“The progressive philosophy might not be perfect, but when you see consistency in failure, you can’t help but think the [conservative] philosophy is flawed,” said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) at a Center for American Progress Action Fund event Tuesday. After an introduction by CAPAF Senior Vice President for External Affairs Winnie Stachelberg, Hoyer scrutinized the conservative governing philosophy practiced by George W. Bush—with such tenets as prohibiting intervention in free markets—and concluded it’s greatly damaged the country in areas such as the economy, health care, foreign policy, and energy.
“Republicans have clearly failed on the economy,” Hoyer said, providing numbers that helped paint a picture of the country under conservatives as opposed to progressives. Regular gas prices have more than doubled, from $1.46 a gallon when Bush took office to $3.78 in August of this year. Poverty went down by 3.5 percent under the Clinton administration, and up 1.2 percent under Bush. And Clinton created an average of 216,771 jobs a month during his term compared to Bush’s 36,846.
These numbers suggest stark differences in managing the economy. “When you take the referees off the field, the game becomes chaotic,” said Hoyer, referencing conservatives’ laissez faire approach to the market. This approach, Hoyer said, failed to prevent the abusive lending at the heart of the subprime mortgage crisis, leaving record-high foreclosure rates.
Bush also touted tax cuts as the driver of economic growth while racking up a projected 10-year budget deficit of $3.4 trillion. When Clinton took office, the country had a budget surplus of $5.6 trillion. What’s worse is that Bush refuses to admit this policy is wrongheaded. He’s consistently insisted these “pro-growth” policies are working.
As for health care, Hoyer pointed out that Bush took office in 2004 with a promise to enroll millions of poor children in government health care programs. Bush then proceeded to veto the State Children’s Health Insurance Program last year, which would have expanded access for almost 4 million additional uninsured children. His excuse? It would federalize health care. Meanwhile, the number of Americans without health insurance has increased by 8.6 million under his leadership.
The laundry list of failed policies runs long, and includes foreign policy and energy. Bush’s Iraq war has lasted longer than World War II and run up an enormous price tag, while the Taliban continues to regroup in Afghanistan. And the Bush administration has done almost nothing to combat global warming or reduce dependence on foreign oil, continuing to push for offshore drilling.
“After 9/11, Bush had an opportunity to start ending oil dependence. Instead, he told us to ‘go shopping,’” said Hoyer.
Hoyer believed it was time to “put the referee back on the field” and start implementing policies to put the country back on track. Depending on the outcome of the November election, Democrats could pass a slew of legislation that would help turn the economy around, build energy independence, and provide common-sense regulation to the market.
“In the end, facts Americans can see in their lives are more convincing than any speech or political ad,” said Hoyer. “The facts will set us on the right path.”