George Bush Sr. on Budget & Economy

President of the U.S., 1989-1993; Former Republican Rep. (TX)


Profile in Courage for establishing pay-as-you-go rule

In 1990, with the federal deficit at $200 billion and the Congressional Budget Office suggesting it could double, President Bush negotiated with congressional Democrats to enact a budget deal which included spending cuts and tax increases aimed at reducing the deficit by approximately $500 billion over the following five years.

The 1990 bipartisan budget agreement set annual limits on discretionary spending by Congress on defense, domestic programs and international affairs. It also, for the first time, created "pay as you go" rules for entitlements and taxes.

In order to reach the deal, Bush agreed to a tax increase as part of the compromise, and he was pilloried by conservatives for doing so. Although he recognized the 1990 budget deal might doom his prospects for reelection, he did what he thought was best for the country and has since been credited with helping to lay the foundation of the economic growth of the 1990s that followed.

Source: Kennedy School/JFK Library 2014 Profile in Courage Award , May 1, 2014

OpEd: Bush budget was terrible but Dems budget was worse

I was overwhelmed because both 1989 budgets were deeply flawed proposals. Bush the First, his budget was terrible. And the Democratic budget was even worse. So I went back to my office and announced to my staff that we would write our own budget.

In 1989 there was offered on the House floor the President's budget, and the Democrats' rebuttal budget, and the Kasich budget. A budget needs 218 votes out of a possible 435 to win passage, and the party in power always tends to prevail in these things. We voted first on the Democratic budget. They were in the majority at that time, and they received 230 votes. Then we voted on the Bush budget, which received 213 votes, falling just short. The Kasich budget received 30 votes of approval.

Every year I offered my own budget for consideration, and my 3rd or 4th year my budget received more votes than the President got for his budget.

Source: Stand For Something, by John Kasich, p. 84-86 , May 10, 2006

Increased national debt from $3T in 1988 to $4T in 1992

The problem with applying the traditional analysis to current conditions was that under Reagan and Bush, we had built a large structural deficit that persisted in good times and bad. When President Reagan took office, the national debt was $1 trillion. It tripled during his eight years, thanks to the big tax cuts in 1981 and increases in spending. Under President Bush, the debt continued to increase again, by one-third, in just four years. Now it totaled $4 trillion. Annual interest payments on the deb were the third-largest item in the federal budget after defense and Social Security.

The deficit was the inevitable result of so-called supply-side economics, the theory that the more you cut taxes, the more the economy will grow, with the growth producing more tax revenue at lower tax rates than previously had been collected at higher ones. Of course it didn't work, and the deficits exploded throughout the recovery of the 1980s.

Source: My Life, by Bill Clinton, p.458-459 , Jun 21, 2004

1992 debate: Disconnected on recession's personal effect

On Oct. 15, 1992, toward the end of a presidential debate, an African-American woman asked a confusing question: "How has the national debt personally affected each of your lives? And if it hasn't, how can you honestly find a cure for the economic problems of the common people if you have no experience in what's ailing them?"

Bush: "I'm sure it has. I love my grandchildren. I'm not sure I get... help me with the question."

Q: "Well, I've had friends who've been laid off from their jobs."

Moderator: "I think she means the recession, rather than the deficit."

Bush: "Well, listen, you ought to be in the White House for a day and hear what I hear. I was in an AME Church and I read the bulletin about teenage pregnancies, about the difficulties people are having making ends meet."

After more struggle, it was Clinton's turn--and he asked her, "Tell me how it affected you again?"

The woman was speechless.

Source: The Natural, by Joe Klein, p. 42-43 , Feb 11, 2003

1992 growth plan: deregulate & cut taxes

Bush’s 1992 State of the Union address offered a plan for economic growth that called for a moratorium on new government regulations on business, a cut in the capital gains tax, and the elimination of numerous domestic programs he deemed undeserving of federal funding. He also endorsed a health-insurance tax credit for poor families and a tax credit for first-time home buyers. Congress adopted some of his proposals, but Bush vetoed the final bill because it raised taxes on the wealthy.
Source: Grolier Encyclopedia on-line, “The Presidency” , Dec 25, 2000

Trickle down government doesn't create jobs

Q: [to Clinton]: You are promising to create jobs, reduce the deficit, reform health care, rebuild infrastructure, guarantee college education, all with financial pain only for the rich. Is it possible?

CLINTON: I believe we can increase investment and reduce the deficit, if we not only ask the wealthiest Americans to pay their share; we also provide $100 billion in tax relief and $140 billion of spending cuts. Take money from defense cuts and reinvest it in transportation, communications and environmental clean-up systems.

BUSH: I don't like trickle down government. Clinton says grow government. Government doesn't create jobs. If they do, they're make-work jobs. It's the private sector that creates jobs.

PEROT: We still have a significant deficit under each of their plans. There's only one way out of this, and that is to have a growing job base. My plan balances the budget within 6 years. We didn't do it faster than that because we didn't want to disrupt the economy.

Source: The Third Clinton-Bush-Perot Presidential Debate , Oct 19, 1992

Saw 1992 economy as recovering; public did not

The Economy is recovering and eventually that will help a lot. A statistic--the economy grew at 2.4% in the 1st quarter and, yet, according to polls, 70% of the people still think it is getting worse. There is a lag that will be corrected and the correction will help us.
Source: Letter from George Bush in All The Best, p.561 , Jun 1, 1992

Not interested in spend-spend-spend agenda

The Libs charge that I am not interested in Domestic Policy. Wrong!! The problem is I am not interested in their spend spend spend agenda. I have had to veto a lot of bad stuff, and I will continue to do that in an effort to get good legislation.
Source: Letter from George Bush in All The Best, p.538 , Oct 10, 1991

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Other past presidents on Budget & Economy: George Bush Sr. on other issues:
Former Presidents:
Barack Obama(D,2009-2017)
George W. Bush(R,2001-2009)
Bill Clinton(D,1993-2001)
George Bush Sr.(R,1989-1993)
Ronald Reagan(R,1981-1989)
Jimmy Carter(D,1977-1981)
Gerald Ford(R,1974-1977)
Richard Nixon(R,1969-1974)
Lyndon Johnson(D,1963-1969)
John F. Kennedy(D,1961-1963)
Dwight Eisenhower(R,1953-1961)
Harry S Truman(D,1945-1953)

Past Vice Presidents:
V.P.Joseph Biden
V.P.Dick Cheney
V.P.Al Gore
V.P.Dan Quayle
Sen.Bob Dole

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Reform Party
Natural Law Party
Tea Party
Constitution Party
Civil Rights
Foreign Policy
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Govt. Reform
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Health Care
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Social Security
Tax Reform

Page last updated: Feb 22, 2022