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Public Forum: Bush's legacy of false ideas

We have been too hard on our President, George W. Bush. There is no pleasure in kicking a dead horse, and this one died a long time ago. His remaining supporters live in a distant universe, dominated by a great intellectual black hole.

As we saw in the recent election, Republicans who aspire to elective office have long since deserted him. In fact, he is one of the most effective of our recent presidents. By "effective" I mean the president's ability to have his values and policy choices enacted into law or otherwise made operative. Throughout most of his term Congress, the media, and the public rolled over and gave him his way. He used the memory of 9-11 to get his way, and it worked magnificently.

Bush's presidency has been so destructive to this country, not because it has been ineffective, but because it is based on false ideas and values. For example, the economy has fallen off a cliff because of the false idea that markets can regulate themselves and that governmental regulation only impedes economic growth. That false idea has been in the saddle since at least the Reagan administration. Greed is not self-regulating. We now see the consequences of policies based on this false idea.

Then, there is the false idea that the United States can unilaterally impose its will on the world through military and economic superiority. That false idea is buried somewhere in the sands of Iraq. America's power in the world has fallen markedly in the last eight years because our actions were based on that false idea.

This administration has been enthralled with the idea that large tax reductions targeted to the wealthiest will indirectly benefit everyone by spurring economic growth. Those tax reductions were enacted. They have been given years to work their wonders. The verdict is in. Average income has stagnated or fallen for the middle-income population.

Ideas matter. In our elections, we tend to focus too much on personalities and not enough on ideas. We have been brought low by bad ideas.

John Burns