He watched it happen to his father.
The early years of the first President George Bush’s term were marked with international crises and a short, victorious conflict.
Patriotism re-emerged in a form that was arguably the strongest it had been since before the Vietnam War. And the people got behind their president. His approval ratings were high, his leadership, for the most part, unquestioned.
But then, the economy turned south. It sputtered and tripped. It struggled to get back on its feet.
And Bush took the brunt of the public’s anger. He was defeated in his re-election attempt by a relatively unknown governor from Arkansas.
Now President George W. Bush must be experiencing dÃ©jÃ vu. Many of the same events that saw his father’s early exit from the White House are lining up yet again, this time against him.
Just like his father, Bush saw a national crisis turn into an international conflict and result in sky-high approval ratings. He has also seen, despite an economic plan that gave Americans tax relief, the economy slip out from underneath him.
A frightening indicator arrived late last year when the unemployment rate rose substantially. Surely fearing a fate similar to his father’s, Bush released an updated economic plan that he said will create more than 2 million jobs in the next few years.
But why did Bush need a new plan? Why did his initial plan fail?
Bush’s plan, which was part of his platform when he ran for office, seemed simple enough. The president wanted to cut taxes and return money to the taxpayers. The public, he figured, with more money in their collective pockets, would spend more and boost the economy.
But, critics argued, a tax break was more meaningful for the rich, and working class Americans benefited little. One thing is for sure: Americans who are not working cannot benefit from a tax break.
Bush, without actually saying so, acknowledged that his original plan had struggled. Two key economic advisers resigned recently, presumably after being asked to do so. Even as the president’s new plan emerges, his economic team is being revamped.
Bush knows that all he needs is an economic improvement to give him the solid inside track for a second term. But failure to stimulate the economy could open the door for numerous Democratic candidates waiting in the wings.
Bush also must realize that happy Americans are working Americans. And so, Bush’s new plan smartly focuses on the current job problem.
The plan, spread over 10 years, calls for tax cuts and federal spending to increase the job market. The federal money will be directed into job training and unemployment programs.
Bush’s original tax reduction plan will be accelerated, and small businesses that upgrade will receive tax breaks.
In addition, Bush’s plan will reduce taxes for corporations in hopes of boosting stocks and revitalizing a struggling market.
As expected, it did not take long for Bush’s plan to draw criticism. Some critics point out that the idea of cutting taxes to stimulate the economy has been tried already and failed. Others say that the 10-year plan is much too long. They say the economy simply needs an immediate shot in the arm.
Democrats argue that the cuts benefit the wealthy. The corporate tax cut, they say, may stimulate wealthy companies, but will hurt small and start-up businesses.
Also, the Democratic leadership says it is worried about the deficits the president’s spending could create. With an aging population, they say, money for retiree programs may run out.
While the normal partisan bickering is expected in Washington, what will the advent of the plan mean for rank-and-file Americans?
It remains to be seen whether unemployment will decline and an economic stimulation occur. Some media and critics have pointed out that reduced taxes will lower the amount of money available to states.
Florida has struggled with budget issues for some time now. Money has been hard to come by for several state programs. Notable among these are the universities, which have seen their budgets cut numerous times.
USF has struggled mightily with budget cuts. Class offerings have been reduced, and professors have been forced to take greater loads. Will USF and other institutions around the country be able to recover from more budget cuts? It appears as though they’ll find out soon.
All in all, it seems the states will have to do more with less. But by making some sacrifices, will the overall economic picture be a bit rosier? Only time will tell.
But, Bush may not even have to rely on his new economic plan to save the day. War looms on the horizon. Both Iraq and North Korea have become hot spots in recent months, and troop mobilizations are underway.
War, quite simply, is good for the economy. World War II was largely responsible for the end of the Great Depression. The Vietnam War helped the American economy in the 1960s. When the government increases defense spending, the economy benefits.
With a war coming in the second half of his term as opposed to the first half in his father’s, could Bush see a stimulation of the economy that begins not in a Washington or Wall Street office, but on a battlefield a world away?
Bush might be worried about how a costly war may affect his re-election chances. But Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon were both re-elected during the Vietnam War, despite an at least somewhat disgruntled public. However, the senior Bush, despite strong support for his handling of foreign affairs, saw his approval rating drop because of an ailing economy at home.
It seems Americans, by nature, are worried more about what is happening in their day-to-day lives than in some distant land.So, if history repeats itself, as it often does, a war may help ease Bush back into the White House.
A lot will happen in the next two years. But Bush’s latest economic moves show he is worried. He wants a revitalized economy. He wants to get back to the late 1990s. And, most importantly, he doesn’t want to end up like his father. He doesn’t want to be sitting on his ranch in Texas wondering what might have been.
Will this current plan have any effect? Well, a lot more affects an economy than a single economic plan. But, with an unstable world, no one can predict what the next few years will bring.
Bush can only wait and hope people start making and spending a bit more money. His job relies on it.