With the success of the onslaught to remove Saddam Hussein, attention there turns to follow-on, cleanup and getting a viable democracy going. Here, attention turns to getting the U.S. economy going.
President Bush I enjoyed great success in the first Iraq war, yet he failed to win re-election 18 months later for two principal reasons, neither of which had much to do with the priapic Bill Clinton. One was the presence in the race of the strange Ross Perot, who wound up taking 19 percent of the vote - most of it from instinctive Republicans. The other was Bush I's incompetent handling of the economic issue, primarily his dervish tergiversation following his adamant, "Read my lips. No new taxes!"
Bush II probably cannot prevail in November 2004, if the economy is further deteriorating or still stagnating - or not clearly recovering. And anyone seeking Bush II's defeat next year is generally one who still wishes Al Gore had done better in Florida in 2000 and dreams of, next time around, victory by say a ticket consisting of John Kerry and Bob Graham.
Government can do only a few things to encourage economic stability and confidence. Liberals broadly favor the same or higher taxes and pay lip service to slight reductions in spending; these days, as newly feathered budgetary hawks, they profess to finding horror in the merest deficit. Conservatives broadly favor lower taxes and major spending reductions.
Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan - 77, in place since 1988 and recently re-appointed by President Bush in a gesture to steadiness - has done what he can by leading a three-year plunge in overnight interest rates from 6.5 percent to 1.25 percent. Greenspan supports reduced taxes in conjunction with reduced spending.
Two years ago President Bush won a $1.3-trillion, 10-year tax cut - the principal (and overwhelming) negative of which is that those cuts will revert to pre-2001 levels unless extended permanently. This year the Republican president proposed a 10-year, $726-billion tax cut. The Republican House lowered that to $550 billion, and the Republican Senate to $350 billion. John Snow, named treasury secretary principally for his vaunted powers of persuasion, cannot name a single member of Congress he has converted to the president's plan.
And the inquiring mind has to wonder what some of those distinguished Republican congresspersons are smoking.
To borrow the great Perot's most memorable words, "think about" these economic things...
Ross Mackenzie lives with his wife and Labrador retriever in the woods west of Richmond, Virginia. They have two grown sons, both Naval officers.
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