A dozen years ago today, on January 17, 2001, the satirical newspaper The Onion published an article “reporting” that then-soon-to-be-inaugurated president George W. Bush had addressed the nation by television to announce that “our long national nightmare of peace and prosperity is finally over.”
“My fellow Americans,” Bush said, “at long last, we have reached the end of the dark period in American history that will come to be known as the Clinton Era, eight long years characterized by unprecedented economic expansion, a sharp decrease in crime, and sustained peace overseas. The time has come to put all of that behind us.”
Bush promised (according to what, I should remind you, is a piece of satire published before Bush even took office) to increase the national debt and take the country to war.
On the economic side, Bush vowed to bring back economic stagnation by implementing substantial tax cuts, which would lead to a recession, which would necessitate a tax hike, which would lead to a drop in consumer spending, which would lead to layoffs, which would deepen the recession even further.
The joke article didn’t get this exactly right. Under Bush there were actually two rounds of tax cuts that turned the record Clinton surpluses into large deficits, and there were no tax increases or any other serious effort to balance the budget.
Republicans, the article continued, praised the speech:
“Finally, the horrific misrule of the Democrats has been brought to a close,” House Majority Leader Dennis Hastert (R-IL) told reporters. “Under Bush, we can all look forward to military aggression, deregulation of dangerous, greedy industries, and the defunding of vital domestic social-service programs upon which millions depend. Mercifully, we can now say goodbye to the awful nightmare that was Clinton’s America.”
“For years, I tirelessly preached the message that Clinton must be stopped,” conservative talk-radio host Rush Limbaugh said. “And yet, in 1996, the American public failed to heed my urgent warnings, re-electing Clinton despite the fact that the nation was prosperous and at peace under his regime. But now, thank God, that’s all done with. Once again, we will enjoy mounting debt, jingoism, nuclear paranoia, mass deficit, and a massive military build-up.”
An overwhelming 49.9 percent of Americans responded enthusiastically to the Bush speech.
“After eight years of relatively sane fiscal policy under the Democrats, we have reached a point where, just a few weeks ago, President Clinton said that the national debt could be paid off by as early as 2012,” Rahway, NJ, machinist and father of three Bud Crandall said. “That’s not the kind of world I want my children to grow up in.”