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Alan Greenspan on the Bush Administration:
Here's an interesting preview of Alan Greenspan's memoirs:
  Alan Greenspan, who was chairman of the Federal Reserve for nearly two decades, in a long-awaited memoir, is harshly critical of President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and the Republican-controlled Congress, as abandoning their party's principles on spending and deficits.
  In the 500-page book, "The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World," Mr. Greenspan describes the Bush administration as so captive to its own political operation that it paid little attention to fiscal discipline, and he described Mr. Bush's first two Treasury secretaries, Paul H. O'Neill and John W. Snow, as essentially powerless.
  Mr. Bush, he writes, was never willing to contain spending or veto bills that drove the country into deeper and deeper deficits, as Congress abandoned rules that required that the cost of tax cuts be offset by savings elsewhere. "The Republicans in Congress lost their way," writes Mr. Greenspan, a self-described "libertarian Republican."
  . . . .
  Of the presidents he worked with, Mr. Greenspan reserves his highest praise for Bill Clinton, whom he described in his book as a sponge for economic data who maintained "a consistent, disciplined focus on long-term economic growth."
Old33 (mail):
Of the presidents he worked with, Mr. Greenspan reserves his highest praise for Bill Clinton, whom he described in his book as a sponge for economic data who maintained "a consistent, disciplined focus on long-term economic growth."

That's not surprising, as Clinton essentially hitched his wagon to Greenspan before he was even inaugurated. It was a relationship which served both men well, and benefited the nation.
9.15.2007 1:23am
CaseyL (mail):
Greenspan's another one who waited until he was safely out of the line of political fire before saying anything. IIRC, he didn't oppose the same tax cuts he now condemns, nor did he criticize the enormous deficits Bushenomics was racking up. Considering the deep respect, almost reverence, the financial markets had for him, he'd've done the nation a service by saying what he's saying now back when it might have made a difference.
9.15.2007 1:53am
billtb (mail):
Typical isn't it ... Bush bash, sell books. I wonder how things would have turned out if the 1994 change in the legislature never happened. The Clinton legacy would then be one of deficits as far as the eye could see, just as envisioned by Clinton in the beginning. Yes that Clinton, 'who never worked so hard in his whole life to get a middle class tax cut but only got a Monica instead'. It wasn't Clinton who cut taxes in 1994, all Clinton wanted was socialism and deficits forever.

Easy to forget the real Greenspan legacy ... How many say that the crash of 2000 was caused by Greenspan and the unreasonable Fed ratcheting up interest rates so sharply to rein in the overheated Y2K run up to the 2000 election of the Goracle — the election that never happened? And who stuffed money into the system to overheat the Y2K economy?

Yes Mr. Greenspan, bash away, but we know the truth, you are a Clinton man, a lackey, who knew, fooled a lot of people.

Anyone notice how the current deficits are coming down and how the economy is doing just fine. NO, well it's the reporting on the economy that is pathetic now, not the reality.

Why do all these bozos try and rewrite history, haven't they heard of the Internet?
9.15.2007 3:24am
Groucho Marxism:
How can Greenspan say such a thing? We all know Slick Willie is a commie--he protested the Vietnam War in a foreign country! Gasp, could this mean that Grover Norquist has been wrong all along?

I wonder, how many more people in power from 2001 onward are going to be retracting what they professed to believe then? Condi? Gonzo?
9.15.2007 3:32am
Brian K (mail):
easy up on that kool-aid fella...it ain't good for you
9.15.2007 3:52am
CrazyTrain (mail):
<i>Of the presidents he worked with, Mr. Greenspan reserves his highest praise for Bill Clinton, whom he described in his book as a sponge for economic data who maintained "a consistent, disciplined focus on long-term economic growth."</i>

How. You. Like. Them. Apples.

To all the Republican clowns: You just got owned.
9.15.2007 4:32am
Cornellian (mail):
Mr. Bush, he writes, was never willing to contain spending or veto bills that drove the country into deeper and deeper deficits, as Congress abandoned rules that required that the cost of tax cuts be offset by savings elsewhere. "The Republicans in Congress lost their way," writes Mr. Greenspan, a self-described "libertarian Republican."

Not exactly news to anyone who hasn't been in a coma since 2000. Bush has been an unmitigated disaster for limited government, deficit hawk conservatives.
9.15.2007 5:03am
Insomniac:
I have to admit that I'm not quite sure what Greenspan means by this:
I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: The Iraq war is largely about oil. (Source: Washington Post)
Ideas?
9.15.2007 6:47am
LM (mail):
If this epidemic of Bush Derangement Syndrome spreads much further, Republicans may re-consider their objection to universal health care.
9.15.2007 6:57am
Steven Lubet (mail):
How many more repentant enablers will we hear from between now and Novemeber 2008?
9.15.2007 9:02am
Michael B (mail):
Greenspan is on solid financial footing, but beyond that his "libertarian Republicanism" has been closer to a "Libertarian republicanism."
9.15.2007 9:17am
Gaius Marius:
Ditto Cornellian's statement above.
9.15.2007 9:37am
Brett Bellmore:
Well, of course, it IS all about oil, in the sense that if there weren't all that oil under the middle east, the whole area would be an insignificant backwater, largely ignored by the rest of the world. Only the oil forces us to care what goes on there.

Only the oil, for instance, could have bought Saddam that military. Or funded the world-wide spread of Wahabbism.

The problem is with people who can only interpret "it's all about the oil" as meaning we're there to steal. The truth is, the world would probably be better off if the west HAD stolen that oil, instead of buying it...
9.15.2007 10:13am
Michael B (mail):
From the WaPo article:

"During Clinton's first weeks as president, Greenspan went to the Oval Office and explained the danger of not confronting the federal deficit. Unless the deficits were cut, there could be 'a financial crisis,' Greenspan told the president. 'The hard truth was that Reagan had borrowed from Clinton, and Clinton was having to pay it back. I was impressed that he did not seem to be trying to fudge reality to the extent politicians ordinarily do. He was forcing himself to live in the real world.'"

There are a variety of "hard truths" not taken into account here. The hard truth of the Cold War era, which Reagan very much helped to end sooner, rather than later, and the accompanying hard truth that Clinton decidedly benefitted from that ending. (The hard truth that the first Gulf War began and ended prior to Clinton's tenure as well.) For example his and VP Gore's "government cuts" were reported to be 93% cuts to military and military related spending while only 7% related to non-military govt. expenditures. And of course Clinton's tenure ended only eight or nine months prior to 9/11, reflecting his lack of due attention to intelligence and military realignments in a post-Cold War era, aka in Clinton vernacular as the "Peace Dividend." WTC '93 (occurring less than a month into Clinton's tenure, with at least one perp escaping to Saddam's Iraq) and its aftermath being merely one reflection of that inattention to some "hard truths."

The hard truth is aspects of military and related intelligence gathering budgets and planning need to be forecasted decades, not years, in advance. Clinton's abdication in this area was pronounced, very much in alignment with decidedly leftist sentiments in a post-Cold War and "end of history" era. Greenspan, as with his media savvy wife, reflects an acumen and articulate quality that is decidedly limited, narrowly so and almost provincial, in ideological terms. One hard truth to come to terms with is that, Constitutionally and in very practical terms as well, the defense of the country in primary, not secondary and not a mere political football.

I favor criticizing the current admin. on several fronts, including some fronts related to spending, but Greenspan is too soft headed in some critical areas to be talking in general terms about "hard truths." Greenspan was the fed chief, not the chief executive, and the country benefitted by his narrower expertise.
9.15.2007 10:16am
SenatorX (mail):
But "Defecits don't matter"...

"Greenspan was the fed chief, not the chief executive, and the country benefitted by his narrower expertise."

We did? I'm looking around for the bounty but all I see is a credit mess.
9.15.2007 10:21am
Smokey:
SenatorX is exactly right. Greenspan is 100% responsible for inflating today's gigantic credit bubble, which shoveled super-easy money to anyone who filled out a no-documents-required loan application. Greenspan simply panicked when NASDAQ tanked, and his answer was hundreds of $billions in E-Z money for all. That is the reason for the insane rise in housing prices, and the tremendous overbuilding that followed.

From the moment he retired, Greenspan attacked and nitpicked his successor Bernanke incessantly. Now, he's attacking GWB -- when Greenspan was the one who held the monetary reins at the Fed! Today's credit/housing bubble is entirely Greenspan's doing. No wonder he's trying to blame everyone else.
9.15.2007 10:57am
Gaius Marius:
I don't think Bernanke and the Federal Reserve are going to cut the interest rate at all, much less the 25 basis points economists are predicting or the 50 basis points the markets want. Therefore, the market will be extremely disappointed next week after the Federal Reserve's announcement of leaving the interest rate untouched and there will be another major selloff of about two percent (2%) across the major indexes on the day of the announcment. Next week will very likely see a total decline of about four percent (4%) across the major indexes.
9.15.2007 11:00am
Gaius Marius:
Personally, I don't think the Federal Reserve should cut the interest rate (although the equities portion of my portfolio will suffer somewhat). Nevertheless, the market's expectations are unrealistic. I only hope the major hedge funds are not flying on autopilot (again) next week, which will only accelerate the expected selloffs.
9.15.2007 11:07am
mrshl (www):
Casey L,

While it's true Greenspan backed Bush's tax cuts, it's not true that he waited until he was out of office to criticize the huge budget deficits. He made quite a point of this latter criticism.

Yeah, I think opposing the scope of the tax cuts would have been smart for someone who opposes huge budget deficits, I think it's worth noting that Greenspan didn't reserve all his criticism until he was out of office.
9.15.2007 11:20am
Houston Lawyer:
The rule that tax cuts should be offset by spending cuts has it all backwards. I'm still waiting on the rule that says that spending increases must be accompanied by tax increases.

There's much to criticize in the Bush economic record. Did he criticize the prescription drug benefit giveaway?
9.15.2007 11:38am
Jmaie (mail):
billtb - a large part of the late '90's run up in the tech sector was driven by the massive demand for new equipment, fomented by the fear of Y2K problems. How many people think the subsequent crash was caused by the massive drop in demand once the date rolled over?

I'm no fan of Greenspan, but at least bash him for the sins he's committed.
9.15.2007 1:23pm
Randy R. (mail):
billtb: "The Clinton legacy would then be one of deficits as far as the eye could see.

Nope. Clinton got tax raises through congress specifically to address the deficit issue. Republicans said it would ruin the economy. It didn't -- in fact, the economy did very well under Clinton.
9.15.2007 2:09pm
frankcross (mail):
Houston Lawyer, I think the rule you are "waiting for" is essentially the current pay/go rule of the Democratic Congress.

And the data also show that Clinton reduced the deficit in his first two years, with a Democratic Congress.
9.15.2007 3:17pm
Groucho Marxism:
Well, of course, it IS all about oil, in the sense that if there weren't all that oil under the middle east, the whole area would be an insignificant backwater, largely ignored by the rest of the world. Only the oil forces us to care what goes on there.

Then why do you think the West fought the Crusades? Nobody cared about oil back in 1200 AD. There's a bit more in the Middle East that's kind of important to a lot of people--how about the founding sites of the three major monotheistic religions?
9.15.2007 4:33pm
Randy R. (mail):
Are you seriously suggesting that we went to war in Iraq over religion? I certainly hope not!
9.15.2007 5:06pm
Groucho Marxism:
Randy, I agree with you on a lot of things, but isn't it pretty obvious that religion played a role? One of OBL's reasons for 9/11 was our presence in the Islamic holy land. By invading Iraq, we could set up a base for military operations in the Middle East outside of Saudi Arabia. Sure enough, after we took control of Iraq in April 2003, we withdrew all our troops from SA for the stated reason that we didn't need to fly from there to enforce the no-fly zone anymore. Now, whether this was just a cover for taking away a primary justification for 9/11 and Muslim hatred of the U.S., who knows.
9.15.2007 5:46pm
fishbane (mail):
The Clinton legacy would then be one of deficits as far as the eye could see.

Rephrasing: In an alternate universe, Clinton would have sucked. Therefor, Clinton sucked. Similarly, in an alternate universe, Bush would have gotten things right. Therefor, Bush rocks.
9.15.2007 5:55pm
LM (mail):
Randy,

Are you skeptical we'd go to war in Iraq for a reason as offensive as religion or for one as crazy? Or is it just that in light of all the post hoc motives claimed for the war since WMD's jumped the shark, you're afraid that if the war apologists suggest even one more they'll give revisionism a bad name?
9.15.2007 6:31pm
LM (mail):
fishbane,

As my saintly, departed mother used to say, "if my grandmother had balls she'd be my grandfather." (It sounded classier in Yiddish.)
9.15.2007 6:35pm
whit:
look, as a person who (usually) votes republican, voted for bush (twice), and considers himself a right-moderate with strong libertarian tendencies...

i'll be the first to admit -- clinton was a pretty good president, despite the fact that i usually prefer repubs to dems, and domestically he was a darned good president.

i'm not a big fan of his foreign policy, and i have my quibbles with him on policy issues (i'm against racial preferences, for example).

but he was a pretty good president. repubs SHOULD be able to admit that. CDS is just as persistent as BDS unfortunately.
9.15.2007 6:38pm
Jam:
Me thinks that Greenspan is not adjusting well to a life of anonyminity.

If he criticized budget deficits he should have been less cryptic when talking to the Congress.

It seems to be a constant: admit to errors and critisize others but only when you leave your elected/appointed guv'mint job.
9.15.2007 6:52pm
fishbane (mail):
"if my grandmother had balls she'd be my grandfather."

The goy, coal miner immigrant variant (from my grandmother) of this one is also good. "If I had some bread, I'd make a ham sandwich. If I had some ham."

It just occurred to me that this thread is great. We got from political recriminations of past economic policy to ham sandwiches is about 18 hours.
9.15.2007 7:31pm
Thales (mail) (www):
As many others have said before, Clinton, whatever else may be said of him, took the long view of a lot of domestic issues and listened to advisors who said to get the fiscal house in order before attempting massive assistance programs that he and his base might have preferred were they writing on a blank slate. That was genuine political courage, and one reason many people respected him as a president, his personal failings aside. As for the peace dividend from the end of the Cold War, no one can argue that it was a big factor in 1990s government realignment. However, I would like to hear any conservative that recognizes this fact never also complain about Clinton's supposed "gutting" of our military (a la Sean Hannity). Also, of course, the peace dividend could have been squandered, but it was not under Clinton (no doubt the constant fighting with the Republican congress after 1994 also had the effect of helping to slow spending).
9.15.2007 7:46pm
LM (mail):
whit,

Your empiricism is dangerously reasonable. Fortunately, measured attitudes make poor headlines and sound bites, so we can count on them staying underrepresented in the blogging and chattering classes that frame so much of our discourse (this site being atypical).
9.15.2007 7:52pm
whit:
LM, thank you.

if i ever become a famous blogger i may borrow that for my tagline...

"dangerously reasonable"

very nice!
9.15.2007 10:42pm
Lev:
Dunno, some of the stuff in that excerpt is so appallingly obvious, one must wonder if there is anything else in the book to suggest Greenspan's brain is alive.

Similarly, with respect to:


"a consistent, disciplined focus on long-term economic growth."


one wonders exactly what Greenspan is talking about. A number of posters seem to assume it is Clinton's budget stuff, but that is not clear at all.

In any event, Clinton did raise some taxes very early, but after Republicans took control of congress, he went along with lowering other taxes. Further, while in the first two years of his administration Clinton had to try to restrain the Democratic controlled Congress' wild spending proclivities somewhat, the actual spending control came after the Republicans took control.

One wonders, also, how self described "libertarian Republican" Greenspan like Clinton's health care plan.
9.16.2007 1:45am
srg:
In the last several years the deficit as a % of GDP has gone from about three and a half percent to a little over one percent. So while Bush should have vetoed some spending bills, what is this big Bush deficit problem everyone talks about?

The real deficit problems are in the future, and the feckless Congress is doing nothing about them.
9.16.2007 11:56am
Lev:

So while Bush should have vetoed some spending bills, what is this big Bush deficit problem everyone talks about?


The problem has been spending, wild extravagant, superporked spending. And Bush signed all of it.
9.16.2007 11:34pm
Andrew Morton:
Regarding Greenspan's views of Washington politicians (and commenting on them), I'm reminded of Christopher Buckley's inspired column from a year or so ago entitled Greenspin.

"Penguin executives emphasized that the book . . . would present Greenspan's unvarnished opinions for the first time."
-- The Washington Post

"One of the duties of a Fed Chairman is periodically to schlepp up to Capitol Hill to testify before various Senate or House committees, consisting of largely ignorant people. But I enjoyed these little excursions on several levels.

"First, the senators were always very deferential, and would call me 'Mr. Chairman' and agree with anything I said. They would plant metaphorical kisses on certain smooth portions of my anatomy, and I found this to be generally agreeable. Second, it was a chance to try out whatever new phrase I had devised to describe the general state of the economy, such as 'irrational exuberance' or 'continued growth.' Typically, I would come up with these chestnuts in the shower or while smoking a cigar after sexual intercourse."
9.17.2007 1:08am