NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

The Bushes and The Economy

October 7, 2002

In recent weeks, a number of analysts have started drawing comparisons between the economic situation under President George H. W. Bush (Bush 41) and the current president, George W. Bush (Bush 43). Not all of them are happy ones

Both Bushes:

  • Became totally preoccupied with Iraq to the exclusion of almost everything else.
  • Presided over economic recessions that were very slow to end.
  • Seemed utterly uninterested in economic policy and avoided their economic advisers like the plague -- advisers who were often unwilling or unable to confront both presidents about the economic reality, and said little publicly except that everything is okay.

To be sure, the economy is in better shape today than it was at a similar point in the elder Bush's administration.

  • Then, taxes were being increased, rather than cut, and interest rates were considerably higher.
  • At the beginning of the 1990-91 recession, the Federal Reserve had the federal funds interest rate at 8.25 percent, and by this point in that recession it had only fallen to 4.75 percent.
  • At the beginning of this recession in March of last year, the fed funds rate was at 5.5 percent and today is at just 1.75 percent.
  • But while some economic comparisons between Messrs. Bush 41 and 43 may be different, the public perception is almost the same -- people feel then and now that the Bush White House isn't really interested in their personal concerns, caring only about foreign policy (see chart).

Bill Clinton understood that you have to feel peoples' pain and show that you care, even if you can't actually do anything. He also understood that "it's the economy, stupid." This seems to be a lesson the Bush family has never learned.

Source: Bruce Bartlett, senior fellow, National Center for Policy Analysis, October 7, 2002


Browse more articles on Economic Issues