George W. Bush is back. After the pleasantly bipartisan opening of his presidential library, his father's glorious sock-wearing and his brother's highly anticipated first steps toward a run for president, his approval rating has now climbed above that of his successor, President Obama. And the support he is receiving is coming from unexpected corners: even New York Times blogger Paul Krugman, a former Enron consultant, has jumped on the "Miss Me Yet?" bandwagon.
In a recent blog post, Krugman compares the response of the Bush administration to the 2001 recession to that of the Obama administration to the Great Recession, and finds that president Bush oversaw a response that was quite superior. Referring to current fiscal policy as "amazing" in how bad it is, he argues that W's policies, including to some extent the war in Afghanistan and the liberation of Iraq, helped the U.S. economy recover from the outfall of the tech bubble burst and the 9/11 attacks.
The graph below shows how different Obama's response to the Great Recession has been: in spite of persistent high unemployment, government spending, even in nominal terms, slowed relatively soon after the recession – and where Krugman claims that Bush helped the recovery through his national-security policies, Obama hindered it.
Who would have thought? It feels like only yesterday when Krugman referred to himself as "a premature anti-Bushist who pointed out how terrible a president he was back when everyone else was praising him as a Great Leader." As Carmen Twillie sang in '94: "It's the Circle of Life / And it moves us all / Through despair and hope / Through faith and love / Till we find our place."
Stan Veuger is an economist at the American Enterprise Institute.
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