His actions may not even be legal. Congress considered this bailout and rejected it, while Mr. Bush’s treasury secretary publicly said that using the original bailout funds for automakers would be unlawful without congressional action. The legality of these actions cannot be challenged unless the right party brings a lawsuit, but the fact that ordinary taxpayers cannot bring a lawsuit against federal spending does not change the fact that everyone agreed the first bailout could not be extended to automakers. President Bush therefore usurped the legislative function, doing something Congress refused to do.
The federal government’s shoulders are not big enough to carry a $13 trillion economy. A system of limited government cannot control enough of our economy to fully stave off the consequences of widespread recklessness. Painful corrections are inevitable.
The parallels to the 1920s and 1930s are remarkable. Republican President Calvin Coolidge was a staunch conservative, presiding over the Roaring Twenties. Republican President Herbert Hoover was a moderate who tried major government intervention in the face of the economic downturn of 1929, with disastrous results. This then gave an excuse to incoming Democrat President Franklin Roosevelt to radically expand the federal government, spending untold sums in an effort to end the Great Depression.
But those efforts failed miserably. They did nothing to ameliorate the Great Depression, which instead got even worse in the late 1930s after five years of FDR’s New Deal programs. It was only World War II - the largest military conflict in world history - that finally revived this nation’s economy.
We must learn from these bitter lessons of history. Like Mr. Coolidge, President Ronald Reagan was a conservative whose policies laid the foundation for long-term economic growth. Like Mr. Hoover, President Bush is a moderate who is trying to tackle an economic downturn with big-government intervention. Enter President-elect Obama, promising to emulate Mr. Roosevelt with an unprecedented, radical expansion of the federal government.
Only Republicans offer the conservative principles that can address our economic woes. Since our outgoing president has abandoned those principles - and never adhered to some of them - the GOP must speak with a different voice. The GOP must be the voice of reason before America goes past the point of no return in trading a capitalist economy for a socialist state.
Everyone who knows President Bush will tell you he is an extraordinarily warm and pleasant person, and a true gentleman. Contrary to the left’s portrayal of him, Mr. Bush is full of compassion.
But that is not enough. Some industries need change that government cannot provide. In a free market, company mismanagement and union shortsightedness result in corporate reorganization, not government involvement at the cost of countless billions of dollars that only delays the inevitable.
The Republican Party was once the champion of limited government and economic freedom. President Bush’s recent actions have thoroughly distorted that image. It will take strong leadership for the GOP to reclaim its small government and free market reputation.