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Bush’s Bizarro Year in Review

by JASON LEOPOLD

President Bush put a positive spin on the sagging economy in his last weekly radio address of the year Saturday, going as far as to say that so-called measures his administration has adopted this year has actually resulted in economic growth that continues to show signs of improvement and will only get better in the new year. But nothing could be further from the truth.

The nation just saw its worst holiday shopping season in 30 years. Consumer confidence is at an all time low. The threat of war and the continuous corporate scandals that plague Wall Street resulted in the Dow Jones Industrial Index falling six percent in December alone, its lowest point since 1931, according to the New York Stock Exchange.

Since Bush took office, seven of the nation’s top corporations have filed for bankruptcy protection and analysts are expecting dozens more in <2003.But> Bush would have you believe that’s all in the past. In his radio address Saturday, Bush said the corporate reform bill he signed last summer has turned CEO’s into honest citizens.

“Our nation learned of scandalous abuses by some corporate leaders, and so I signed the most sweeping corporate reforms in more than a half a century,” Bush said. “We are strictly enforcing the laws against fraud and deception in corporate America because workers and investors must have confidence in America’s businesses and business leaders.”

Corporate reform? There’s no such thing. Corporate reform is not a priority for the Bush administration now that a war with Iraq is dominating the front pages. Signing the corporate reform act helped the Republicans secure votes before the November election. But enforcing the law is a different story. Day after day corporations, large and small, continue to restate their earnings and millions of investors continue to lose their retirement savings. And that’s just since the bill was passed in July.

Possibly the most obvious of the President’s lies Saturday is that the economy is recovering. A report released earlier this month by the National Governor’ Association said that nearly every state in the country is facing a fiscal crisis. California is facing a staggering $35 billion budget deficit. Kentucky has scheduled an early release of 500 prison inmates in an effort to cut costs and California Governor Gray Davis has said he may be forced to do the same. Thousands of state employees across the country are losing their jobs. Education, law enforcement and other vital services face the most serious cuts. But the president will have you believe that all is well. The reality is that the outlook for the economy is pretty grim.

Posing another threat to the economy because of tensions with Iraq is rising oil prices, which reached a high of $32.72 Friday. Analysts told Reuters news service last week they expect the price for oil to hit $35 a barrel early next year as the United States moves closer to war. That could have a ripple effect on the economy and drive up the price for all kinds of goods and services, according to the Reuters report.

“I see that happening in January. I hate to break the bad news,” Gary Kaltbaum of Investors’ Edge Partners in Orlando told Reuters last week.

All these dire predictions and warning signs and the President still wants to give a huge tax break to the wealthy. Where are the Democrats? What happened to their backbones? Too many months have passed without as much as a squeak out of the Democratic leadership in Congress and the Senate. Not one Democratic lawmaker has even attempted to take Bush to task on his war mongering, the economy, or corporate reform, three of the biggest issues of the past year. It’s this type of weakness that the Republicans will use to put Bush back in office for another four years.

As Bush said in closing Saturday, “thank you for listening and Happy New Year.”

JASON LEOPOLD can be reached at: jasonleopold@hotmail.com

 

JASON LEOPOLD is the former Los Angeles bureau chief of Dow Jones Newswires where he spent two years covering the energy crisis and the Enron bankruptcy. He just finished writing a book about the crisis, due out in December through Rowman & Littlefield. He can be reached at: jasonleopold@hotmail.com

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