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If President Obama is a socialist because he passed an economic stimulus bill just as former President Bush did, and if he is a socialist because he continued Bush’s bank bailout, then that makes Bush a socialist as well? That of course is absurd. Read the full version at www.home.roadrunner.com/~nickgier/ObamaCentrist.pdf

Obama is Distressingly Centrist

If President Obama is a socialist because he passed an economic stimulus bill just as former President Bush did, and if he is a socialist because he continued Bush’s bank bailout, then that makes Bush a socialist as well? That of course is absurd.

In October 2008, with the world financial markets on the verge of total collapse, the Bush administration passed–with the help of 91 GOP representatives and 34 GOP senators–the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). Bush also was the first to use TARP money—$17 billion—for saving GM and Chrysler.

After repayments, the latest figure on the TARP balance sheet is $89 billion of the $245 billon doled out. The largest debtor outstanding is AIG, which is soon expected to send $83 billion back to the U.S. Treasury. Instead of being angry, the American people should proud of the fact that Bush and Obama prevented another Great Depression.

I have mixed feelings about saving GM and Chrysler, although some claim that one million jobs were saved in the process. I’m impressed when I read that some Chrysler models are now getting 30-40 mpg, but I cringed when I heard an ad for the new Jeep Cherokee (15 mpg city).

I cheer when I read that the Chevy Volt has received very positive reviews. Let us hope that at least GM’s stock will, once again, climb to a level where the taxpayers can cash out their equity and get out of the car business.

The Obama stimulus plan been a great disappointment in the area of job creation, but we should remind ourselves that the Bush administration passed a $168 billion stimulus package in February of 2008. That bill increased consumer spending by 3.5 percent, but the unemployment rate jumped from 5 to 7.7 percent by the time Obama took office. Bush added 3.5 percent to Clinton’s record, but Obama added only 2 percent during two years of the Great Recession.

The current GOP program calls for leaving the Bush tax cuts in place, but let’s look the employment record of the Bush administration. In his 2006 State of Union speech Bush boasted that his tax cuts had created 4.6 million jobs since 2001. What Bush neglected to say was that 2.6 million jobs had been lost during that same time. Significantly enough, 2.8 million of Bush’s new jobs came on line because of government spending not private enterprise.

During 2004-5 jobs grew at a paltry 1.5 percent compared to Clinton’s 3.1 percent in 1994-95. Contrary to Republicans who claim that their policies produce more jobs, Lyndon Johnson’s 3.6 percent (‘64-‘65) and Jimmy Carter’s whopping 5.3 percent (‘77-‘78) was far better than Ronald Reagan’s 2.1 percent (‘85-‘86), all non-recession years.

Republicans are complaining about Obama’s deficits, but it is important to note that 52 percent of the debt is due to Bush’s tax cuts and his stimulus package, 20 percent is due to the recession, 16 percent is due to Obama’s policies, and 12 percent to other causes. The figures come from the Center for American Progress. See www.americanprogress.org/issues/2009/08/deficit_numbers.html

The charge that Obama is the most leftist president ever is ludicrous. In right-wing rhetoric “leftist” can mean just about anything with which they disagree, but I guess a “lefty” would be one who is soft on terrorism.

Under Obama detainees in Afghanistan still do not have habeas corpus rights, Gauntanamo is still open, and Bush’s military tribunals, with a few more legal safeguards, are still in session.

Obama’s use of drones in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Oman makes Bush’s record look rather whimpy. The attacks amount to arbitrary executions and as such they stand as violations of international law. In the last 18 months Obama has ordered more drone attacks than Bush did in his last three years.

With regard to the drug war in South American, a decidedly non-leftist Obama has continued the U.S. policy of fumigating coca crops and supporting the Columbian military, whose human rights record is abysmal. The American aid is obviously not working: Columbian coca production has increased 27 percent.

Charges from the right about Obama’s policies are mostly unfounded, and they say more about how extreme right his critics are, not about how far left he is. The facts prove that he is pragmatic, overly cautious, and distressingly centrist.

Nick Gier taught philosophy at the University of Idaho for 31 years. Read or listen to all of his columns at www.NickGier.com

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