12 May 2006

Comparing the Clinton Years to the Bush Years

Christopher Althouse pointed to this poll. (UPDATE: might help to link the poll, directly)

After reading the poll, I'm not surprised at the results, but my main reaction was to quote George Santayana.

Here's why.

(as an addendum, any web piece regarding a poll should contain a link to the abstract of all the details, from the precise questions asked, to the method of asking, to the statistical tools used to yield the results, or else)

Question one, who did a better job at handling the economy, Clinton 63 Bush 26.

The perception, Clinton was great, everything was boom, boom, boom, and it had to do with the fiscal restraint that Clinton showed. Compare that to the constant and awful recession and/or jobless recovery we've suffered during the Bush years and the choice is obvious.

The reality, Clinton had he not lost the House in '94 would have taxed and spent this country into an earlier recession, but for the Gingrich gang and glorious gridlock, the greater girth of the government would have gone on with gratuitous abandon during Clinton's 2nd term. Also much of Clinton's economic miracle was a mirage caused by a speculative bubble. His erasing of the deficit was based on projections from the mid-90s on an overheated tech-based bubble economy that never translated into actual wealth. Just look at the Forbes figures for Bill Gates in that era as he went from a 20Billionaire to a 90Billionaire and back down to the paltry 40Billionaire that he is today. All those false billions that disappeared after the bubble collapsed were calculated into the figures of how the deficit was demolished. Contrast that to today. Now real wealth has been created. A broad-based recovery fueled by lower, simpler taxes has expanded prosperity to every corner of the nation and every income level (folks that say otherwise are lying and using statistical tricks to do so). Lower, and simpler taxes still will help keep the prosperity going, not a return to greater 'progressivity' in the tax code. The reason folks in a 2-1 margin perceives things incorrectly is partly because folks are making more money, but less secure in their position, and the constant drumbeat of negativity from the press.

Question two, Solving the problems of ordinary Americans Clinton 62 Bush 25

Perception, Clinton was so good at 'feeling my pain', Bush just smirks and ignores the little guy while whooping it up with other 'fat cats'.

Reality, Clinton was a master of emotionalizing, and projecting sincerity (sincerity is a great thing to be able to fake). Anyone who feels it's the federal government's responsibility to solve their own problems is one of two things, deluded or a Democrat. The very idea that the federal government should be in a position or has the responsibility to 'solve the problems of ordinary Americans' is precisely what's wrong with the discourse regarding politics and government today. Government should do as few things as possible, and do them well. The government should be an honest referee, and not be in the business of picking winners and losers. Anyone who thinks the government should step in and assist in solving their problems, forgets that for every one of their problems the government 'solves' they will likely cause a dozen problems for everyone around them. Government shouldn't be about greasing the squeaky wheels. Government should be about staying out of the way of everyone, and letting them sort out in an equitable manner the conflicts and problems that they themselves helped create. The very concept of asking that particular question suggests a bias towards statism and against dynamism inherent in those asking the questions, and those that commissioned the poll.

Foreign Affairs, Clinton 56 Bush 32.

Perception, Clinton had us in peace, and the world loved us, Bush has us at war, and isolated, hated across the globe.

Reality, When Clinton wasn't ignoring genocide on a massive scale (Rwanda) he was negotiating with dictators and accepting their word on matters vital to global peace and prosperity (Arafat, and Kim). Guess what, the dictators lied, people died, and the 'peace' of the Clinton years was a facade paid for shortly after he left office. He ignored terrorist attack after terrorist attack, content with no fly zones and cruise missle attacks. He treated terrorism on US soil as a police matter rather than an attack on our sovereignty and the first rumblings of a very real war. On the global stage, the Clinton years were an utter, total and ultimately dangerous waste, that has made the subsequent confrontation far worse than what it would have been had there been a leader in those years willing to do the unpopular but necessary actions that leaders must be willing to do. Bush has been the complete opposite. Luckily he's president during these times, setting up the framework for an active pursuit of Islamofascists, rather than waiting for the next attack, and treating it like any other street crime. Better a bleak decade or two now, than the very real possibility of global retrenchment and uncertainty for half a century.

Taxes Clinton 51 Bush 35

Perception, Clinton managed to help the little guy while forcing the fat cats to pay their fair share while under Bush, the rich light their cigars with 100 dollar bills while the average citizen has to sell their kidney to buy a tankful of gas.

Reality, Clinton did little on taxes, he was hamstrung by the Republican led House. Had he had his way he would have raised taxes and choked off even the false prosperity of the bubble that he presided over. Bush's tax policy has lead to a MORE progessive tax distribution, not less, the top 50% of earners pay 96.54% of taxes, that's not a misprint, that's the reality. What this poll proves is that the media has so distorted the facts that most people don't know what's going on (plus, class warfare sells).

Handling natural disasters Clinton 51 Bush 30

Perception, Clinton swooped in, felt folks pain, waved his magic wand, and made everything better. Bush on the other hand, used his dark minions to steer Katrina towards New Orleans and laughed in glee as all the folks suffered due to his evilness.

Reality, Clinton's record on disasters has been rehabilitated in retrospect. From Northridge, to Georges, the federal response after disasters was slow, red-tape filled, and always after the fact, the federal government has never before been expected to get people evacuated and out of harms way, that's always been a local concern. Nothing's changed. Katrina was many orders of magnitude larger than anything else that has hit a large area of the nation. That shock didn't bring down the markets, didn't kill tens of thousands, and didn't end civilization as we know it. Much of the lack of response before Katrina was due to local and state government (Brendan Loy has been all over this, read his coverage). The actual federal response was the fastest ever in the wake of a disaster that size. That hurricane wiped out most of the infrastructure for thousands of square miles in the gulf coast. Clinton would have played the sympathy game better, but he wouldn't have actually done better. The only difference is that Clinton wouldn't have been blamed by the media for the images they projected, or for the narrative they chose to tell (and don't forget, most of the worst of what they said in the immediate aftermath, was patently, ridiculously, and dangerously false).

I'm sick of this already, the rest of the categories break out much the same way, though the margins are closer. For some reason Opinion Research Corporations website doesn't work, so I can't find the actual details of this poll, though I'd like to.


PHYLOS said...

Dear friend, Bush é sheet, really. Bye.

Icepick said...

X, lately your blog keeps reminding me of the posts I meant to write and didn't. Between that and being a killjoy on the posts I do write, you're making my life difficult.

Regardless, here's an idea free of charge: Clinton missed two opportunities to capture or kill OBL. The first was when the Sudanese offered OBL's head on a platter, and the Clinton Admin turned it down because of legal concerns about prosecuting or holding him. And later in Afghanistan, a delay in launching a missle stike occurred again because of lawyers raising concerns about the legality of those actions.

Perhaps this is why Bush has been willing to play fast and loose with legal matters since 9/11/2001, yes?

(I may use this later in a post I hope to write tomorrow. But feel free to use it if it inspires any thoughts of your own.)

Pooh said...

Though I of course disagree with your perspective, a good post - sepia tones tend to make everything look better...

My one point of factual disagreement is your claim of "broad-based" economic recovery. We could play 'economic data tic-tac-toe' for a while, but let it suffice to say that I don't see it as particularly 'broadbased.'

Pick, BS as to legality for many reasons, the first is the false analogy between my phone records and OBL, the second is that on 9/12/01 pretty much any legal authority he wanted would have been granted - it's about power, plain and simple. Enjoy it under Pres. [Insert liberal boogeyperson is it Gore or Hillary or Dean? I forget which one for you...]

Jon Swift said...

Excellent post. I think you're right that instead of looking at what actually happened during the Clinton Administration we should look at what might have happened if circumstances were different. It's also very clear to me that if the situation was reversed and Clinton were President now and Bush were President back then people would be very upset with the way Clinton handled Hurricane Katrina, the War in Iraq and NSA spying and looking back very nostalgically at the peace and prosperity of the Bush years. Your excellent analysis makes me think you are entirely too immodest.

Icepick said...

Pick, BS as to legality for many reasons, the first is the false analogy between my phone records and OBL....

Except that I didn't mention phone records, I wrote about Bush playing fast and loose with legal matters in a broad sense and possible motivations for that. And given that I actually wrote "Bush has been willing to play fast and loose with legal matters" I think it is hard for you to claim that I was asserting the legality of Bush's programs. So bullshit yourself, you mis-leading asshole. Your obviously intentitional mis-statement of what I wrote is a cheap shot, and frankly I expected better from you. My mistake, and I won't make it again.

But let me throw a little more meat out there. Consider these matters: rendition; a secret US prison system around the world; torture memos; torture by US personnel; rumored abductions of people off the street; administration assertions that various treaties we have signed do not apply to suspected terrorists, Taliban or al Qaeda members; NSA wiretapping of domestic phones; extra-legal treatment of US citizens of questionable allegiance; etc. That pattern does kind of fit in with my statement and comparison to earlier practice, yes?

But if in 'refuting' my speculation all you want to focus on is phone records, be my guest.

As for my boogeyman of choice, I prefer to use Gore.

Finally, regarding having this boogey-man abusing Bush's powers, I will point out that people pretty close to Hillary have already used confidential FBI files for 'enemy' research, and that the Clinton Administration had access to ECHELON, a prgram which disturbed the hell out of our allies and could have obviously been used (perhaps has been used) for domestic surveillance. This isn't the first time this kind of thing has come up, and it won't be the last. The world didn't end then, and it won't end now.

Pooh said...

Sorry, if I picked the wrong fast & looseness, when I have so many to choose from it's something of an understandable error to make...

Sorry if I didn't come up with a more exhaustive list, I was trying to be less bombastic rather than more (guess that worked not well at all), but you have summed it up nicely, for that I thank you.

And of course, I apologize for not genuflecting at the "Clinton did it too" altar before expressing my disagreement. In future posts I will try to remember to follow the formalities better.

that misleading asshole

(In seriousness I wasn't trying to take a cheap shot, I just think you are in error to try and justify certain behaviors with a variation of the '9/11 changed everything theme.' It changed many things, and we should, you know, decide as a people, like they do in democracies what and how it did so. But that's just me being quaint.)

Icepick said...

And you continue to do it. At no point did I say anything Bush has done was justified because of what Clinton did. (Although I do not necessarily disagree with everything Bush has done. Mostly I'm indifferent.) I stated possible motivations for the Bush Administration's behavior over the last 4.5 years.

I'd be more inclined to think you weren't taking cheap shots if you weren't constantly projecting the worst possible arguefifhcibments and motivations onto people you disagreed with. Girls Gone Hijab, anyone?

Pooh said...

Girls Gone Hijab, anyone?

A fair point. I wouldn't say 'constantly,' more 'at times.'