tampabay.com

Greenspan condemns Bush economic policy

His new book says politics trumped reason.

By Washington Post
Published September 15, 2007


WASHINGTON - Alan Greenspan, who served as Federal Reserve chairman for 18 years and was the leading Republican economist for the past three decades, levels unusually harsh criticism at President Bush and the Republican Party in his new book, arguing that Bush abandoned the central conservative principle of fiscal restraint.

While condemning Democrats, too, for rampant federal spending, he offers Bill Clinton an exemption. The former president emerges as the political hero of The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World, Greenspan's 531-page memoir, which is being published Monday.

Greenspan, who had an eight-year alliance with Clinton and Democratic Treasury secretaries in the 1990s, praises Clinton's mind and his tough anti-deficit policies, calling the former president's 1993 economic plan "an act of political courage."

But he expresses deep disappointment with Bush. "My biggest frustration remained the president's unwillingness to wield his veto against out-of-control spending," Greenspan writes. "Not exercising the veto power became a hallmark of the Bush presidency. ... To my mind, Bush's collaborate-don't-confront approach was a major mistake."

Greenspan accuses the Republicans who presided over the party's majority in the House until last year of being too eager to tolerate excessive federal spending in exchange for political opportunity. The Republicans, he says, deserved to lose control of the Senate and House in last year's elections. "The Republicans in Congress lost their way," Greenspan writes. "They swapped principle for power. They ended up with neither."

He singles out J. Dennis Hastert, the Illinois Republican who was House speaker until January, and Tom DeLay, the Texan who was majority leader until he resigned after being indicted for violating campaign finance laws in his home state.

"House Speaker Hastert and House majority leader Tom DeLay seemed readily inclined to loosen the federal purse strings any time it might help add a few more seats to the Republican majority," he writes.

He adds three pages later: "I don't think the Democrats won. It was the Republicans who lost. The Democrats came to power in the Congress because they were the only party left standing."

Greenspan, 81, indirectly criticizes his friend and colleague from the Ford administration, Vice President Dick Cheney. Former Bush Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill has quoted Cheney as once saying, "Reagan proved deficits don't matter."

Greenspan says, " 'Deficits don't matter,' to my chagrin became part of the Republicans' rhetoric."

He argues that "deficits must matter" and that uncontrolled government spending and borrowing can produce high inflation "and economic devastation." By the end of last year, Greenspan writes with some bitterness, Washington was "harboring a dysfunctional government."