I don't think George W. Bush is quite the "Green Acres"-like dolt his detractors make him out to be. But it's a fairly safe bet that once historian Robert Caro completes his umpteenth volume on Lyndon Johnson, an extensive biography of the 43rd President won't be the next project on his docket.
His second-term accomplishments thus far clearly answer the answer to the ancient Zen koan "What is the sound of one hand clapping?"
What were to be the two centerpieces of his final four years -- tax reform and Social Security -- have, unlike Mark Twain, died unexaggerated deaths.
His panel on tax reform took nearly one year, and 10 or so regional meetings, before being shelved, while his plan to privatize Social Security was D.O.A. roughly five minutes after his re-election speech.
In the interest of space and time, I won't touch the situation in Iraq, nor his recent claim that high tax revenues were responsible for helping the government reduce the budget deficit faster than originally anticipated.
Okay -- maybe I'll briefly address the latter. Last week the folks at 1600 came out with the news that the federal government is projected to finish the fiscal year on Sept. 30 with a deficit of $296 billion, about $127 billion less than initially forecast. On the surface, that's pretty good.
Tax receipts will total about $2.4 trillion, close to $119 billion more than expected. That stems largely from a spike in corporate tax payments, which rose roughly 19 percent.
Not surprisingly, the folks from the other side of the aisle and a handful of non-partisan analysts maintain that even bad news appears better when compared to horrible news, (read) "the tax receipts this year look pretty good in comparison to weak years of the past."
The nation's chief executive pointed to his tax cuts as the fuel behind an economic resurgence, conveniently omitting that while yes, the fiscal year deficit may be less than initially projected, spending during this administration has resembled a spoiled teenager maxing out her parent's credit card at Nordstrom.
As proof, one could painfully point to the fact that deficit has climbed from $5.6 trillion the year Bush 43 took office, to $8.3 trillion now.
The president has gone through two Treasury secretaries and is currently on its third. The first, Paul O'Neill, was elbowed out in 2003 after public complaints about the "diminished standing" of the Treasury post in the Bush Administration.
O'Neill's successor, John Snow, ineffectively pitched the administration's economic policies like Social Security reform, and wasn't able to spearhead reform of the Tax Code.
Treasury Secretary No. 3, Wall Street investment banker Henry Paulson, has been a vocal supporter of increasing corporate governance in the wake of the massive scandals such as Enron and WorldCom. He also has commented publicly that the United States has to resolve its mounting deficits in both trade and spending.
Paulson, the former head of Goldman Sachs, stated that he wants to ensure that the country doesn't backpedal from its role leading the world economy, and is likely to command a box seat with regard to helping shape economic policy.
Somebody has to.
Because the only thing worse than one hand clapping, is no hands clapping.
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