George W. Bush was a lousy president for humans, but he might have been an even worse president for pets.
Alabama animal shelters report that a growing number of people are dropping off pets that they no longer can afford, thanks to the recession brought on by Bush's wrongheaded economic policies.
A spokesman for the Greater Birmingham Humane Society (GBHS) pointed to several dogs that were brought in after their owners went through foreclosures.
Even more pets are being brought in from owners who are struggling to pay for their rental housing.
The GBHS said that in 2007 about 7 percent of people who surrendered pets listed money-related issues--"couldn't afford normal care" or "couldn't afford pet deposit at apartment complex"--as the reason. That number jumped to 16 percent in 2008.
The director of a shelter in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, said her facility is packed. "I've been doing this for 15 years, and I don't remember a January where we haven't had a cage."
In Montgomery, shelters have seen a significant spike in pet surrenders. Says one director: "The No. 1 reason is 'can't afford.'"
By the way, the statement about Bush's "wrongheaded economic policies" is not just a careless slap at W from a progressive blogger. Some conservatives would have you believe that this recession is a "downturn in the business cycle," that nothing could have been done to prevent it. But the foreclosures, bankruptcies, layoffs, business failures, and financial fraud are a direct consequence of Bush's economic policies. Consider a few economic trends that worsened under Bush:
* Income disparity--Way too much of our national wealth is in the hands of too few people. This is largely a result of Bush's tax cuts favoring the wealthiest Americans. This inevitably causes our economy to bog down. That's what is happening now;
* Deregulation--What happens when no one is watching the hen house? The fox wanders in and helps himself. This contributed greatly to the collapse of numerous Wall Street titans;
* Speculation--Republicans claim to be against gambling with chips and such. But they are all for gambling with risky financial instruments. A GOP-fueled culture of speculation led to the mortgage crisis;
* Erosion of Workers' Rights--GOP policies consistently favor executives over workers, managers over people who actually do things or make things. But spending by executives and managers is not enough to drive our economy. We need a strong middle class to drive the economy, and most middle-class folks are wage earners. When their wages stagnate, or they see their jobs being threatened, they cut back on spending. And that results in "ghost malls" and other retail nightmares.
This was all predictable, but Americans who voted for George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004 did not bother educating themselves about our economic history. Those who want to avoid making the same mistake again should read The Politics of Rich and Poor by Kevin Phillips.
I've touted Phillips' work several times on this blog. In fact, I've called Rich and Poor perhaps the most important public-affairs book of the past 50 years. The book is getting to be about 18 years old now, but its message is as powerful today as it was when it came out--just before Bill Clinton was elected president in the early 1990s and had to bail us out of a mess created by Ronald Reagan and the first George Bush. Now, Barack Obama is trying to save us from an even bigger economic mess, this one caused by the second George Bush. When will we ever learn that electing Bushes and their brethren is not a good idea?
If you want to understand why we are in our current economic fix, I encourage you to check out Kevin Phillips' work. His criticism of GOP economic policies is compelling because he used to be one of them. Phillips served in the Nixon administration and remembers a time when at least some Republicans cared about regular folks and the greater good. Those days were ushered out with the "Reagan Revolution," and the GOP has been swirling down the toilet ever since.
Many Republicans now hate Phillips, but he is hardly a wild-eyed liberal (whatever that is). In fact, Phillips identifies himself as an independent. More importantly, Phillips is a clear-eyed historian and analyst who has repeatedly warned us about the danger of the "supply-side" economics that has come to dominate conservative thought over the past 25 to 30 years.
This economic crisis was not an accident or a case of bad timing for W. His own policies caused it, and more Americans should have known this was coming.
Unfortunately, we humans aren't the only ones paying a stiff price. Our animal friends are suffering, too.