— Donald Rumsfeld on the looting of Iraq following the U.S. invasion.
Forget about "the Aughts." Never mind "the Naughts." The decade just passed — and which promises to leave a lingering, bitter aftertaste — deserves a far better, more descriptive name. So for what it's worth, I hereby dub the past ten years "The Uh-Ohs: A Decade of Conservative Failure."
It's as good as any of the others I've heard. Perhaps better. Here's why.
Because despite the wisdom of Donald Rumsfeld, "stuff" doesn't just happen. Despite what Joel Achenbach seems to think, the debacle of the last ten years didn't just happen. And, yes, plenty of people did see it coming. Their warnings were ignored. What followed, then, didn't "just happen," but was the consequence of conscious choice. And, despite what Matt Yglesias seems to think, it is important to discuss and determine the causes of the various messes we find ourselves in. (Even if we find along the way the fingerprints of some Democrats Who Should Have Known Better™.)
There were plenty of messes. And, like the clean-up crew after a wild, drunken party, we're still uncovering messes, some of which we can smell before we actually see them.
It was a decade during which conservatives controlled both Congress and the While House, and could thus enact much of their agenda. Thus, it was a decade of "uh-ohs"
Uh-oh is an ubiquitous interjection or expression of dismay in the English language, usually said in anticipation of something bad about to happen, with the sly admittance of guilt that one may have caused something bad to happen, or perceiving that something bad has already happened.
From the economy to energy to security, the "Uh-Ohs" abounded.
Uh-Oh! Conservatives turned a budget surplus we had then into the deficit we have now. It's true. Even the Wall Street Journal had to acknowledge that the perhaps the biggest legacy of the Bush years is the huge deficit.
In other words, the deficit didn't just happen, and it didn't have to happen. It was the predicted outcome of conservative policy decisions.
- Bush and congressional conservatives came into office with a $236 billion surplus projected to last years into the future. They turned it into a $412 billion deficit, in just four years.
- Bush used the existing surplus (and the $5.6 trillion surplus projected over the next ten years) as justification for huge tax cuts for the wealthy.
- Even as the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan spiraled skyward, Bush refused to pay the costs of waging two wars with tax increases or other budgetary offsets.
- As a result, the government ran a deficit, and paid for some of its biggest expenditures with borrowed money.
- Ever "reality-based," in 2007 the Bush administration predicted a $61 billion surplus by 2012, but presented a 2008 budget that added $251 billion to the deficit.
Uh-Oh! Conservatives shrunk the economy. Despite what Glenn Beck and the rest of the conservative noise machine say, what happened to the economy didn't just happen in the past year. And it didn't just happen. It was the predictable outcome of conservative politics and policies during their decade of "uh-ohs."
- Bush and congressional conservatives who supported him, presided over the weakest economy in decades. The number of jobs increased by only about 2% during the Bush years, and the gross domestic product grew at just a 2.1% annual rate.
- It was the worst decade for the stock market, which was down 26% from where it started in 2000.
Uh-oh! It was the worst decade for jobs. Some 7 million jobs were lost (perhaps permanently), 14.5 million were left unemployed, and 6 million out-of-work adults became discouraged and stopped looking for works and are thus not even counted among the unemployed.
- Manufacturing fell to its lowest level in 26 years.
- By the end of the decade, the jobless rate reached a 26-year-high.
- There were 6.5 job seekers per job opening, by the end of the decade.
- "One in five Americans are unemployed, underemployed or just plain out of work."
- Bush finished his term with the worst track record ever on jobs since the government began keeping records in 1939.
- In fact, there's been zero net job creation since December 1999.
- The 10% unemployment rate isn't expected to change in 2010, and probably won't return to pre-recession levels of less than 5% in the next six years.
This is just a beginning; a brief foray into a decade that was — but certainly didn't have to be — filled with more items like those above. Such a decade, after all, deserves far more than one blog post.
Besides, we haven't yet covered Iraq, Katrina, economic inequality, e. coli... With ten years of conservative failure to cover, there are definitely more "Uh-Ohs" to come.