Read My Lips: ‘No New Taxes’ is a stupid, irresponsible thing to say

George H.W. Bush’s "no new taxes" pledge was a watershed moment for me. It was an idiotic thing for a reasonably bright man who knew better to say, and we know why he said it, right? To charm the Reagan revolutionaries, who might otherwise have listened to all that "wimp factor" talk.

But it was more than that to me. It caused me to become permanently disenchanted with campaign promises in general. No one knows what kinds of decisions he will face in office. There is something very phony about pretending to know, and presuming to predict what you will do. You end up with such absurdities as the latest George Bush spouting against nation-building, then spending most of his time in office trying to do just that (although botching it badly enough, for most of that time, to convince us he was never that into it).

This idea developed further as I moved from news to editorial in the early ’90s. News is about "What did he say; what did he do; what did they other guy do; did their actions match their words?" and other stuff that just makes me tired now. I began to think more about what candidates, and far more importantly, office-holders should do. I thought more and more about the nature of representative democracy, and came to appreciate the system more deeply. And the more I thought about it, the more I came to appreciate character over specific policy proposals. I think our system works best when we elect a candidate we trust to make good decisions come what may. I care less about the specifics of policy proposals (which in most cases will never become reality in that form), and more about the quality of the individual proposing them. Past actions count a lot. So do words, in the sense that they reveal the kind of person the candidate is. The fact that a candidate is the kind of person who would want to do a certain thing will matter more than the specifics. So would the intangible qualities revealed in the way the candidate communicates his or her ideas. For that reason, the fact that Obama speaks of approaching challenges as one nation, and is able to sell that approach to voters, contrasted against Sen. Clinton’s world view of life as a constant struggle against Republicans, matter more to me than the specifics of, say, their respective health care plans. If their health care plans were polar opposites, it would mean something. But they’re not, and I don’t care to quibble over them. This approach can be extremely frustrating to such people as today’s caller.

It does make a difference to me when a candidate lacks a serious proposal to address health care. I criticized John McCain on this point several months back. But as important as this issue is to me, it’s not a make-or-break one in considering the presidency. Truth is, no candidate but Dennis Kucinich wants to do what I want to do on the issue — and Rep. Kucinich cancels that out by putting me off on other issues. Among the Republicans, Mitt Romney probably came the closest to wanting to do anything good — but that wasn’t nearly enough, and it didn’t cancel the reasons NOT to support Romney. (Biggest reason? Rather than run as a guy who’d done something smart on health care in Massachusetts, he tried to pander to every impulse to be found in his party, and tried to get ahead by pulling other candidates down. Character.)

This brings us to what John McCain said this week: "No new taxes." This was a reprehensible thing to say. I know McCain is a national-security guy and just isn’t into the stuff that the anti-tax part of his party obsess over. That’s one of many things I like about him. But that doesn’t excuse him from throwing them a bone to this extent, even if he did it so badly that it wasn’t convincing (as Nicholas Kristof says, "he is abysmal at pandering").

Now let’s pause for a moment to make sure you understand what I’m saying. The tax haters don’t understand why I say it’s inexcusable to say, before you’re even in office, "No new taxes." That’s because they think the only thing to do with a tax — ever, under any circumstances — is to cut it, and they think anyone who doesn’t agree with their extreme must be their extreme polar opposite, which to them means that person, in one of their favorite phrases, "never saw a tax he didn’t like." They really say things like that. It doesn’t bother them a bit that such accusations are insupportable, and that in fact evidence exists to the contrary. Their world view is just that simple, and just that wrong.

McCain’s world view is not that simple, and therefore it is profoundly wrong for him to say what he said, even if he just said it to shut them up so we can talk about more important things (understandable, but still not excusable). Perhaps he believes that there never will be a need during a McCain presidency to raise a tax, so what’s the harm?

Here’s the harm: Let me put it in terms that he might understand, because they would touch more closely upon his own deeply held values. Think how stupid, how grossly irresponsible, it would be for the man who would be commander in chief to say, "I will never take military action" in office. See what I’m saying? You might like to think you’d never have to send another soldier into harm’s way, and you might want voters to know you’re the kind of guy who likes to think that. Perfectly understandable. But perfectly wrong. The would-be commander in chief of the world’s one superpower just can’t take force off the table like that.

Mind you, this is not a perfect comparison — a president has greater leeway in taking military action than he does in making tax policy (properly speaking, the purview of Congress; all the president can do is make non-binding proposals or wield the blunt instrument of the veto — he can’t even veto line items). But my point is that the thing that’s wrong here is not the policy question itself. Peace is a fine thing. Not raising taxes is a fine thing.

But you cannot know what future situations will call for, and it’s wrong to try to tie your hands in advance. And it’s particularly wrong to do it to win votes.

It’s not the policy; it’s the character. And saying "no new taxes" this way places a stain upon John McCain’s. (It also makes him look desperate; if he’ll say that to appease the extremists, would he actually consider such a disastrous choice as Mark Sanford for veep? It was the desperation and the irresponsibility in this statement on taxes that caused me actually to worry about something I had dismissed as merely ridiculous before.)

Does the stain disqualify him? Not in my eyes. His virtues far outweigh this sin. And consider that the pandering, hands-tying statements that Sens. Barack and Clinton routinely make regarding Iraq are far more egregious. I am somewhat reassured to believe that both of them know better, but it doesn’t make me think more of their characters.

Nor does it cause me to dismiss them altogether — particularly not Obama, whose character seems so much better suited to the office than Mrs. Clinton’s.

All of us are stained; no one is qualified to throw the first stone. But I do pick up these stones as I find them, and place them on the balance. As I weigh them, I’m still very glad we endorsed John McCain and Barack Obama. The one perfect guy isn’t actually running.

47 thoughts on “Read My Lips: ‘No New Taxes’ is a stupid, irresponsible thing to say

  1. Gordon Hirsch

    “No new taxes” is actually a meaningless phrase, unless accompanied by its counterpart, “no new spending.” Or better yet, “no new debt.”
    There’s no shortage of ways to tax us.

  2. Karen McLeod

    Did you hear Obama’s speech tonite? Some fluff for sure, but some straight forward talk as well–about
    –people who do work should not be impoverished
    –a good president will not just tell you what you want to hear, but what you need to hear as well
    –our troops must be supported–with rotation, with medical care, and more
    –I can’t do it alone, you’ve got to be willing to help.
    Again and again I heard him use “we” only when he was talking about a unified majority. When he used “I” he was talking about his own particular plans.
    There’s lots more. If you haven’t heard it, you should. Do I agree with every last bit of it? No. Do I have some hope? If he’s elected, Yes!

  3. Doug Ross

    You addresses the issue well.
    Unfortunately, I think you’re going to have to prepare similar columns on other topics as we move toward the general election and McCain has to appease the Republican base.
    McCain’s plan for vouchers is specific — trade farm and oil subsidies for vouchers to be used on private schools. I think that’s a fair deal. If you can’t cut taxes, then use the funds for a better purpose. Nobody will be harmed if more (sometimes better) options for educating the public are created.

  4. Doug Ross

    Direct quote from McCain:
    “Let’s take that money, and instead of using it to pay off campaign contributors with special tax breaks, let’s spend it on the children who have been trapped in our worst schools,” said McCain. “Let’s take that money, and use it to set children free, to give them an educational opportunity that can provide them with a real future.”

  5. Gordon Hirsch

    I saw Obama tonight, too, Karen. He continues to impress, as does McCain. They both still have a long way to go in terms of policy definition and the reality of getting things done with Congress, but people are engaged in this campaign at a level that really does invoke memories of JFK and Nixon, who was a powerful candidate before that ill-fated first televised debate.
    … At the same time, it’s almost eery how Bill and Hillary have vanished from this blog. Sort of like they died in disgrace and, out of respect for the dead, we politely look away.

  6. zeke

    Hillary or Obama? The sensible, intelligent answer is NEITHER! How can you people listen to the utter socialist populist retoric from these two and even consider voting for them? More taxes, more spending, penalize the successful and continue government spending on socialism, entitlements and subsidies for those who do not contribute to our society! In the proposed $3 trillion budget, 1/3 is spent on government socialist entitlement give-a ways! Anothe 1/4 to 1/3 is spent on non constitutionally mandated programs and projects! Almost $1 trillion for welfare, medicare, medicaid, food stamps extended unemployment payments and the like! While an expenditure of less than $500 billion on our national defense is railed as exhorbitant and unjust! It is time to rid ourselves of the FDR inspired socialists and return our country and government to the Constitution’s list of government’s allowed duties and programs!!!

  7. weldon VII

    Brad, nothing is certain but death and taxes and your calling people who don’t like taxes stupid.
    “Their world view is just that simple, and just that wrong.”
    That’s just as much an unsubstantiated accusation as “he never saw a tax he didn’t like.”
    Goose, gander. Pot, kettle. Just because people disagree with you doesn’t mean they’re stupid. Just because people say black and white doesn’t mean they can’t see gray and every color, too.

  8. Herb Brasher

    Brad, Jim Wallis has made many similar statements to your own, including the obvious idea that it is not so much an issue whether government is big or small, but that it should function. And of course, that takes some revenue from somewhere. I want to get his new book–not that I always agree with him, but there is a new generation of evangelical thinking that is not in lockstep with Grover Norquist.
    I have a 57 year-old friend, with long experience in veterans affairs, even as a Senate advisor, who was asked to run as a Republican for the state legislature in another state–that is until he would not promise never to raise taxes. The townspeople didn’t hear what they wanted to hear, so they decided to ditch him and take a 21-year old who would say the magic words, “I will never raise your taxes.” It is part of our self-centeredness, I think, that we would rather see government malfunction than to see justice done.

  9. Steve Gordy

    When, I wonder, did it become the GOP’s mantra that “There is no God but Reagan and Arthur Laffer is his prophet”?

  10. bud

    While an expenditure of less than $500 billion on our national defense is railed as exhorbitant and unjust!
    I love they way military spending is described as “national defense”. Who exactly are we defending ourselves from? The Mexicans? The Iranian? Seems to me that a half trillion dollars is far too much to spend on military crap that will almost certainly never be used. Heck, we still have no real use for the B-1 bomber or all those attack submarines.
    As for all the so-called “socialist” programs that right-wingers love to rant about, they have done a magnificent job of helping people have a better life. Sounds like money well spent to me.

  11. bud

    This brings us to what John McCain said this week: “No new taxes.” This was a reprehensible thing to say.
    Of all the utterly stupid, insensitive, boneheaded crap uttered by McCain lately and you pick up on this on rather bland, benign statement to get upset about. Not a peep about how he sold out on the torture issue. Nothing on his careless, hateful comment about more war. Complete indifference to his comment that we should stay in Iraq for 100 years. But a pledge not to raise taxes gets Brad in an uproar. Please, give me a break!
    This senile, insensitive war-monger absolutely must be defeated at the polls. That much is clear. But the tax comment is only a minor indescretion compared to the monstorous foreign policy atrocities this man is willing to commit.

  12. Doug Ross

    Another quote from McCain’s speech last night:
    “I will fight every moment of every day in this campaign to make sure Americans are not deceived by an eloquent but empty call for change … that promises no more than a holiday from history and a return to the false promises and failed policies of a tired philosophy that trusts in government more than the people,” McCain said.
    This doesn’t sound like the guy The State endorsed. Sounds like a red state Republican if I ever heard one.

  13. Richard L. Wolfe

    Brad, You should take about a half a day off and try and catalogue all the local, state and federal taxes we are already paying. Don’t forget all the licenses fees, cable and phone fees. Also, don’t forget to count the mandatory health care taxes that we already pay like medicare/medicaid. Don’t forget the additional consumer taxes like gas, tobacco, alchohol, hotels, rental fees, etc.
    If you run out of time then take the rest of the day off and keep counting. This no new tax pledge is the most intelligent thing I have ever heard McCain say.

  14. bud

    Ok, to give Brad a little credit I must admit McCain’s no-new-taxes pledge is somewhat of a big deal. Not as big as his war-mongering comments but important none-the-less. Coupled with his blood-thirsty zeal for more wars this comment can only mean a promise for greater budget deficits, largely financed by the Chinese. Faced with an ever increasing dependence on foreign oil from radical parts of the world Mr. Straight-talker continues to rattle the Islam cage by talking tough while refusing to use diplomacy in an ever more complicated world. This dangerous man must be stopped. The only hope is to support the Democratic nominee for president. Failure to do so will only condem us and our children to a very bleak future.

  15. Lee Muller

    No New Taxes is reality.
    Our tax burden has the economy balanced at its tipping point.
    Every federal tax increase brings a dramatic slowdown in economic investment, and it doesn’t take much to send things into a full recession.
    Bush and the GOP brought us out of the 2000 Clinton Recession with a tiny tax cut. Now the state and local governments have erased it with their own tax increases, and the economy has stagnated again.
    Any tax increases at any level will be result in less tax revenue, overall, to the governments. So Obama, and Hillary can promise socialized medicine and mortgage bailouts all they want to, but they cannot deliver it without massive deficit spending.

  16. weldon VII

    “I will fight every moment of every day in this campaign to make sure Americans are not deceived by an eloquent but empty call for change … that promises no more than a holiday from history and a return to the false promises and failed policies of a tired philosophy that trusts in government more than the people,” McCain said.
    Thank you for bringing that quote on board, Doug. That’s wonderful stuff. Sounds like McCain’s speechwriter intends to give Obama a run for his money.

  17. Doug Ross

    If McCain would deliver on his positions on taxes, education, and healthcare AND come out against any immigration plan that allows those who entered the country illegally to stay, I would vote for him over Obama. I can live with his position on the war because eventually the American public opinion will cause him to make concessions in that area.

  18. bud

    The problem Doug is that the American public opinion is reflected by the votes cast on election day. I care nothing about immigration or tax policy. The only taxes that ever get cut are the ones I don’t pay much of anyway like capital gains or dividends. Those can be raised to kingdom come for all I care. McCain’s healthcare plan is nonexistent and that is simply unacceptable in this era of corporate exploitation of the sick. But what I care most about is all this war-mongering hype. The man scares me.
    Of course we had a similar choice in 1964 and the American people overwhelmingly chose the peace candidate over the war candidate. In the end we had war anyway.

  19. Brad Warthen

    Thanks for reminding me of the “100 years” thing, bud. Just as I had meant to write this post for several days, I’ve been thinking about one on that. It would be a bookend to this post. The idea would be that it was probably the best thing I’ve heard a politician say in many a year. It is the precise opposite of the kind of pandering characterized by saying “no new taxes” or “out of Iraq now!” It has always been impossible to make progress there with the constant refrain of “can we get out NOW? Are we out YET?” McCain’s statement was a way of taking that off the table.
    When can we get out of Iraq? Sometime after we stop asking that question.
    Still want to know when? Ask me after we get out of Korea and Germany. I haven’t heard much about it lately, but as I recall we HAVE started phased withdrawal from Germany recently. I think, 64 years later, it’s safe to start doing that now.

  20. Doug Ross

    What’s out military presence in Vietnam (the last big undeclared war)? ZERO.
    Also, we have more troops in Iraq today than in Germany, Japan, and Korea COMBINED.
    Germany 75,603
    Japan 40,045
    South Korea 29,086
    How about Kuwait? Our other recent undeclared war. 10 soldiers. Ten.
    I think most Americans could live with a U.S. force somewhere below that of Korea (a REAL potential enemy of the U.S. with REAL WMD’s). The question is how soon we can get to that level.

  21. bud

    Brad, we waste billions of dollars “defending” enormously rich nations like Germany, Japan and South Korea. The American people have accepted that, as have the people of the nations we occupy (although in today’s paper there is an article suggesting the Japanese are getting a bit frustrated with the misbehavior of our troops). But just because the people accept something doesn’t make it right. It is still a gigantic waste of taxpayer money. I just don’t accept the idea that we need another nation to “defend” with an endless, and very expensive, deployment.
    But of course with Iraq it’s even worse than for the other nations. The presence of American soldiers in Iraq would be viewed by millions of Muslims as a cancer within their midst. The Germans and Japanese tolerate us because we spend lots of money and bolster their economies. I don’t think the folks of the middle-east would be so charitable, nor do I think the occupation would be so peaceful. The idea that we serve as the policeman of the world is really abhorant to me as it should be for every freedom-loving American.
    Once again I say it’s critical that we soundly defeat the fear-mongering messenger of war at the polls so we can again pursue the policies of peace and prosperity. With our attention forever focused on war we are ignoring critical problems such as $100/barrel oil. In the end those are the types of problems that will doom this nation, not a bunch of hapless radicals in the Middle-East who simply want us out of thier country. And who can blame them?

  22. TC

    I’m a democrat and McCain will give Obama a run for the money. Obama says he will tell us what we need to hear? He then signs on for the stimulus package that borrows another $200 million. Next, advocate $210 million more dollars for jobs creation through infrastructure and “green jobs” while promising the program adds no new budget dollars (says they are saved from the war we won’t be fighting. Excuse me but until we are out of Iraq we are spending the money). Next stop is to state it’s the government’s responsibility to fix the mortgage mess while promising $10 million for first time buyers (“regular folks”) that can’t save for a down payment. But we will make them sign another form or two as the previous 30 didn’t give borrowers enough information. Next stop national health insurance and to blame corporate America for not insuring everyone. Every proposal is more government. Obama isn’t a Democrat. He’s a socialist.

  23. Brad Warthen

    Here’s the link Steve was trying to provide. Personally, I have no fixed opinion on whether tax cuts are efficacious or not. That’s sort of my point. Sometimes they’re the thing to do; sometimes they’re not. Ditto with tax increases.

    My argument is with those who believe, regardless of evidence either way, that it makes sense to swear NEVER to increase a tax. It’s as stupid as promising ALWAYS to increase taxes. We just don’t have to worry about that one, since pandering always goes in the direction of appealing to voters’ cupidity, not the other way around.

    And that’s why it’s inexcusable to PROMISE you’ll do what believe who believe such things want. Cut taxes if you think that’s the thing to do at the time. Or increase them, if that’s what the situation calls for. But don’t insult my intelligence, and degrade yourself, by swearing ahead of time what you will do, regardless of circumstances.

  24. Lee Muller

    No one is making any pledge in a vacuum.
    The circumstances of the present are that taxes are too high, from a moral viewpoint and from a pragmatic viewpoint. There is no evidence to the contrary.
    Anybody who thinks they can get away with raising taxes when taxes are already at their saturation levels, is either naive or deceitful.

  25. Bob


  26. Steve Gordy

    Brad, I wasn’t making an argument for higher taxes as such; we need to make systematic efforts to cut and hold down spending first. However, the Lafferites have peddled this myth about “tax cuts always pay for themselves”; this licenses irresponsible behavior on the part of both President and Congress. It’s fun to believe you can have your cake and eat it too. Reality bites.

  27. Lee Muller

    Arthur Laffer never asserted that, “Tax cuts always pay for themselves.” He said that the economy would only recover from the “economic malaise” of Jimmy Carter by reducing spending to immediately reduce the deficits, and by simplifying and reducing income taxes (from 68% to 28%). He was right. It worked.
    Since the huge tax increases of 1993, and the larger tax increases at state and local levels, individuals have again been stripped of their cash for savings and discretionary spending. More tax cuts are necessary at all levels of government. The tax increases proposed by Democrats will send the economy into another one of their recessions.
    They know that. That’s why they propose running huge budget deficits. Pelosi and Reid tried to jack up this year’s deficit by $250 BILLION, but were beaten back.

  28. Lee Muller

    It’s the GOP’s fault that we haven’t run a surplus every year since 2002, with the extra revenues generated by the tax cuts’ boost of the economy.
    But if the Democrats had passed their proposed budgets, the deficit would have been $250 BILLION LARGER every year.
    Obama and Hillary both propose increasing the debt by another $500 BILLION a year.
    —– Proper levels of taxation ———–
    The proper level of taxation is when it is not enough to influence behavior. Sure indicators that a tax is too high is when there have to be exemptions, exceptions, and tax credit offsets in order to not stifle desirable social and economic behavior.

  29. bud

    It’s the GOP’s fault that we haven’t run a surplus every year since 2002 …
    -Lee Muller
    Here, Here! On this point I concur.

  30. Richard L. Wolfe

    I have a solution for the limo-libs. Put a section on 1040 that allows anyone to pay extra cash and then list all the government programs you can dictate the extra money goes to. The only problem is the income tax return would be 500 pages long. It is either that or give up your socialist god Karl Marx.

  31. Lee Muller

    Read the rest of what I said. As miserable as the GOP was at spending all the surplus revenue generated by the tax cuts, they prevented the Democrats from doubling the deficits.
    Hillary or Obama = instant recession.
    Their socialist rhetoric and threats to tax “the rich” (anyone making 1/2 a Senator’s salary), and businesses, has already scared investors out of stocks.

  32. bud

    Amazing isn’t it. We had Truman’s very unpopular Korean war. Eisenhower’s various recessions and unpopular civil rights initiatives. Kenneday’s Bay of Pigs. Johnson’s Vietnam. Nixon’s Watergate. Ford’s Pardon of Nixon. Carter’s Hostage fiasco. Reagan’s deep, nasty recession and Lebonese fiasco. Bush Sr.’s “no new taxes” and Clinton’s Lewinsky affair. Yet none of those president’s has fallen below our current POTUS in popularity. He definitly has gone where no other man has gone before – a sub 20% approval rating.

  33. Lee Muller

    If you missed the last official recession, which began in 2000. The NBER originally dated the beginning as March 2001, which still makes it a Clinton recession, but they revised that to November 2000, based on data which came in later:
    * Industrial production peaked in September 2000, and plunged.
    * Manufacturing jobs and trade volume peaked in October 2000, and plunged.
    * The unemployment rate bottomed at 3.8 percent in April 2000, and started deteriorating steadily from there (during the Clinton administration).
    * The fed funds rate — the overnight interest rate administered by Alan Greenspan and the Federal Reserve — peaked at 6.5 percent in 2000, and had to be lowered in an emergency move on January 3, 2001, “in light of further weakening of sales and production” (during the Clinton administration).

  34. bud

    Keeping his record of consistency in tact Lee’s facts are wrong again. The last quarter of the Clinton era saw an unemployment rate of 3.9%. That is by all accounts full employment. There was no steady decline from April 2000 on. That is simply flat out wrong. The real deterioration in the job picture began with the Bush, Jr. administration and we’re still suffering sluggish job growth. The 4.9% rate in January, though not particularly high, is still a full point higher than it was in the last quarter of the Clinton years. The actual size of the labor force actually dropped in January which allowed a small decline in unemployment in spite of a reduction of 17,000 jobs.
    What we have is a sick economy resulting from the ongoing failures of the Bush administration to address the very real problems in manufuacturing, housing and the credit industry. Ironically the public sector is helping to soften the blow as the Bush administration continues to expand the size of government, mainly through huge military expenditures. The free-market sector of the economy is a basket case that the next administration will have to address.
    And one of the candidates has openly declared that he knows very little about economic issues. Why would we give someone like that a chance to fail the American people yet again? The answer is clear, vote Democrat in 2008.

  35. Lee Muller

    Bud, all my stats come from the NBER, which declared the last recession beginning under Clinton, in November 2000. Since you have better sources that the US Treasury Dept, FED, NBR and BLS, maybe you should share them with us.
    Or, just stop making them up, and face reality – the tax increases and huge deficits proposed by Democrats are already bringing on an economic slowdown.
    Most of the consumer spending during the Clinton malaise came from people borrowing against the equity in their homes and 401-k accounts. We’re seeing that play out now.

  36. Lee Muller

    $38 BILLION paid in error in 2005
    The 2005 GAO Audit found that
    “For fiscal year 2005, 18 agencies reported improper payment estimates for 57 programs totaling in excess of $38 billion, which is $7 billion less than the $45 billion reported for fiscal year 2004.8 Of the 18 agencies reporting improper payment estimates, 14 agencies had one or more programs with improper payment estimates exceeding $10 million, and thus were required to prepare and implement a plan to reduce improper payments and report on actions taken.” In fact, GAO suggested the estimate should be “markedly higher.”
    Another $24 BILLION annually could not be accounted for at all in 2000, 2001 and 2002. By 2003, President Bush had reduced that to $3.4 BILLION missing. – U.S. Department of the Treasury, 2003 Financial Report of the United States Government, pp. 126, at 03frusg.html (March 28, 2005).
    When Dick Riley ran the Dept of Education, there was no bookkeeping system, and employees spent over $100,000,000 unaccounted annually on department credit cards.
    Under Bruce Babbitt, over $1 BILLION disappeared from the savings accounts of children on Indian Reservations, yet no one was charged with a crime.

  37. bud

    Lee of course is wrong. I don’t claim to have better sources than the NBER but apparently I can read better. This is from Lee’s oft cited NBER web site:
    CAMBRIDGE July 17 — The Business Cycle Dating Committee of the National Bureau of Economic Research met yesterday. At its meeting, the committee determined that a trough in business activity occurred in the U.S. economy in November 2001. The trough marks the end of the recession that began in March 2001 and the beginning of an expansion. The recession lasted 8 months, which is slightly less than average for recessions since World War II.
    What this means is that there was no recession during the Clinton adminstration. Granted, the Bush recession which began in March, 2001 was precipitated, in part, by the dotcom collapse of 2000. But I clearly remember Bush jawboning the economy down during the 2000 presidential campaign. His words and actions early in his presidency proved to be the final straw which pushed the economy over the edge. The fact that economic activity did not hit bottom until November illustrates how ineffective his economic policies were. It’s also true that even after the economy officially hit bottom job growth remained sluggish until about 2005. And now we’re entering a new era of very soft job growth, coupled with high inflation and weak wage growth. It’s pretty clear that Bush Jr. has been a very poor steward of the nation’s economy. The facts speak for themselves.

  38. Lee Muller

    bud, you posted stale stuff from July 17, 2001, which the NBER revised in 2002. I already posted their revision placing the beginning of the recession in Nov 2000. But even the original March 2001 date makes it a Clinton Recession, because GW Bush had only been in office 5 weeks, and had not signed one piece of economic legislation.
    I hope you are learning something, and not just helping lurkers to learn by your mistakes.

  39. bud

    Everyone please take note of this. Lee is STILL wrong. The NBER report I cited clearly references events that occurred in November 2001. Therefore this could not have been written in July 2001 as Lee incorrectly points out. I believe it was the latest revision of events and was written in July, 2003.
    In any event the economy was not in recession in November 2000, that much is pretty clear since fourth quarter (2000) growth was positive. I would suggest that GW had a profound effect in shaping the economic activity (in a negative way) with his continued bad-mouthing of the economy and scary policy proposals, even before any legislation was signed. The full impact of his bad policies had repurcussions far after the recession officially ended. Job growth in manufacturing never did recover and this all set the stage for the now-developing Bush, Jr. II recession.

  40. Lee Muller

    Since GW Bush had only been in office 5 weeks when economic growth went negative, how was it his recession?
    As I already posted from official sources, the economy peaked and began its decline much earlier:
    * employment and imcomes began delcining in April 2000.
    * manufacturing and exports began a serious decline in September 2000.
    And Clinton ran huge deficts every year, despite increase the personal income tax on working families by 50%, from 28% to 42%. He cut it in half for investmet bankers and venture capitalists.

  41. Lee Muller

    Income tax rates on working Americans increased 50% under Bill Clinton. Hillary says salaried and hourly employees need to pay more.
    Our capital gains tax rate was also raised to 35%, among the highest in the world. Many European nations have no capital gains taxes, and no dividends taxes, in order to encourage savings.
    Meanwhile, Clinton and the Democrats in 1993 reduced the long-term capital gains for investment bankers and venture capitalists to 14%.
    Democrat voters are suckers.


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