Wednesday, January 03, 2007


Does anyone else feel like they're going to survive Bush?

I've been thinking about the past six years. It's been that long since I learned Bush won, sitting in my dorm room at Berkeley. Screams of pronounced horror echoed across faux-Scandinavian rooftops.

But six years in, I have yet to feel personally affected by Bush. Not once in the past six years have I felt like something he has done has actually affected my day-to-day life.

Now, this isn't to say that he hasn't. At the very least, his tax cuts and budget deficits will shape fiscal policy for untold decades, in ways that I will never directly notice. And he has personally affected anybody with a friend or family member in the military. Or a New Orleans resident.

But politics is, first and foremost, about individual needs and desires. And in my daily life, in what I do, Bush has affected me not even the slightest. No draft. No national legislation that really changes my life. He doesn't even run the economy. Kind of sad. Not even social security legislation.

Has anyone else here felt affected by something Bush has caused, outside of something they saw on a TV screen? I don't mean to imply that others have not, just that I haven't.


Tommaso Sciortino said...

I'm pretty sure I remember everyone scrambling to refinance their student loans because the republicans cut it, no? That's not big a deal but then generally you only need the federal government when your in trouble and we've been pretty blessed the past couple years. I mean, neither you nor I have ever come home to find it under 9 feet of water with little or no help on the way.

Rebecca C. Brown said...

The No Child Left Behind Act has shaped the scope, outcomes, and, most importantly, funding for much of the work I've done at two two education research jobs I've had.

The act has also affected the curriculum my mom teaches and that my little sister learns.

I echo the student loans comment. Seven percent my butt.

Bush's massive scare tactics made gas prices go up, and I occasionally consume gas.

Bush's decision to lift steel tariffs has put lots of people in Ohio, western Pennsylvania, and West Virginia out of work. My dad is a small business owner is West Virginia, and with fewer people employed in his area, he has fewer customers, and thus less money. (He raked in a whopping $12k last year.)

A few of my boyfriend's friends are enlisted in the armed services. They are married and have children. They might end up in Iraq.

Anyone who's been to an airport in the last five years knows the effects of an Orange Alert.

The list goes on.

Paul said...

In terms of direct, immediate impact on my life, not a whole lot comes to mind, really. Part of me is inclined to second what Rebecca said about work - I work with 8th graders attending public schools - but part of me also feels like that's cheating on the question a little bit.

Lucky me, I guess.

Thinker said...

The direct impacts on most of us are most likely to be the ones we don't see - the lost opportunities in things like jobs not there and research undone because of the spending and social choices the administration has made.

Had Al Gore taken office in January 2001, the quality and quantity of jobs would be much different today. That means that your opportunities for employment, pay and benefits would be quite different than what you're dealing with now.

Then, of course, there is the debt. The Federal Debt is 52% ($3 trillion) higher today than when Bush took office in 2001. The per capita debt is now just under $29,000 and climbing. About 43% of that is owed to the Social Security and Medicare Trust funds. The Medicare Trust funds needs to start redeeming some of its bonds now, and Social Security will need to do so soon. The only way to pay them off is to increase taxes, and that doesn't seem likely. The alternative is default, and the consequences won't be pretty. We'll all suffer visibly from that.

But the Federal Debt is not the only debt that has climbed drastically under Bush. The Current Accounts deficit seems to set a new record every quarter. That means that more and more economic control is moving from domestic into foreign hands. If the outsourcing of jobs concerns you now, it can only become worse.

Aaron said...

My answer is yes but that's more because of my field of study than anything.

Rebecca C. Brown said...

This is kind of a stupid question, Kevin. It's like asking, "How has immigration policy affected you personally in the last year?," in context implying that it hasn't and to an audience of American-born students at a private university. Almost no national policies affect anyone personally and immediately. (There are lots of checks and balances to make sure that it doesn't, actually.) Nobody opposed Bush because they thought their lives would suddenly suck if he were elected. So your point is kinda moot.

Plus liberals are less prone to vote in their immediate, personal self-interest than are conservatives. That's because we're better people than our right-thinking counterparts.

Kevin said...

I don't mean to imply that it HADN'T, just that I couldn't THINK of any personal effects.

I came about this because I was wondering why public opposition to Bush was so muted. My conclusion was that the ill effects from his reign are largely hidden from view.

Anyway, your list is very good. I should've thought about the airport one, at the very least.

Tommaso Sciortino said...

Whoa there Rebecca. I think you may be jumping the gun there a little. I don't think Kevin is arguing that we shouldn't worry since Bush hasn't affected us personally. Though to be fair to you he does seem to be leaving the door open when he writes something like "But politics is, first and foremost, about individual needs and desires. And in my daily life, in what I do, Bush has affected me not even the slightest."

I think Kevin is right about first-level politics being about interests. But for the most part first-level political interests are already satisfied. I'm not worrying about mass unemployment or losing habeas corpus personally and that frees me up to worry about things like crappy tax policy for my kids and Bush looking through my mail.

There's really no mystery to why Bush has inspired so much ire - with phenomenally low approval ratings - despite not causing the sky to fall for most: people think we can do better.

Rebecca C. Brown said...

My point is that, for the most part, presidential policy will NOT affect you. So it's totally accurate for you to imply that Bush has NOT affected many people personally (even though that's not what you meant to imply).

I'd hardly say that opposition to Bush has been muted. And the ill long-term (and short-term) effects of his reign are quite obvious, at least to anyone who's paying attention. Maybe you're hanging with the wrong crowd.

At the very least, your post brings up the good point that good Oval Office policy doesn't necessarily improve people's lives directly and immediately, for the same reasons a bad executive doesn't ruin everyone's lives right away.

Of course the rare bad policy (e.g., war) that DOES have a direct impact on citizens (e.g., death) is more noticable than the complementary good policy (no war) that DOES NOT have a direct impact (no death). People notice bad things more than the absence of bad things.

Kevin said...

I wanted to contrast the stark public opposition to certain previous Presidents -- LBJ, Nixon -- with the long, drawn-out opposition to this one. It's only in the past year or so that public support for Bush has completely collapsed. He won re-election fairly handily, after all. And yet, the level of incompetence and generally fucking-uppery is probably higher.

Definitely true that the private effects of bad presidents are naturally very hidden from view. I think an interesting point is that some of the most negative effects have fallen on Republican constituencies -- namely, soldiers. Thus we've seen less disapproval because they're less likely to complain.

I think this explains the Democrats' recent reversal of fortune. In 2002, 2004 the main focus of the party was 'Bash Bush, Bash Bush,' which didn't really get us anywhere. 2006 was the first year where I felt like the Democrats concentrated first and foremost on presenting an appealing alternative. Without a direct personal stake in hating Bush, the 'Bash Bush' message was probably just a turnoff.

Tommaso Sciortino said...

It took much much longer for the public to come out against Vietnam than they did for Iraq. We're staring at 3000 dead but the Vietnam war had something like 59,000 before public opinion was strongly against it.

I think the draft ensured a very vocal minority against Vietnam which in retrospect makes it seem like Bush is getting the soft treatment. In reality the public came out against Iraq much faster than Vietnam.

Though I wouldn't say 2002 and 2004 were about "Bashing Bush" I would agree that 2006 was the first time a lot of Dems came out *against* the Iraq war and *for* getting out.

Thinker said...

Johnson escalated the Vietnam war in 1965. He maintained majority support (at least as measured by the Gallup Poll) until 1967. ( This is roughly about the same time line as we've seen with regard to the Iraq War, where both Gallup and Pew polling shows that public opinion first turned against Bush and the war in early 2005 (2 years after he initiated the war).

While there was very vocal opposition to the escalation in Vietnam from the beginning, I don't think it was actually as strong as the opposition to the invasion of Iraq in 2002-03. The difference, I believe, was that TV was much more deferential to the administration in 2002-03 than to Johnson in 1965-67; thus making it seem as if there was less opposition than there really was. It is certainly true that the military draft motivated a lot of college students (many of whom had been active earlier in the fight for civil rights for blacks) to organize against the war in the mid-60s; but I don't think that really had much effect on the opinion of non-students.

The death toll certainly did. While there were a total of just over 58,000 US deaths in Vietnam during the course of the entire war (, the rapid rise in US deaths from 401 dead through 1964 to 36,152 total dead through 1968 was probably much more important in changing public opinion.

Aaron said...

Not to be pedantic, but wasn't the 2004 election basically down to like three dudes in Ohio?