Our Country's Problems Didn't Start With Obama
The American people often debate the merits of two theories of creation. One traces the origin of the universe to a "big bang" roughly 14 billion years ago. The other asserts that the universe was formed over seven days of divine creation some 6,000 years ago.
Recently, however, a third theory has emerged that acknowledges no credible -evidence of anything significant occurring before 12 noon on Jan. 18, 2009, when Barack Obama took the oath of office.
OK, the theory's proponents might not actually believe that, but it's clear that they want you to. John McCain has even come up with an acronym, BIOB (Blame It On Bush), which neatly divides our national timeline in much the same way that the Before Christ and Anno Domino divide the Christian timeline.
BIOB's effect is twofold. It implies that when the president and his supporters refer to the condition of the country when he took office, they do so to deny their own responsibility. More subtly, by referring to George Bush specifically, it focuses whatever responsibility there was before Barack Obama took office squarely upon the former president.
Fiscal conservatives consider George W. Bush to be an aberration, a free-spending moderate rather than a strict conservative, and there's something to that.
But focusing on that aspect of Bush's legacy conveniently shields mainstream conservatives from the culpability -inherent in Ronald Reagan's legacy, the precept that government is the problem - the belief that government should -provide for the protection of its people, then get out of the way and let capitalism do its job.
In that respect, George Bush was very much a mainstream conservative. We have a reference for the limitations of minimal government. You hear it every time the current recession is called "the worst since the Great Depression."
Franklin Roosevelt took the lessons from the Depression and created regulatory restraints to prevent another as part of the New Deal (over the protests of the Republican Party) 70-odd years ago. All we had to show for a progressive tax code and reasonable regulation was the dominant economy of the 20th century.
Republicans, who have spent the past 30 years repealing New Deal reforms, would rather you not look at that. Their mantra is that government equals taxes and taxes kill jobs. If you limit government, you limit taxes and create jobs.
But think about it. Is it always taxes that kill jobs? Don't escalating insurance premiums kill jobs? Don't spiraling energy costs kill jobs?
Don't corporate malfeasance and the unavailability of credit due to bad bets placed by banks kill jobs? Doesn't a health-care system that each year consumes a higher percentage of our income limit discretionary spending in a way that kills jobs?
Like it or not, there's only one cop who can walk those beats. To be sure, that cop bears watching. But this recession was born of our own overindulgence and the limitations we've foisted upon government, not from government's excesses.
We're paying the price for our excessive borrowing. But that proclivity was aided and abetted by financial institutions that were getting far too creative in coming up with ways to make money off our debt - institutions unrestrained by reasonable regulation like the Glass-Steagall Act passed in 1933 to control speculation by banks. (It was repealed by the Depository Institutions Deregulation and Monetary Control Act of 1980 and, with the complicity of the Clinton administration, the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999.)
Our prosperity depends upon the vitality of our private sector. We should be wary of unnecessary encumbrances on commerce. But willfully fostering the illusion that corporate America can be trusted to police itself or to equate the role that government must play to "socialism" rather than the protection of capitalism is beyond foolhardy. It's -economic suicide.
One party's prospects depend upon you not remembering. Our country's prospects depend upon you not forgetting.
Kevin Smith lives in Aberdeen. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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