What Bush Did Right
The things he did wrong were really wrong:
President Bush presided over the near collapse of the American economy. He neglected a war that was thrust upon us to fight a war that he never should have begun. His judicial appointments consistently place conservative ideology before the law. And his administration flouted the laws banning torture. On the eve of President Obama’s first election, only 23 percent of Americans approved of Bush’s job performance.
And, yet, he appears moderate compared to today’s Republican Party.
- Medicare: Bush signed Medicare Part D, a popular program that expanded Medicare to provide prescription drugs to seniors. While Medicare Part D was far from perfect — it was not paid for, and it included a gap in coverage that was later closed by the Affordable Care Act — it is nevertheless an important prong of America’s commitment to provide health coverage to seniors. Post-Bush Republicans, by contrast, voted to gradually phase out the entire Medicare program in 2011. Although Mitt Romney ran on a somewhat different version of this plan, he still campaigned on a promise to eliminate traditional Medicare and replace it with a voucher system. Several Republicans have even claimed that Medicare is unconstitutional.
- AIDS: Bush’s most significant contribution to the world may be the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, which currently provides antiretroviral treatment to more than 4 million people abroad. As of the middle of last year, the United States had spent about $46 billion on this lifesaving program. The Republican budget, by contrast, includes sharp cuts to our foreign aid budget, and at least one tea party senator called for “eliminating wasteful things like foreign aid.” This tea party view closely resembled Romney’s proposals as well.
- Fuel Efficiency: Bush signed the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, which will gradually raise fuel efficiency standards to 35 MPG by 2020. Meanwhile, House Oversight Chair Darrell Issa (R-CA) attacked Obama Administration efforts to increase fuel efficiency further, claiming they limited consumers’ ability to choose to buy more wasteful cars. If Republicans had won the White House in November, they likely would have halted increased fuel efficiency in its tracks.
- Minimum Wage: Bush signed legislation increasing the minimum wage from $5.85 an hour to $7.25 an hour, although he also pushed to couple the bill with tax breaks of the kind normally favored by Republicans. House Republicans unanimously opposed a minimum wage hike last month. Because the minimum wage is not indexed to inflation, low-wage workers’ pay effectively goes down every year that the minimum wage is not increased.
- Immigration: To their credit, several Republicans finally appear poised to lift the blockade on even modest immigration reform they imposed during President Obama’s first term. The immigration bill currently making its way through the Senate would not have been necessary, however, if a similar bill backed by Bush had become law in 2007.
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