Bush’s 3rd term (a fantasy)

Let’s assume that Jeb Bush wrapped up the 2016 GOP nomination after a spirited contest with Trump, who ran a campaign focused on ending the trade deficit and stopping illegal immigration. Jeb is elected in the fall and it is widely seen as George Bush’s 3rd term. Jeb goes on to repeat all the mistakes of his brother:

1.Like his brother, Jeb enacts a big tax cut that increases the budget deficit. Just as in the early 2000s, the deficit sucks in foreign savings, ballooning the trade deficit. But Jeb doesn’t care about trade deficits, he’s a supply-sider—a free trader, not a mercantilist.

2. Just as his brother botched Katrina, Jeb’s handling of the Puerto Rican hurricane is extraordinarily incompetent. Thousands die as a result, and the electrical system is down for months. Jeb benefits from media fatigue as, unlike with Katrina, the media mostly ignores the scandal.

3. The tax cuts spur faster economic growth, which creates a strong labor market. As in the late 1990s and 2004-06, the strong labor market draws in many more illegal immigrants. Congress offers to appropriate funds to build a wall on the border, if Bush is willing to compromise on immigration reform. But Bush doesn’t want a wall, and refuses to compromise with Congress. Hence no wall is built. The following graph shows arrests at the border, which white nationalists view as the best metric for the pace of illegal immigration:

By February 2019, illegal immigration was out of control with 76,103 detentions, twice the normal levels. Then it got even worse:

“This is the worst crisis the Border Patrol has ever faced in the history of the Border Patrol and we’re going back to 1924,” Judd told WMAL radio host Vince Coglianese.“In my 21-year career as a Border Patrol agent, I’ve never seen it like this and I’ve worked in the busiest locations. . . . In the history of the Border Patrol it’s never been like this before. This is the worst it’s ever been and if we don’t do something it’s going to continue to get worse.”

Judd’s comments come after the Department of Homeland Security announced that there were 100,000 apprehensions at the southern border in the month of March and 76,000 in February. The numbers for both months were the highest in ten years.

The 100,000 figure for March was literally “off the charts”, and suggested a catastrophic increase in illegal immigration. Jeb seemed unconcerned, assuring the public that this was a sign that his pro-growth policies were working—more and more people wanted to live in an America that was finally “great again”, after the sluggish Obama years.

But GOP voters were not placated by these bland assurances, and by 2020 the white nationalists had taken over the party, with their protectionist, anti-immigration policy agenda. They decide that they don’t want a “great America”, as a great America will be an increasingly populous and cosmopolitan America that is full of immigrants, and also an America that replaces manufacturing with services and high tech. The white nationalists that take over the GOP abandon their support for capitalism.

Of course this is just a fantasy. It didn’t happen.

Or did it?

PS. I recently noted that the Mueller report was a win for Trump. But I was laughed when I also mentioned that we might want to look at the full Mueller report before reaching a final conclusion. Now people on the Mueller team say Attorney General Barr misrepresented their findings. Why am I not surprised?

PPS. Watch commenters say that we can trust the Mueller report, but not anything that the Mueller team says about their report.

PPPS. The same commenters who told me “at least Trump is picking distinguished economists to serve on the Federal Reserve Board.” File the following undernot from The Onion“:

Trump plans to announce his selection very soon, said three people, who asked not be identified discussing the nomination because it hasn’t been announced. Cain would fill one of two open seats on the board; the president plans to name Stephen Moore, a visiting fellow at the Heritage Foundation and a long-time Trump supporter, for the other.

This is how banana republics operate, as I told you all two years ago.



16 Responses to “Bush’s 3rd term (a fantasy)”

  1. Gravatar of Brian Donohue Brian Donohue
    4. April 2019 at 13:09

    I have sympathy for anyone that wants to come here and make a better life for themselves, but I also recognize that capitalists hate tight labor markets and have always been fans of untrammeled immigration, something everybody else seems to have forgotten:

    “People said that old man Durham himself was responsible for these immigrations; he had sworn that he would fix the people of Packingtown so that they would never again call a strike on him, and so he had sent his agents into every city and village in Europe to spread the tale of the chances of work and high wages at the stockyards. The people had come in hordes; and old Durham had squeezed them tighter and tighter, speeding them up and grinding them to pieces and sending for new ones. The Poles, who had come by tens of thousands, had been driven to the wall by the Lithuanians, and now the Lithuanians were giving way to the Slovaks.”

  2. Gravatar of SV SV
    4. April 2019 at 14:58

    With regards to the report today from “anonymous sources”, one lesson from this Mueller saga is that these kinds of reports shouldn’t be given thought until a reporter can find someone willing to attach their name to them

  3. Gravatar of Tom Brown Tom Brown
    4. April 2019 at 15:05

    Trump’s going with Cain because neither Gary Bucy nor Honey Boo Boo were available.

  4. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    4. April 2019 at 16:25

    Brian, Thank God we got all those Eastern European immigrants. America would be a much worse place without them.

    SV, Yes. Sort of like reports from the Trump administration.

  5. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    4. April 2019 at 18:04

    It’s even worse than that. “Anonymous sources” again, yes, like always. But this time they don’t even give any new information.

    It’s just endless articles by the NYT again, and when you through with them, what relevant new information was really in them? Nothing. Another nothingburger.


    Of course this is just a fantasy. It didn’t happen. Or did it?


    I like the way you cover your prophecies in dissimilar directions routinely. Your TDS blog posts signal “Well, I told you how bad Trump is for the country all along” while at the same time statements like the above signal “Well, I told you all along how unimportant Trump is”.

    No matter how things play out in the end, you can always claim that you were right. I think that’s what a clever prophecy should look like. You are the new Oracle of Delphi.

  6. Gravatar of Matthias Görgens Matthias Görgens
    4. April 2019 at 21:25

    Brian, migrants are people too. Those evil capitalist are just doing good, if they help them come to a better place.

  7. Gravatar of Brian Donohue Brian Donohue
    5. April 2019 at 04:41


    I understand your point. My push back has to do with pace of change. If it were slower, we would be less rich today. That’s the birds’e-eye view. I can adopt this detached view.

    But what about the individual lives lived in the meantime? Surely you read The Jungle yourself. Does our greater wealth today justify the immiseration of previous generations.

    I read something recently about Chinese immigrants to America who cannot afford to raise their kids here, so the kids are shipped back to China to be raised by grandparents. I don’t know about you, but a stable family life as a child and a parent are the greatest sources of joy I have. My relationships with my parents and children are the key bonds I enjoy in this vale of tears.

    The idea that a family has to completely sunder these bonds for a generation is heart-breaking to me, but, apparently, the pace of global capitalism must not be slowed.

    I have very mixed feelings about the whole thing. I can put on my cold-blooded economist hat and say it must be this way, but at the same time, part of me feels that the whole thing is inhuman.

  8. Gravatar of Brian Donohue Brian Donohue
    5. April 2019 at 05:27

    Allow me a different tack. Check out the third chart here:


    We went through a period of huge immigration in the early 20th century, followed by a Depression and backlash. Almost zero immigration in the 1930s, slowly increasing thereafter. It was not until the 1990s that we again reached levels of immigration seen in the first decade of the 20th century.

    Everyone left and right fondly recalls the post-war period as the great compression, shared prosperity, significant improvement in the lot of poor (including, incidentally, black) Americans. Do you suppose there is a connection between this phenomenon and prevailing immigration policy?

    A decade ago, we suffered the Great Recession, off the charts unemployment, etc etc. Just as in the 1930s, slowing the rate of immigration is the right response here, no? But we have lots of people talking the other way, that now is the time for Open Borders. Sorry, the people who are already here, millions of whom have suffered over the past decade, have a say in the matter, just as the unemployed in the 1930s did.

    Growth and consolidation. That seems to be the rhythmic pattern.

    Anyway, as you point out, illegal immigration does respond to this rhythm. Lots of illegals went home during The Great Recession, and now it looks like they are coming back.

    I think Friedman may have supported something like the status quo in terms of illegal immigration. Don’t legitimize, but look the other way. Perhaps.

    Of course, the public dialogue today is that if you are against increasing immigration of any flavor, you are a racist. Unhelpful, ignorant, childish.

  9. Gravatar of Patrick R. Sullivan Patrick R. Sullivan
    5. April 2019 at 06:46

    Actually, I’d prefer Herman Cain to Steve Moore on the Fed. Cain isn’t under any illusions that he’s an economist. He might even respond to the virtue of simplicity in NGDP targeting.

    Can we say that the distinguished academic Ben Bernanke was an unqualified success as Fed Chairman?

  10. Gravatar of P Burgos P Burgos
    5. April 2019 at 08:17

    You forgot to put in the part about Jeb invades a large Middle Eastern country on false pretenses, resulting in at least 100,000 deaths, trillion of dollars of wasted US military spending and tens of thousands of needless US casualties, and how all this triggers the further expansion of Islamist terrorist networks, destabilizes other countries in the region, sets off a huge refugee crisis and a new struggle for supremacy because rival powers in the region.

    I mean, it isn’t like you left out the most important and defining legacy of W. Bush’s presidency (and the reason a figure like Trump was even remotely possible).

  11. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    5. April 2019 at 13:40

    Brian, People who come here may work under difficult conditions, but they are still generally better off than what they faced at home.

    You said:

    I can put on my cold-blooded economist hat and say it must be this way”

    You should never put on that hat—I never do. Always be a bleeding heart. A bleeding heart neoliberal.

    You said:

    “Do you suppose there is a connection between this phenomenon and prevailing immigration policy?”

    You are referring to policies regarding legal immigration. I doubt that current policies on legal immigration have much impact on wage inequality, but it’s possible that illegal immigration has modestly increased inequality. The bigger factors are likely automation, de-unionization, globalization, etc.

    Burgos, I think you missed the point; this post wasn’t about the Bush presidency of 2001-09, it’s about what Jeb would have done. Are you saying he would have again invaded Iraq?

  12. Gravatar of Benny Lava Benny Lava
    5. April 2019 at 14:35

    It is a shame that Scott never read The Jungle as he used to live not all that far from the old Union Stockyards. Though he most assuredly never visited that part of Chicago.

  13. Gravatar of E. Harding E. Harding
    5. April 2019 at 17:54

    “Thank God we got all those Eastern European immigrants. America would be a much worse place without them.”

    Thank you Sumner.

    Your descriptions of Jeb Bush were not scathing enough, I’m sad to say.

  14. Gravatar of Larry Larry
    8. April 2019 at 06:03

    I’ve had some thoughts on open borders. They probably make no sense but I will share them anyway.

    Open borders are coming no matter what we do. Why?

    1. Because travel around the world becomes easier and easier. and
    2. Population around the world gets denser and denser which means any disaster, man-made like wars or natural like floods, will force millions to move. Consequently,
    3. We will have world government sooner than any one has ever thought.

    One more thought: We have already fought for open borders for years! We want our money to be able to go and buy resources no matter what the local governments think. We have always been for open borders for our money even though we oppose open borders for humans.

    Thank you for your patience.

  15. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    8. April 2019 at 08:23

    Benny, You’d be surprised, I visited quite a few places on the south side of Chicago.

  16. Gravatar of P Burgos P Burgos
    10. April 2019 at 08:39

    I mean, if he is really a Bush like the other ones, yes, he would have invaded a Middle Eastern country. Probably Syria.

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