The George W. Bush Presidential Library is ready to open and the former president is giving interviews doubling down on the mantra that guided his administration: compassionate conservatism.
So it is time to decisively and deeply bury the decayed remnant of the Bush years in an impenetrable political tomb with a stake through its heart.
Ronald Reagan and Barry Goldwater both wished to limit government and defend individual liberty. Unlike them, Dubya sought to use the federal government as a tool to create a better society in accordance with his vision.
Bush simply accepted that that the welfare state was here to stay, explaining recently that “entitlement was already in place” and “we were modernizing an antiquated system.”
He explained that “The best way … to understand what I meant by ‘compassionate conservative’ is to look at the programs we implemented and look at the results.” Okay, let's do that!
Bush increased the federal budget during his eight years by over 100 percent adjusting for inflation, more than any of his recent predecessors, including Lyndon Johnson. Bush also pushed up discretionary spending by nearly 100 percent as well. So blame him for setting the pace for Obama’s even-greater spending spree.
The Bush prescription drug mandate not only added to the national debt but also set the groundwork and momentum for Obamacare.
The Bush “No Child Left Behind” program to mandate federal education standards on local schools has been fraught with problems, such as “teaching to the test.” Education has not improved because of this costly and intrusive program; in fact, over the past three decades, as federal spending on education has grown, education results have stagnated.
Today Bush argues that he wants to “defend principles and help implement policy based upon those principles.” But “compassionate conservatism” has nothing to do with principles. It’s an arbitrary hash of subjective “feel-good” big-government policies that push America further down the road to Western-European-style welfare state collapse.
The Republican Party is engaged in a civil war concerning which ideas should guide it in the future. The statist policies of Bush and other establishment Republicans—John McCain, Mitt Romney—are to blame for tarnishing the GOP brand, resulting in recent election losses. If the Republicans want to return from the political dead, they’d better bury the Bush legacy for good.
Hudgins is director of advocacy and a senior scholar for The Atlas Society.
For further reading:
*Edward Hudgins, “ GOP Should Invite Social Conservative Extremists To Leave. ” April 4, 2013.
*Edward Hudgins, “ Obama Offers More of the Same Failed Education Ideas. ” February 15, 2013.
*Robert Bidinotto, “ Up From Conservatism. ” March, 2007.
Edward Hudgins is research director at the Heartland Institute and former director of advocacy and senior scholar at The Atlas Society.