Bush’s Economic Plan? Avoid Overcorrecting

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At least he is consistent. As the economy crumbles around him, our “What Me Worry?” President is lame duck walking his way off stage with a remarkably consistent display of incompetence. With the same combination of incomprehension and insolence he displayed following 9/11 and Katrna, Bush tries to assure the country that the government must guard against going too far in trying to fix the troubled economy, cautioning that “one of the worst things you can do is overcorrect.”

I get it. “Heckofajob” Brownie was actually demonstrating great leadership when he refused to “overcorrect” after Katrina. Bush demonstrated great leadership when he refused to follow up and actually find Bin Laden during the battle of Tora Bora –that would have been overcorrecting.

Watching Bush address the Economic Club of New York yesterday, Gail Collins, in a New York Times column commented that,

you had to wonder what the international financial community makes of a country whose president could show up to talk economics in the middle of a liquidity crisis and kind of flop around the stage as if he was emcee at the Iowa Republican Pig Roast.

“We’re really past expecting anything much, but in times of crisis you would like to at least believe your leader has the capacity to pretend he’s in control. Suddenly, I recalled a day long ago when my husband worked for a struggling paper full of worried employees and the publisher walked into the newsroom wearing a gorilla suit.

“The country that elected George Bush–sort of–because he seemed like he’d be more fun to have a beer with than Al Gore or John Kerry is really getting its comeuppance. Our credit markets are foundering, and all we’ve got is a guy who looks like he’s ready to kick back and start the weekend.”

Home prices are plummeting, foreclosures are soaring, the Fed pumps billions into propping up Bear Stearns and his Treasury Secretary belatedly starts talking about overseeing cowboy mortgage lenders, but the President is sure that our country is still “the economic envy of the world” and that “sending out over $150 billion into the marketplace in the form of checks that will be reaching the mailboxes by the second week of May” will cure it all.

As we continue the slide into recession, what are Bush’s plans that will correct without overcorrecting? Here is more from Collins on Bush’s leadership in a crisis:

This is not the first time Bush’s attempts to calm our fears redoubled our nightmares. His first speech after 9/11 – that two-minute job on the Air Force base – was so stilted that the entire country felt like heading for the nearest fallout shelter. After Katrina, of course, it took forever to pry him out of Crawford, and then he more or less read a laundry list of Goods Being Shipped to the Flood Zone and delivered some brief assurances that things would work out.

O.K., so he’s not good at first-day response. Or second. Third can be a problem, too. But this economic crisis has been going on for months, and all the president could come up with sounded as if it had been composed for a Rotary Club and then delivered by a guy who had never read it before. “One thing is certain that Congress will do is waste some of your money,” he said. “So I’ve challenged members of Congress to cut the number of cost of earmarks in half.”

Besides being incoherent, this is a perfect sign of an utterly phony speech. Earmarks are one of those easy-to-attack Congressional weaknesses, and in a perfect world, they would not exist. But they cost approximately two cents in the grand budgetary scheme of things. Saying you’re going to fix the economy or balance the budget by cutting out earmarks is like saying you’re going to end global warming by banning bathroom nightlights.

Bush pointed out – as if the entire economic world didn’t already know – that Congress has already passed an economic incentive package that will send tax rebate checks to more than 130 million households. “A lot of them are a little skeptical about this ‘checks in the mail’ stuff,” he jibed. Jokejoke. Winkwink.

Then, after a run through of “ideas I strongly reject,” Bush finally got around to announcing that he was going to “talk about what we’re for. We’re obviously for sending out over $150 billion into the marketplace in the form of checks that will be reaching the mailboxes by the second week of May.

“We’re for that,” he added.

Once the markets had that really, really clear, Bush felt free to go on to the other things he was for, which very much resembled that laundry list for Katrina (“400 trucks containing 5.4 million Meals Ready to Eat – or M.R.E.’s … 3.4 million pounds of ice …”) This time the rundown included a six-month-old F.H.A. refinancing program, and an industry group called Hope Now that offers advice to people with mortgage problems.

And then, finally, the nub of the housing crisis: “Problem we have is, a lot of folks aren’t responding to over a million letters sent out to offer them assistance and mortgage counseling,” the president of the United States told the world.

But wait – more positive news! The secretary of Housing and Urban Development is proposing that lenders supply an easy-to-read summary with mortgage agreements. “You know, these mortgages can be pretty frightening to people. I mean, there’s a lot of tiny print,” the president said.

If you want to watch the video of Bush’s remarks to the Economic Club of New York, you can via CSPAN Personally, I don’t have the stomach for it.

As his final legacy, Bush has 310 days to refuse to overcorrect his way from a recession to a depression. A Bush Depression will be the icing on the cake of the worst Presidency of modern times.

Meanwhile,

The Design firm the PRD Group has been chosen as the “interpretive planner” for President Bush’s library and museum at Southern Methodist University.

Dan Murphy, founder of PRD, describes his mission: “We’re not really just trying to put a front cover and back cover around eight years of a presidency,” he said. “We have a much bigger story about America and about the history of the presidency and about the American experience. … We’ve got a great, great, great story.”

The architect for the project said that there will be “no bombast or boredom” to Bush’s library.

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