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Would Someone Get Bush Off Campaign Trail, Please

Author: Amity Shlaes, Former Hayek Senior Fellow for Political Economy
January 10, 2008
Bloomberg

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Proposing ways to deal with the prospect of recession is a job requirement for presidential candidates, and every one of them—from John Edwards to Ron Paul to Mitt Romney—is offering some antidote or other.

The surprise is that one of the largest projects under discussion comes from a man who isn't running for office at all. His name is George W. Bush.

The president would probably call the package of ideas that he was hinting at recently in Chicago “economic stimulus,” not “political logrolling.” And it is true that the economy has troubles. There is the subprime mess. The dollar's slide suggests that the relative competitiveness of the U.S. may be in jeopardy. Americans save too little. Then there is the jump in unemployment to 5 percent, and the looming structural deficits from entitlements. Everyone wants a less bumpy future.

But some of the devices that Bush may have been thinking about in recent weeks aren't worthy of him. They are so targeted, so temporary and so political that they could come out of Hillary Clinton's playbook. They contain too little for long-term growth to make them welcome, even to fellow Republicans trying to explain away the collapsing housing market.

The first idea on the Bush table is bonus depreciation, something similar to what was once called accelerated depreciation. This would let companies deduct half the purchase price of capital equipment, such as computers or machine tools.

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