One of the most entertaining spectacles of this election cycle is watching Jeb! Bush try to marry his genial, moderate patrician demeanor to the kind of sneering, condescending Tea Party dialogue that, having incubated for years in right-wing media, has now burst out of the host Republican Party’s abdominal cavity to spray acid in the eyes of anyone who dares get near it. It’s the same awkward fusion Mitt Romney attempted four years ago, though no one really noticed until the general. Jeb has the decency to do it during the primaries so we’ll all have more time to enjoy watching him flail.
Bush followed up his recent “hey black people, no more free stuff for you!” moment by sitting for an interview with John Harwood on CNBC, and hoo boy, does the former Florida governor sound like a man so far down the rabbit hole he might emerge on the other side of the planet. Over the course of just a few minutes, he manages to twist himself into so many knots trying to rescue his brother’s legacy while simultaneously suggesting that President Obama is several steps to the left of Vladimir Lenin, by the end you could salt him and sell him from a Times Square pretzel cart.
Take this answer to Harwood’s question about why the country has seen more economic growth when Democrats have held the White House versus Republicans over the last 35 years.
BUSH: First of all, I think you have to factor in that policies have long-term impacts. So the tax reform of the 1980s created an environment that President Clinton took advantage of. The PAYGO budget compromise, where there was an increase in taxes, but there was, more importantly, a rule that every dollar of additional spending required a cut in spending, was very effective in restraining government during the Clinton era, as well.
So President Clinton, who raised the top marginal tax rate from 31 percent to 39.6 percent in 1993 (after Bush’s own father George H.W. Bush had raised it from 28 to 31 percent in 1990) got lucky by taking advantage of…Ronald Reagan’s tax reforms that lowered the top rate to 28 percent in the first place?
If Bush is arguing that Clinton benefited from PAYGO, sure, but that act was signed by his father in 1990 and stayed in effect until 2002. President Obama signed a renewal of it in 2010. Since then, the budget deficit has actually decreased.
In other words, in eras without PAYGO (the 1980s and 2000s), the country ran huge deficits. In eras with PAYGO (the 1990s and the Obama years) the deficit has gone down or disappeared altogether. How is this making Bush’s case? And considering that domestic programs have been cut to the bone during the wild budget battles of the Obama era, can Bush name what he’ll cut in order to lower tax rates and keep the deficit down? I’d have liked to hear that answer.
BUSH: Programs need to be paid for. If you're going to expand another entitlement, like Obamacare or part D of Medicare, there should be some consistent plan to pay for them because we do have a structural deficit, and it's serious.
The Congressional Budget Office, of course, has consistently found that Obamacare will not increase the deficit in the medium- to long-term. Medicare Part D blew a huge hole in the deficit that part of Obamacare in fact has tried to fix. To put the two programs in the same category is disingenuous at best.
Something else the country should pay for instead of putting it on the national Visa? Unfounded military invasions and wars. Unfortunately Harwood doesn’t seem to have asked about those. Which is too bad. Jeb might have floundered so hard on the answer he would have fallen right out of his seat.
BUSH: …Bill Clinton didn't reject the new normal. He signed trade agreements to expand trading opportunities. He was not hostile to capitalism.
HARWOOD: You really think Obama's hostile to capitalism? Trans-Pacific Partnership—he's moving forward. South Korea, Colombia, he finished those agreements that your brother had moved down the line.
BUSH: I definitely do. I think he has a deep-seated belief that through government programs and through government regulation, you can improve the social condition.
I would love to see polls on this question that sample the sorts of people who don’t attend Federalist Society dinners or spend all of their free time on Daily Caller comments threads:
Pollster: Do you think President Obama is hostile to capitalism?
Randomly Sampled American: Can you call back later? I’m going to be late to my third job.
Barack Obama is as hostile to capitalism as he is to Portuguese Water Dogs. But it’s an article of faith on the right that he hates America and wants to destroy it from within, so Jeb! Bush has to pay lip service to that idea. Even though he knows deep down that it is nuts. Didn’t our nation’s lineup of robber barons and plutocrats just find $100 million in change in their couch cushions to throw at Bush for his campaign? Anyone who sees his bank account fattened like that has to figure capitalism in America is not in trouble.
Though who knows, maybe Obama goes home at night and repeatedly kicks Sunny and Bo in their heads for fun.
Jeb goes on to yada yada his brother’s terrible economic record in order to push his line that hey, forget about history, this time tax cuts will work, trust me! He would have made a fortune as a travelling hair tonic salesman in the Old West.
If his polls are any indication, even the Republican base isn’t falling for the Bush family con job this time around. But there is still plenty of time before the voting starts.