Bush’s Fiscal Failures: Andrew Samwick is Shrill

Andrew Samwick greets the departure of Karl Rove with some frank discussions of Bush’s fiscal failures:

Medicare Part D was a betrayal of conservatism. Conservatives are supposed to see fiscal responsibility as their friend, precisely because the need to pay for what the government does should constrain the overall size of that government. This Administration let go of fiscal responsibility early in its first term and has been undermined by its absence ever since. (With the current budget target, weak as it is, we are essentially in a pay-as-you-go situation, so it’s not quite so bad.)

The President’s attempt at Social Security reform was the first casualty. The reason to reform Social Security is its long-term fiscal imbalance. The President understood that, even if his rhetoric was at times hyperbolic or misleading. The President lost all credibility on using that as a motivation for reform when he decided that the short-term non-entitlement budget imbalances “don’t matter” and when he passed a Medicare expansion whose unfunded obligations were larger than those in Social Security. That was contradiction number one …

Contradiction number two came from the President’s statements that he wanted to “strengthen” the system. It is reasonable to believe that strengthening an entitlement program means putting more resources into it. There was no plan put forward by the Administration, even in the form of a trial balloon, that tried to strengthen the system with new resources. That doesn’t mean the proposals were bad ideas, but it does mean that the honest description of what his plans due is to pare back projected future spending so that it is balanced by projected future revenues. The President’s intentions here were both conservative and (to use Rove’s word) ambitious. They just weren’t presented coherently, and so they got nowhere.

This notion that the President’s legacy on matters of fiscal policy – which will be written by historians (and bloggers!) that Rove can’t spin – will be anything but a severe and harsh critique is what I consider the Myth of Rove.

While Andrew did work for this Administration for a while, I sense he never drank the Kool Aid. I hope more conservatives can speak up as to how this White House has utterly failed us on fiscal policy.