Bush has now begun his campaign for renewal of "fast track" authority, which expires in July. Under fast track, Congress agrees to give up its constitutional right to amend trade treaties.
But to give Bush a blank check to negotiate trade treaties after his record trade deficits makes as much sense as giving him a blank check to launch another war. Some adult has got to grab the steering wheel here.
In closing, the president delivered a little disquisition on history to the editors. Reading it, one has the sinking feeling of that professor of Civil War history who, at semester's end, was asked by one of his students, "Sir, why were all the major Civil War battles fought in national parks?"
Said Bush: "Sometimes, nativism, isolationism and protectionism all run hand in hand. We've got to be careful about that in the United States. The 1920s was a period of high tariff, high tax, no immigration. And the lesson of the 20s ought to be a reminder of what is possible for future presidents."
What is President Bush talking about?
Under Harding-Coolidge and Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon, tariffs were indeed doubled to 38 percent, but imports were only 4 percent of GDP and most imports came in duty-free. And Wilson's wartime income tax rates were not raised, but slashed from Wilson's 72 percent to 25 percent.
When Harding took office, the unemployment rate was 12 percent. When Coolidge went home, it was 3 percent and America was producing 42 percent of the world's manufactures. Between 1922 and 1927, the economy grew at 7 percent a year, the largest peacetime growth ever. They were not called The Roaring Twenties for nothing, Mr. Bush.
As for "nativism," the immigration law of 1924 simply cut back immigration to 160,000 a year, and declared that the racial and ethnic profile of America was fine and should not be altered. Sam Gompers agreed. A. Philip Randolph wanted immigration stopped.
Thanks to that law, by the 1950s, almost all immigrants and their children had been fully assimilated and Americanized. What was wrong with that, Mr. President? Or do you and your Journal acolytes simply not like the country you grew up in?
Ronald Reagan, who loved Cal Cooldige, went to Eureka College. Bush, who thinks the Republican Era of the 1920s a disaster, was educated at Yale and Harvard. Maybe that's the problem.