The presidency of George W. Bush will forever be intertwined with the terrorist attacks that Tuesday morning. Less than a year after his controversial general election win, the events of 9/11 forced Bush to substantially shift the focus of the majority of his eight years toward security and national defense concerns.
And while some have appropriately attempted to tie many of our current fiscal problems to the terrorist attacks of 9/11, it is very likely that the financial crisis would have happened had the attacks not occurred.
Now more than 10 years after he first took office, few people remember that Bush won the presidency after campaigning heavily on domestic issues, such as changes to national educational policy, the potential for exploring stem cell research, and Social Security reform.
Bush was sympathetic towards the nation’s big businesses. The Harvard MBA-educated, former businessman who made millions prospecting in oilfields would, most likely, have sought to find ways which he could have slashed taxes, provided incentives, circumvented regulation, and generally made life very easy on corporations. Indeed, in the early days of his first term he opted not to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, as it would hinder American industry.
Some argue that the 9/11 attacks played a major role in our current financial woes. They say that the markets crumbled, and they took years recuperate, that we entered two wars, and spent hundreds of billions that, in theory, could have been distributed amongst our nation’s infrastructure.
However, the terror attacks did not give us the means which would inevitably spell disaster for our economy: deregulation. It was fiscal instruments such as subprime mortgages, credit-default swaps, and easy access to leverage for businesses which doomed our economy. Our markets lost more points after Congress rejected a $700 billion bailout plan at the onset of the financial crisis in 2008, than it did after the markets re-opened after the 9/11 attacks.
In fact, had 9/11 not occurred, and Bush did not have to focus on the efforts of his presidency on issues abroad, we would likely have seen further deregulation which would have translated into a deeper hole for our nation’s markets when the bottom eventually fell out, likely during the Bush presidency.
Many people made a lot of money on the practices which inevitably led to the financial crisis. And had the necessary opportunities presented themselves, much more money could have been made (for a lucky few, of course). The business-friendly Bush would have likely taken steps to make sure that such practices as those which accompanied these financial WMD’s were easier for businesses to take part in. Meaning that more would have been invested in such practices, and that our situation would be even more dire now.
Would we be in our fiscal situation had 9/11 not occurred? Such conjecture is as difficult to predict as it is thought provoking. As is the case with the 9/11 attacks themselves, many variables went into the development of the current financial crisis. Yet it is always incredibly easy to speculate after much of the damage has been done.
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