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Obama Begins His Second Term—and Bush’s Fourth

Obama has carried forward Bush policies that are most expansive of government power.

from Reason

bush-obamaNovember’s presidential election was doubly historic: Not only did it ensure Barack Obama a second term, it ensured George W. Bush a fourth.

This flies in the face of Obama’s rhetoric, which repudiated everything the Bush administration supposedly stood for. But Obama’s record repudiates much of his rhetoric.

Consider the deal to avert the fiscal cliff. Although it raises taxes on the top 1 percent of Americans, it extends the Bush tax cuts for the great mass of lower-income earners—as Obama repeatedly insisted it should do. What’s more, it contains almost zero spending cuts. Thus it largely sustains the fiscal trajectory set by Bush, who increased domestic spending at a faster pace than any president since Lyndon Johnson.

The signature domestic accomplishment of Obama’s first term was the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. It represents the largest expansion of government involvement in health care since the signature domestic accomplishment of Bush’s first term, the Medicare Part D prescription-drug benefit. That in turn was the largest expansion of government involvement in health care since, again, Johnson.

Yet these parallels pale in comparison to those concerning national security—where, for instance, the president has embraced the unilateral use of military force he once disdained. Moreover, on Dec. 30 Obama signed into law the FISA Amendments Act Reauthorization Act of 2012—more succinctly known as the warrantless-wiretapping law. Sponsored by Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the measure gives government agents almost carte blanche to eavesdrop on the domestic communications of American citizens. It permits the NSA to scrutinize your emails (for example) so long as (a) it claims to be looking for information about a broadly defined foreign target, and (b) it can claim not to have been aware at the moment of interception that the communication was purely domestic.

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