It should be no surprise that new presidential administrations like to take jabs at their predecessors from a different political party. Or that federal budget requests are one way to do it.
When President Bush submitted his first budget in 2001, he called it "A Blueprint for New Beginnings," a mild swipe at Bill Clinton, with a subtitle "of "A responsible budget for America's priorities."
Mr. Bush's introductory remarks talked up "compassionate" conservativism, saying there was a third approach beyond "divided" politics in Washington.
It noted that government "has had difficulty" being efficient in the past and should take lessons from the private sector in terms of increasing "customer satisfaction."
Those are implied criticisms of President Clinton, to be sure, but mild ones. By contrast, when President Obama submitted his first budget request on Thursday, the gloves came off amidst a flurry of partisan rhetoric.
Mr. Obama's request lambasted "profound irresponsibility" among those in power in Washington, D.C. -- that is, the Republican Party -- saying it had "a legacy of misplaced priorities" and a "legacy of mismanagement and misplaced priorities" that were responsible for "policy failures of the past eight years."
The Bush administration was "delinquent" in its "lack of investment in the future"; "policy was made behind closed doors" with "unprecedented levels of secrecy"; "government spent recklessly" with a "dogmatic deregulatory approach" while the "regulatory system atrophied" thanks to a "high tolerance of waste, fraud, and abuse"; all in service of "discredited... trickle-down economics."
(The idea that the regulatory system "atrophied" might come as a surprise to those who follow these topic. An article in last month's Reason Magazine notes that under Mr. Bush, "economically significant" regulations increased 70 percent since 2001. And the total number of pages in the Federal Register -- a useful barometer of the regulatory apparatus -- reached an all-time high of 78,090 in 2007, up from 64,438 under Mr. Clinton.)
In the last paragraph of his letter included with the summary, Mr. Obama took a final parting shot at Mr. Bush, saying the nation's current economic "problems are rooted in past mistakes."
When Mr. Obama won the Iowa caucuses in January 2008, he announced that "the time has come to move beyond the bitterness and pettiness and anger that's consumed Washington." What a difference one year makes.
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