, and money-printing from the Fed. They believe that the liberties that the Bill of Rights was intended to protect are negotiable.
And while Obama tries to rally his base, Romney and the Republicans do the same thing, calling Obama “weak” on national defense and a far-Left socialist. They are not opposed philosophically to the power the President has over the economy and foreign policy; they just think they can run it better than Obama can.
This is why the Republicans are doomed in the general election if all they offer is a slightly more right-wing version of Obama. Unless there is a substantial rejection of this Left-Right rhetoric and a truly principled opposition to the economic and foreign interventionism championed by both parties on the national stage, then Obama and the Republicans will continue to attempt to portray each other as ideological opponents rather than replicas while they spend us further into bankruptcy.