I hope NPR will forgive me for printing a large hunk of their interview with former President Bush’s former speechwriter, and the link to the whole piece is here.
Not on the transcript– Frum was saying that an evaluation of President Obama’s steps to deal with the economic crisis will not be complete for several years, as all the effects play out. Then he referenced the former President. I was surprised at his harsh assessment, and at his acknowledgment of the high cost of health insurance as a drag on the economy. This supports President Obama’s argument that repairing the health care crisis is necessary to repairing the economy, especially for working people.
DAVID FRUM: Last week, the Census bureau delivered its report on American incomes in 2008. We can put this report together with the seven previous to reach a final verdict on the economic record of President George W. Bush. It’s not good.
In terms of income growth and poverty reduction, Bush performed worse than any two-term president of the modern era. Even in the best year of his presidency, 2007, the typical American household still earned less after inflation than in the year 2000. The next year, 2008, American households suffered the worst income drop since record-keeping began six decades ago.
In my Republican party, there is worryingly little discussion of this damning trend. We do criticize ourselves for over-spending in office. But economic management gets much less, almost zero, internal discussion.
So, what went wrong? Liberals criticize the Bush tax cuts, but it’s impossible to see any causation between lower taxes and the failure of incomes to gain ground. All three of the previous major tax cuts in U.S. history — in the 1920s, 1960s, and 1980s — were followed by very strong income growth.
The more plausible culprit is the surge in health care costs. Over the years from 2000 to 2007, the price employers paid for labor rose handsomely: on average, 25 percent. Yet for the typical worker, none of that extra cost translated into higher wages.
How much of that cost went to huge bonuses and outrageous profits for insurance corporations? It’s a tall order to expand coverage and keep costs down, a limit on profiteering has to be part of the plan.