Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Bush Inaction Aroused A Concern for Future

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Bush Inaction Aroused A Concern for Future

Article excerpt

A LITTLE over a year ago, George Bush had the highest cumulative public approval ratings of any president since modern polling began.

Since then, he has suffered the most precipitous drop in polling history - nearly 60 percentage points from his peak.

What happened?

Mr. Bush has not changed course or made any disastrous blunders in that time. The economy is slow-to-stagnant, but the actual recession ended over a year ago.

As Bush regularly points out in frustration, the economy is not bad enough to justify the widespread pessimism about it that has swamped his presidency.

Instead, the immediate problems of scarce jobs and stagnant pay seem to summon up more-profound fears about the direction, security, and competitiveness of the American economy.

The fast and total transformations of the world scene, while well-known companies at home go out of business, may be worsening a sense of economic insecurity.

"Some relatively short-term unpleasant circumstances - we're not in any Great Depression - have focused people's attention" on longer-term problems, says Dick Sweeney, a business professor at Georgetown University. These stretch into a litany of woes: the federal deficit, the rising cost of health care, the failures of education, a deteriorating infrastructure, stagnant growth of wages, growing inequality, homelessness, tough competition from Japan and Germany, and an urban underclass.

The list goes on, but the gist for most Americans is "a progressive sense that things are not getting better and better as people had come to anticipate in the '50s and '60s as part of being an American," says Harvard professor Francis Bator.

Bush took office in the last years of what Republicans called the longest peacetime economic expansion in history. Historians view his election as, in many ways, a third Reagan term. It brought no clear mandate, and voters seemed to want a president to merely manage and consolidate the Reagan revolution.

When the long, slow boom finally ended, the Gulf war completely absorbed the nation's attention and held its allegiance to the president. But when it was over, the deeper insecurities rose to the top of public consciousness as the economy showed little or no progress month after month. …

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