To the annals of contra factual history which range from Churchill's "What if Lee had won at Gettysburg", to SNL's what if Napoleon had a B-52 bomber, I have my own addition: What if Steve Forbes had won the primary and general elections in 2000? How would the world differ from the world we live in now?
Steve Forbes would not have negotiated away the supply side tax cuts in 2001. He would not have let the Democrats insist that only tax cuts for the poor and middle class be implanted immediately. He would not have agreed to defer the tax cuts of the entrepreneurial and investor class into the indefinite future. He would have (and did) recognize that we had already entered a recession before he entered the White House and would have used that fact to push the tax cuts through. The Forbes Boom would have started in 2001, not 2003. Two years of stagnation and jobs loss could have been avoided.
There would not have been a flood of excess money supply in 2003 either. The tax cuts would have made that kind of hyper stimulation through the printing press unthinkable. Even if Greenspan would have been tempted to flood the globe with dollars, Forbes would have put rhetorical (which is perfectly legitimate; the Fed is independent, but not quarantined) pressure on them to do the right thing. No cash flood means no housing bubble.
It also means no collapsing dollar, and no oil price bubble, which means no recession now.
Steve Forbes would not have signed Sarbanes Oxley. He would have rightly pointed out that Enron was a beneficiary of overregulation of financial and energy markets; that Enron gamed the regulator system to their advantage. Forbes would have vetoed Sarbox. His SEC would have jailed the Arthur Andersen partners directly responsible for the fraud, but not destroyed the global 85,000 person firm. With no Sarbox and no Enron overreaction, we would not have foisted any 'mark to market' nonsense onto financial statement preparers. The short sellers would be allowed to operate, but they would not have been allowed to write the rule book. Lehman would not have failed. The modest downturn in housing related securities (with no Fed money gusher to fill a big bubble) would have been ridden out by the vast majority of banks as had happened in the 1980s.
Steve Forbes would not have concluded that Wall Street had "gotten drunk." He would have concluded that the regulators and central bankers had slipped them a Mickey. And if they had gotten drunk, he would have prescribed AA, not prohibition. Forbes would not have waited until his sixth year to veto corrupt spending. He would not have waited until his 7th year to issue an executive order forbidding earmarks. He would have saved the Republican congress from itself.
The boom would be continuing. His chosen successor would be leading in the polls. The Dow would be rising. Unemployment would be dropping. The US would be spreading prosperity to the world right now, not financial chaos.