Lincoln #1, FDR #2,… Why not George W. Bush #3?

Most of the time when historians rank President’s I ignore it. Like back in 2009 when U.S. News reported:

“President George W. Bush is near the bottom of the heap in the latest survey of historians on presidential leadership.

Bush received an overall ranking of 36 out of 42 former presidents—in the bottom 10.Click here to find out more!

The five best presidents, according to the historians, were Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt, and Harry Truman, in that order. Rounding out the top 10 were John F. Kennedy at six, Thomas Jefferson, Dwight Eisenhower, Woodrow Wilson, and Reagan.

The worst presidents, according to the survey, were James Buchanan at 42, Andrew Johnson at 41, Franklin Pierce, William Henry Harrison, Warren Harding, Millard Fillmore, George W. Bush, John Tyler, Herbert Hoover, and Rutherford B. Hayes.”

So all “its too recent for history to tell” aside, let’s look at the rankings a little closer. So some of the top picks are Abraham Lincoln and FDR, which unlike Franklin Pierce, Warren Harding, and some of the lower ranked Presidents, governed over very traumatic periods of American History.

Abraham Lincoln faced the Civil War and the south trying to leave the union. FDR faced the Great Depression and World War II. President George W. Bush also faced these types of experiences with September 11th and the ongoing wars in the middle east. So when it comes to ranking Presidents by historians they must take more into account then just their “difficulties” they faced in office.

Maybe its how they handled them. Lincoln suspends habeas corpus and jailed thousands of southern sympathizers. FDR creates massive government bureaucracies and sends thousands of italian, japanese, and german immigrants for basically being from countries in which the United States was at war with. Bush instead used Congress to help enact the Patriot Act which allowed law enforcement to bend the rule of law to “suspend suspected terrorists” indefinitely.

So why is it that Bush does not rank up there with Lincoln and FDR?

I would suggest that he wasn’t enough of a tyrant. Who are the most remembered and liked individuals? Brutus, Cato or Caesar? Napoleon or the people that exiled him? Everyone, of course, always remembers the tyrant and rewrites history to make them seem more like a saint.

If George W. Bush really wanted to become a top ranked President by historians, he should have made the Patriot Act and executive order and suspended more of American’s rights.

This is by no means a defense of George W. Bush, nor is it an attempt to say that it is unjust or unfair that he isn’t ranked higher. The point here is that historians enjoy the dictators and tyrants of society and they look down on the Presidents that did little or nothing. When, in fact, it was the founders’ intent for the federal government to be restrained. And yet, we reward the very men who begin its downfall from limited government to massive controlling government with the finest statues and monuments to be remembered forever.

So do I think George W. Bush should be ranked #3 as one of the greatest President’s? Absolutely not. Should historians? Absolutely and there is no reason for them to not to. My personal list is almost a complete reversal with FDR and Lincoln on the bottom as being two of the worst. Now if they would only let me decide who’s faces would be on our currency. Oh wait…

The Keynesian-Krugman Problem of War

As most of us has heard, there is an ongoing debate about Keynesian economics and whether it is in fact a good idea for the government to run deficits pursuing fiscal stimuli. In a previous article, I wrote what the economic reasoning is behind all of this. Upon further research, I have discovered an important untold part of the Keynesian viewpoint. That is which is illustrated best by Dr. Paul Krugman in his recent article discussing “What will stop the pain?”:

“What, then, will actually end the slump?

Well, the Great Depression did eventually come to an end, but that was thanks to an enormous war, something we’d rather not emulate.”

If you ask even some normal people, you will receive the answer that World War II caused us to get out of the Great Depression. This is inherently false. In fact Cullen and Fishback at NBER made this observation, ” [They] find that in the longer term counties receiving more war spending per capita during the war experienced extensive growth due to increases in population but not intensive growth, as the war spending had very small impacts on per capita measures of economic activity.”

How could this be? Most people when they think of productivity they think of labor and employment. If this was the case then World War II would be a great success. In fact, war times in general would bring a large boost to any economy, as they are a fiscal dream. Why is this not true? The fact is that the goods that they are producing are purely military and are being sent off to be destroyed. This is called the broken window fallacy, which Krugman violated after 9/11 when he said:

“…the attack opens the door to some sensible recession-fighting measures. For the last few weeks there has been a heated debate among liberals over whether to advocate the classic Keynesian response to economic slowdown, a temporary burst of public spending. There were plausible economic arguments in favor of such a move, but it was questionable whether Congress could agree on how to spend the money in time to be of any use — and there was also the certainty that conservatives would refuse to accept any such move unless it were tied to another round of irresponsible long-term tax cuts. Now it seems that we will indeed get a quick burst of public spending, however tragic the reasons.”

It is obvious here that Krugman along with other Keynesians secretly (or not so secretly) find war and destruction to be a good thing for our economy. This begs the question, why doesn’t Dr. Krugman’s plan involve increasing production of anything and blowing it up in the desert? This would be no more productive than World War II. It would just avoid all the pain and suffering.

To simplify things a bit, imagine an economy where they go to war and the factories switch from cars and tractors to tanks. While these tanks are going off to Europe to be destroyed, the prices of cars are going through the roof as supply has stopped. Sure, the inflationary wartime spending has caused people to go to work but they cannot buy anything as prices skyrocket. We have to remember the three ways that you can raise money for this. They are higher taxes, borrowing money, or inflation. Let’s not forget FDR’s ban on gold thus setting up inflation, which Truman inherited. This just acts as a tax and causes a very unstable currency. The other possible method was borrowing, which is just future tax increases. This will not create productive growth.

Many uneducated people on the right cling to this explanation because they feel it’s the only argument they have against the liberals saying it was the New Deal. Both of these groups should wake up and smell the free-market roses. It is ridiculous to think that a centrally planned economy (war-time economy) where massive amounts of people (human capital) along with materials (physical capital) is being destroy and very little non-military goods were being produced (not to mention there was rationing), somehow “stimulated” us out of a recession.


Published in: on February 23, 2009 at 2:32 pm  Leave a Comment  
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How much is $700 Billion Dollars?

Many people do not understand things in billions or even millions of dollars. Very few people have run a major bank and even less people have tried to run an entire sector so when people talk about how much something costs, they do not know too much or too little. To help put this in perspective an article from Slate Magazine measures it all out:

  • There are about 300 million men, women, and children currently living in the United States, so the bailout is equal to roughly $2,300 per person.
  • Which is right around what we each paid, on average, for gas and oil in 2006 ($2,227) and a bit less than our average personal tax burden ($2,432).
  • $700 billion is equal to about 12 Bill Gateses.
  • The assembled net worth of the Forbes 400 is $1.57 trillion, or more than twice the cost of the bailout.
  • Titanic, one of the highest-grossing movies of all time, raked in $1.8 billion from the worldwide box office, so James Cameron would have to make roughly 381 Titanic-sized blockbusters to settle Wall Street’s debts.
  • According to the Centers for Disease Control, the single-year cost of obesity in the United States was $117 billion in 2000, or about one-sixth the bailout
  • If the federal government siphoned off Florida’s gross domestic product, we could cover the bailout.
  • Invading the Netherlands might be advisable—that nation’s GDP was $768.7 billion last year. Of course, invasions cost a lot of money.
  • Back in 2003, the Bush administration told Congress that the Iraq war would cost between $60 billion and $100 billion, but it’s estimated that, so far, we’ve spent about $600 billion
  • MY FAVORITE:Let’s say Slate charged its advertisers $30 per 1,000 ad impressions, a common industry rate. And let’s imagine for a second that the federal government decided to nationalize Slate in order to pay for the bailout. We’d need our readers to rack up enough page views to see 23.3 trillion banner ads before the feds were satisfied.
  • For historical perspective, consider that the Marshall Plan, which helped finance the recovery of Western Europe after World War II, cost the United States about $13 billion. Of course, in 2008 dollars that’s more like $100 billion.
  • If nothing is done to change the way we finance Social Security, the trust fund reserves will be exhausted by 2041. This means that, in 75 years, there’ll be a shortfall of $4.3 trillion—or about six bailouts.
  • According to the Stern report (issued by U.K. economist Sir Nicholas Stern), global climate change could cost the planet $9 trillion (or 12.86 bailouts) if we don’t address the problem within the next decade or so.

There you go that is what $700 billion dollars looks like in different terms. So we could pay for everyone’s gas for a year. Nice.

The rest is here.