George W. Bush is the second Republican president in a row, after his father, to leave office breaking a promise; a fairytale.
During his nomination acceptance speech at the 1988 Republican National Convention, President George H.W. Bush famously thundered, "Read my lips, no new taxes."
Then Governor Bill Clinton turned the words against Bush in an unforgettable attack ad that set Clinton on a sure path to victory, entitled, "The George Bush Promise."
The ad featured Bush making his memorable "no new taxes" declaration over a swell of foreboding music, followed by an enduring voiceover that all but destroyed the president's character and credibility in less than 18 seconds: "Then [President Bush] gave us the second biggest tax increase in American history," the voiceover says, "Bush increased the gas tax by 56 percent."
Unfortunately, the ad created a fallout that was limited in its scope to the political career of President Bush. Democrats missed an opportunity to draw broader lessons; to connect the necessity for that tax increase to the effects of Reagan's tax cuts and deficit spending on defense; ultimately, to expose the inherent shortcomings of a political philosophy that encourages selfishness.
The Republican Party philosophy is that of the grasshopper in Aesop's fable, "The Ant and the Grasshopper." The reader will remember how the grasshopper wastes his summer days singing and chirping "to its heart's content," while the ant toils, stocking provisions of wheat and corn for the winter. (Right now, that ant is China). When winter arrives, the ants live merrily and the grasshopper freezes and starves to death.
In the 1934 Walt Disney version, released in the midst of the last great American economic disaster, the grasshopper (blue with cold) is allowed inside and given a tub of warm water in which to place his feet and a bowl of soup. He survives.
(A dozen or so other pundits and columnists have used the old fable as an analogy in the last month.)
The Chief Grasshopper in 2008 finds himself in the stormy and brisk winds of October as he enters his last 100 days in the White House. America has $10 trillion of debt.
For eight years, President Bush has said, "Read my lips, no nationalized anything," preaching instead the doctrine of selfishness and market-centered greed in every sector.
"We need," Bush said on January 28, 2004, "to keep...the private market strong [read: keep the rich getting richer], by resisting efforts that are happening in Washington, D.C., to say the federal government should be running health care...I believe the best health care system is that health care system generated in the private markets."
In reality, we have a costly health care system, adding to our national debt. America pays nearly twice as much per capita as Switzerland, who has the second most expensive health care system in the world.
In fact, in 2004 our health care system cost $6,000 per capita--its even more expensive today. By contrast, the recent $700 billion bailout cost every American $2,000. Our health care system costs the equivalent of a $2.1 trillion bailout EVERY YEAR.
Grasshopper Bush wants you to keep singing and chirping because that annual $2.1 trillion is flowing into the pockets of the insurers and the care providers, never to be seen again. We'll pick up the tab.