Posts filed under “Think Tank”

Baby Bush: The Worst President in History?

Doug Casey is chairman of Casey Research, and is a best selling author, international investor, and entrepreneur. He travels the world looking for exceptional opportunities in real estate and undervalued companies in the natural resource sector (precious metals, oil and gas and more). The author of four best selling books, his Crisis Investing was #1 on the New York Times best-seller list for 29 consecutive weeks.

Casey is a libertarian, with a mean streak of political independence. The typical Bush bashing is an emotional jeremiad that alienates readers and proves nothing; Instead, Casey’s conservative critique of the last president is a calm, cogent, rational analysis of the last President’s legislative, budgetary, and foreign affairs accomplishments. I found it devastating.

Given our recent discussion of the Obama White House tactical errors, and the anniversary of 9/11, I thought this was as good a time as any to share Doug’s views.

Enjoy.

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Baby Bush: The Worst President in History?

By Doug Casey

I recognize that I’ve antagonized many subscribers over the years with “Bush Bashing.” In the January TCR, just after OBAMA!’s election, I said I wouldn’t mention Bush again, his departure having made him irrelevant. I only feel bad that he and his minions will apparently get away scot-free with their crimes; better they had all been brought up before a tribunal and tried for crimes against humanity in general and the U.S. Constitution in particular. But that is objectively true of almost all presidents since at least Lincoln.

Most of our subscribers appear to be libertarians or classical liberals — i.e., people who believe in a maximum of both social and economic freedom for the individual. The next largest group are “conservatives.” It’s a bit harder to define a conservative. Is it someone who atavistically just wants to conserve the existing order of things (either now, or perhaps as they perceived them 50, or 100, or 200, or however many years ago)? Or is a conservative someone who believes in limiting social freedoms (generally that means suppressing things like sex, drugs, outré clothing and customs, and bad- mouthing the government) while claiming to support economic freedoms (although with considerable caveats and exceptions)? It’s unclear to me what, if any, philosophical foundation conservatism, by whatever definition, rests on.

Which leads me to the question: Why do conservatives seem to have this warm and fuzzy feeling for George W. Bush? I can only speculate it’s because Bush liked to talk a lot about freedom and traditional American values, and did so in such an ungrammatical way that it made him seem sincere. Bush’s tendency to fumble words and concepts contrasted to Clinton’s eloquence, which made him look “slick.”

I’m forced to the conclusion that what “conservatives” like about Bush is his style, such as it was.  Because the only good thing I can recall that Bush ever did was to shepherd through some tax cuts.  But even these were targeted and piecemeal, tossing bones to favored interests, rather than any  principled abolition of any levies or a wholesale cut in rates.

Is it possible that Bush was actually the worst president ever? I’d say he’s a strong contender. He  started out with a gigantic lie — that he would cut the size of government, reduce taxes, and stay out of foreign wars — and things got much worse from there.

Let’s look at just some of the highpoints in the catalog of disasters the Bush regime created:

No Child Left Behind. Forget about abolishing the Department of Education. Bush made the federal government a much more intrusive and costly part of local schools. Project Safe Neighborhood

Project Safe Neighborhoods. A draconian law that further guts the 2nd Amendment, like 20,000 other unconstitutional gun laws before it.

•  Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit. This the largest expansion of the welfare state since LBJ and will cost the already bankrupt Medicare system trillions more.

Sarbanes-Oxley Act. Possibly the most expensive and restrictive change to the securities laws since the ‘30s. A major reason why companies will either stay private or go public outside the U.S.

Katrina. A total disaster of bureaucratic mismanagement, featuring martial law.

Ownership Society. The immediate root of the current financial crisis lies in Bush’s encouragement of easy credit to everybody and inflating the housing market.

Nationalizations and Bailouts. In response to the crisis he created, he nationalized Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and passed by far the largest bailouts in U.S. history (until OBAMA!).

• Free-Speech Zones. Originally a device for keeping war protesters away when Bush appeared on camera, they’re now used to herd.

The Patriot Act. This 132-page bill, presented for passage only 45 days after 9/11 (how is it possible to write something of that size and complexity in only 45 days?) basically allows the government to do whatever it wishes with its subjects. Warrantless searches. All kinds of communications monitoring. Greatly expanded asset forfeiture provisions.

The War on Terror. The scope of the War on Drugs (which Bush also expanded) is exceeded only by the war on nobody in particular but on a tactic. It’s become a cause of mass hysteria and an excuse for the government doing anything.

Invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. Bush started two completely pointless, counterproductive, and immensely expensive wars, neither of which has any prospect of ending anytime soon.

Dept. of Homeland Security. This is the largest and most dangerous of all agencies, now with its own gigantic campus in Washington, DC. It will never go away and centralizes the functions of a police state.

Guantanamo. Hundreds of individuals, most of them (like the Uighurs recently in the news) guilty only of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, are incarcerated  for years. A precedent is set for anyone who is accused of being an “enemy combatant” to be completely deprived of any rights at all.

Abu Ghraib and Torture. After imprisoning scores of thousands of foreign nationals, Bush made it a U.S. policy to use torture to extract information, based on a suspicion or nothing but a guard’s whim. This is certainly one of the most damaging things to the reputation of the U.S. ever. It says to the world, “We stand for nothing.”

The No-Fly List. His administration has placed the names of over a million people on this list, and it’s still growing at about 20,000 a month. I promise it will be used for other purposes in the future…

The TSA. Somehow the Bush cabal found 50,000 middle-aged people who were willing to go through their fellow citizens’ dirty laundry and take themselves quite seriously. God forbid you’re not polite to them…

Farm Subsidies. Farm subsidies are the antithesis of the free market. Rather than trying to abolish or cut them back, Bush signed a record $190 billion farm bill.

Legislative Free Ride. And he vetoed less of what Congress did than any other president in history. The only reason I can imagine why a person who is not “evil” (to use a word he favored), completely uninformed, or thoughtless would favor Bush is because he wasn’t a Democrat. Not that there’s any real difference between the two parties anymore…

As disastrous as he was, I rather hate to put him in competition for “worst president” in the company of Lincoln, McKinley, Wilson, the two Roosevelts, Truman, Johnson, and Nixon. He is simply too small a character — psychologically aberrant, ignorant, unintelligent, shallow, duplicitous, small-minded — to merit inclusion in any list.

On second thought, looking over that list of his personal characteristics, he’s probably most like FDR, except he lacked FDR’s polish and rhetorical skills. I suspect he’ll just fade away as a non-entity, recognized as an embarrassment. Not even worth the trouble of hanging by his heels from a lamp post, although Americans aren’t (yet) accustomed to doing that to their leaders.

Those who once supported him will, at least if they have any circumspection and intellectual honesty, feel shame at how dim they were to have been duped by a nobody.

The worst shame of Bush — worse than the spending, the new agencies, the torture, or the wars — is that he used so much pro-liberty and pro-free-market rhetoric in the very process of destroying those institutions. That makes his actions ten times worse than if an avowed socialist had done the same thing. People will blame the full suite of disasters Bush caused on the free market simply because Bush constantly said he believed in it.

And he’s left OBAMA! with a fantastic starting point for what I expect to be even greater intrusions into your life and finances. Eventually, the Bush era will look like The Good Old Days. But only in the way that the Romans looked back with nostalgia on Tiberius and Claudius And then Nero. And then the first of many imperial coups and civil wars.

Category: Bailouts, Politics, Think Tank, War/Defense

Import Prices

August Import Prices rose 2% m/o/m, higher than estimates of a gain of 1%. The y/o/y drop was 15% mostly due to the fall in energy prices since last summer. Ex all fuels, m/o/m prices rose .4% and are down 5.1% y/o/y. The month of August saw little change in the $ but that of…Read More

Category: MacroNotes

China remains the straw that stirs the global economic drink

The most important country in the world, China, in terms of lighting the match under global economic growth had a slew of economic data overnight and the positive reaction sent the Shanghai index to a 3 week high. Most importantly, August Bank loans totaled 410.4b Yuan, about 90b more than expected and through 8 months…Read More

Category: MacroNotes

30 year bond auction

The 30 year bond auction was solid as the yield at 4.238% was below expectations of 4.27-4.29%. Also, the bid to cover at 2.92 is the highest since the 30 year was reintroduced in Feb ’06 and well above the average over the past year of 2.32. Indirect bidders totaled 46.5%, slightly below the previous…Read More

Category: MacroNotes

Bill King: Bond Divergence

> During European trading on Wednesday, the dollar fell to a new ’09 low. This produced a SPU rally into the NYSE open. US traders then poured into stocks on a ‘cash is trash’ rally. But that was it for the rally. As we have asserted for months the major prop under stocks is dollar…Read More

Category: Think Tank

Morning stuff

The July Trade Deficit totaled $32b, almost $5b more than expected and is up from an upwardly revised $27.5b in June. It’s the highest since Jan and was due to a bigger than expected rise in imports which were up 4.7% while exports were up just 2.2%. Imports were in part boosted by a 7.6%…Read More

Category: MacroNotes

Questions For Us All

Good Evening: Despite some mid day misgivings, U.S. stocks rose a fourth straight day on Wednesday. Mirroring the back and forth nature of the day, both the corporate and economic news was mixed, with the Fed’s Beige Book release garnering most of the attention. The dollar, too, was behind some of the volatility, since the…Read More

Category: Markets, Think Tank

The New Auto Industry Breakdown

Nice Mint chart, via Jess Backman of WallStats: > click for 3X larger graphic

Category: Bailouts, Think Tank

Fed’s Beige Book

The Beige Book describes economic activity as stabilizing and an uptick from the July report that called ‘economic weakness moderating.’ With respect to overall activity, 5 districts saw signs of improvement, Dallas said activity has ‘firmed’, while 5 said things are stable or showing signs of stabilization. St. Louis said the pace of decline appeared…Read More

Category: MacroNotes

The S&P’s in non US$ terms

Yesterday I quantified the S&P 500 results going back to Sept ’98 in gold terms and its 70% decline. Let’s look at the S&P’s over the same time frame for overseas investors who have currency exposure. In US$’s, the S&P 500 over the past 11 years is up 3% in total (not including dividends) but…Read More

Category: MacroNotes