The Atlantic's Ronald Brownstein, described by Bill Clinton as "one journalist who generally gets it right," has an article up comparing the George W. Bush and Clinton economic records and concluding:
The fact that the economy performed significantly better for average families under Clinton than under the elder or younger Bush or Ronald Reagan doesn't conclusively answer how the country should proceed now. Obama isn't replicating the Clinton economic strategy (which increased federal spending in areas like education and research much more modestly, and placed greater emphasis on deficit reduction-to the point of increasing taxes in his first term). Nor has anyone suggested that it would make sense to reprise that approach in today's conditions. But at the least, the wretched two-term record compiled by the younger Bush on income, poverty and access to health care should compel Republicans to answer a straightforward question: if tax cuts are truly the best means to stimulate broadly shared prosperity, why did the Bush years yield such disastrous results for American families on these core measures of economic well being?
Here's an attempt at an answer (with the caveat that I'm not a Republican): The Clinton economic success was related to the capital gains tax cuts and welfare reform passed by the Republican-controlled Congress. As for the idea that Mr. Clinton's secret was to increase education spending, albeit modestly, the record shows that under Mr. Clinton, the appropriated budget for the federal education department rose to $38 billion in 2000 from $32 billion in 1993, an increase of about 19%. Under Mr. Bush, education spending rose to $69 billion in 2008 from $42 billion in 2001, an increase of about 64%. A Brownstein-style straightforward question for Democrats: If education spending is truly the best means to stimulate broadly shared prosperity, why did the Bush years yield such disastrous results for American families on these core measures of economic well being?
Not that the premise that the Bush years were an economic disaster is itself unassailable. But if that's the premise, then education spending should come in for as scrutiny as much as tax cutting.
The Brownstein article also doesn't really contend with the legacy of George H.W. Bush, who raised taxes and experienced a slow economy.
Thanks to reader S.L., who sent along a link to the Atlantic article with a note describing it as a "slow pitch" for FutureOfCapitalism.com.