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Joseph A. Palermo Headshot

A Fitting Denouement to the Era of George W. Bush

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The worst financial collapse since the Great Depression is somehow a fitting end to eight miserable years under the worst presidential administration in United States history. Franklin D. Roosevelt told the nation that the economic collapse he inherited after twelve years of Republican Party dominance proved that unbridled greed is not only bad morals but also bad economics. As we witness the Bush Administration, the Federal Reserve, and the Congress scurry around like rats seeking higher ground in a flash flood to bail out the largest economy on Earth before it plummets into depression, we Americans should take a good hard look at how stupid we were to allow these charlatans and hucksters -- yes, including John McCain -- trick us into trusting them with the levers of power.

George W. Bush has run the United States like an adolescent boy whose parents have left for the weekend and he throws a wild party for his buddies that leaves the front lawn torn up, the windows broken, and dad's favorite car totaled. Then he just shrugs it off knowing that mummy and daddy will clean up the mess for him he has left behind.

The Democratic Party should be very grateful right now that primary voters had the good sense to nominate Barack Obama instead of Hillary Clinton. Although the deregulation frenzy started with Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and Robert Rubin, (who should be immediately thrown under the bus, along with Lawrence Summers, by the Obama campaign as "advisers"), played a pivotal role in this financial catastrophe. We told Clinton as loudly as we could NOT to sign the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, but he did it anyway. Clinton's economics, sometimes called "Rubinomics," differed with George W. Bush's radical laissez-faire/white-collar criminal philosophy only in a matter of degree. The same failed deregulatory policies dominated both administrations. This financial meltdown, which is going to cause real suffering at home and around the world, was a long time coming, and we should place the blame squarely on the Reagan-Bush-Clinton-Bush management of the economy (if one can even call it "management"). If the Democratic Party had nominated Hillary Clinton the Clinton Administration's deregulatory record would be hanging around her neck right now like a millstone.

The decades of Republican economic policies, embraced by Bill Clinton (who said that government is neither "the problem" nor "the solution"), with the constant denouncing of the role of government in our society have weakened the United States in a far more fundamental way than Al Qaeda ever could.

Barack Obama offers a clean break from the past economic policies that have failed so miserably. He comes to the American electorate free of the baggage of buying into the deregulation fantasies of the past 30 years, which have been nothing more than a frontal assault on the institutional legacies of FDR's New Deal that Republicans, including John McCain, have been railing against since the time Herbert Hoover denounced them back in 1936. Said Hoover: "I vetoed the idea of recovery through stupendous spending to prime the pump. . . . I threw out attempts to centralize relief in Washington for politics and experimentation. I defeated other plans to invade States' rights, to centralize power in Washington. Those ideas were born of American radicals. . . . Rejecting these ideas we Republicans had erected agencies of government which did start our country to prosperity without the loss of a single atom of American freedom."

Republicans like John McCain and George W. Bush, along with their Blue Dog Democratic allies like Bill Clinton, shoved Milton Friedman down the nation's throat as a sorry replacement for John Maynard Keynes.

Richard Nixon, when he was president, had famously concluded: "We are all Keynesians now." Guess what? Nixon was right -- just take a look at what's happening right now with the federal government providing Socialism for rich Wall Street speculators and brute capitalist competition for everyone else.

The hundreds of billions of dollars that we taxpayers are now lavishing on Wall Street could have built 500 state-of-the-art hospitals our citizens could have used for decades; or we could have modernized the entire infrastructure of the nation; or built bullet trains linking our cities; or invested in alternative energy resources and new green technologies; and so on and on and on. But what we get is nothing. We just get a continuation of the status quo where the rich get richer and smaller in number and the poor get poorer and larger in number.

Electing Barack Obama president is the only way we might have a chance to throw these greedy, right-wing philistines out of office and have the opportunity to try to move the nation forward from the Bush-McCain catastrophe. We might not be able to do it. It will take decades. But we must try.