The very rich got richer and the rest of us paid for it. Classic Republican success.
Thursday’s annual Census Bureau report on income, poverty and access to health care-the Bureau’s principal report card on the well-being of average Americans-closes the books on the economic record of George W. Bush.
It’s not a record many Republicans are likely to point to with pride.
On every major measurement, the Census Bureau report shows that the country lost ground during Bush’s two terms. While Bush was in office, the median household income declined, poverty increased, childhood poverty increased even more, and the number of Americans without health insurance spiked. By contrast, the country’s condition improved on each of those measures during Bill Clinton’s two terms, often substantially.
The Census’ final report card on Bush’s record presents an intriguing backdrop to today’s economic debate. Bush built his economic strategy around tax cuts, passing large reductions both in 2001 and 2003. Congressional Republicans are insisting that a similar agenda focused on tax cuts offers better prospects of reviving the economy than President Obama’s combination of some tax cuts with heavy government spending. But the bleak economic results from Bush’s two terms, tarnish, to put it mildly, the idea that tax cuts represent an economic silver bullet.
Consider first the median income. When Bill Clinton left office after 2000, the median income-the income line around which half of households come in above, and half fall below-stood at $52,500 (measured in inflation-adjusted 2008 dollars). When Bush left office after 2008, the median income had fallen to $50,303. That’s a decline of 4.2 per cent.
That leaves Bush with the dubious distinction of becoming the only president in recent history to preside over an income decline through two presidential terms…
the summary page on the economic experience of average Americans under the past two presidents would look like this:
Under Clinton, the median income increased 14 per cent. Under Bush it declined 4.2 per cent.
Under Clinton the total number of Americans in poverty declined 16.9 per cent; under Bush it increased 26.1 per cent.
Under Clinton the number of children in poverty declined 24.2 per cent; under Bush it increased by 21.4 per cent.
Under Clinton, the number of Americans without health insurance, remained essentially even (down six-tenths of one per cent); under Bush it increased by 20.6 per cent.