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Down on Our Knees

by WALTER BRASCH

Standing before more than 1,400 loyalists and lobbyists who threw him more than $3.5 million, President Bush claimed he “got the economy going again . . . laid the foundation for greater prosperity” and defended the country against terrorism.

Assuming he was neither drunk or stoned, he may have believed what he was spinning.

But, let’s look at the record. First up, the economy.

–More than 2.7 million jobs have been lost during the past two years. More than 10 million are unemployed, the highest unemployment rate since the Bush I era.

–The Republican-controlled Congress failed to pass any significant legislation to raise the minimum wage or to provide health coverage for 60 million Americans.

–although the Administration says it wants to extend universal health coverage to all Iraqis.

–President Bush declared that leading economists said if the $350 million tax cut was approved, the economy would grow by 3.3 percent. As Gordon Livingston, writing in the Baltimore Sun, correctly noted, “no such report exists.”

–What does exist is a welfare package for the rich. The top one percent, many of whom live on dividends and stock sales, benefit far more than most Americans who are paid hourly. Among their benefits are reduced income taxes, dividend exclusions and capital gains benefits, and a special deduction of up to $100,000 for any vehicle over three tons. About 50 million lower- and middle-class families get nothing; about 20 million get less than $100. In his original proposal, eventually modified by Congress, President Bush allocated nothing for military pay increases, nor any provisions to cover military families.

–The package includes a “child tax credit.” Those with incomes below $26,625 a year get nothing. In killing the credit for low-income families, House Majority Leader Tom Delay coldly set the Republican priority. “There are other things that are more important,” he told more than 12 million families.

–Among the “more important” items was a $1 million expense to turn around the U.S.S. Lincoln as it neared San Diego so the flight-suited President Bush could jet out and pose for several hundred cameras.

–Although President Bush declared he wanted corporate reforms, the actions of the administration proved otherwise. Halliburton, the company that Vice-President Cheney once ran, got a no-bid contract to help clean up Iraq–after American-led forces tried to destroy and are now trying to “Americanize” one of the world’s oldest civilizations. There have yet to be any prosecutions for Enron or WorldCom, among dozens of other corporations, which gave multi-million dollar benefits and bonuses to its executives while the workers lost their savings and retirements.

Let’s now look at the President’s claims that he is responsible for reducing the levels of terror.

–What the Administration has reduced is the number of airport security screeners, delayed implementation of port security vulnerability assessments, and given the Coast Guard even more responsibilities with severe budget constraints. Nevertheless, we now have a color scheme.

–In his January 28 State of the Union message to justify his planned war, the President strongly implied that Saddam Hussein had ties to al-Qaeda, and claimed that Iraq already had and was continuing to develop substantial quantities of biological and chemical weapons. He even cited documents that he said proved Iraq was buying supplies from African countries. Even as the President spoke, intelligence agencies had called these documents suspicious; the documents later proved to be forgeries. Those who argued there was no justification to go to war with Iraq, no matter how evil its leader was, were banded by the President’s followers to be unpatriotic and un-American. No intelligence agency claimed there was any connection between Iraq and the 9/11 attacks. In Poland after the war, the President declared “We found weapons of mass destruction.” But, two months after the war was officially over, but with American troops still dying in Iraq, Marine Lt. Gen. James Conway, said that extensive searching showed no weapons of mass destruction exists.

–At the same time the Bush administration is de-arming Iraqi civilians–claiming that guns are too dangerous for the average citizen–the NRA-controlled administration is doing nothing to influence the NRA-controlled Congress to continue the temporary ban on assault weapons when it expires in September, thus raising Americans’ own terror levels.

–And then there’s John Ashcroft. The attorney general, with complete approval and encouragement from the White House, launched a massive attack upon the Constitution and civil liberties. Patriot Act I, with its sequel in development stages, has provisions that make even Saddam Hussein’s disregard for human rights look rather mild. In a scathing report, the Justice Department’s own inspector general blasted the FBI and Justice for massive violation of citizen rights.

When Bill Clinton came into office, after George H. W. Bush had led the nation into a series of domestic crises, there were 10 million unemployed, a federal debt that was four times greater than under Reagan/Bush, higher welfare and crime cases than ever before, massive environmental and MediCare cuts, and a $290 billion deficit. When Mr. Clinton left office eight years later, the nation had experienced the biggest economic expansion in history. More than 22 million new jobs were created, unemployment dropped to the lowest rate in 30 years, and welfare cases were down by almost half. He also stopped massive Medicare and environmental cuts imposed by the previous Republican administration, and set aside more land for environment than anyone since Teddy Roosevelt a century earlier. He put 150,000 Americans into AmeriCorps to aid the impoverished, added the family medical leave policy, special tax credits for families whose children were in college, provided federal funding for more than 100,000 teachers and 10,000 police, and allowed two million more impoverished children to benefit from health coverage. He created stronger ties to other nations, directed the biggest expansion of the GI Bill of Rights since World War II, and gave America a $230 billion surplus. A political witch hunt by conservatives led to several million taxpayer dollars to investigate Travelgate and Whitewatergate, neither of which had any substance. A politically-motivated investigation by the incoming Bushians of theft and malicious violence in the White House and Air Force One fizzled among massive government documents that proved otherwise.

However, because Intern Monica got down on her knees before Mr. Clinton who then lied about it, he was disgraced and impeached, though not convicted.

When George W. Bush gets down on his knees before corporations and a phalanx of special interest lobbyists who tuck wads of dollar bills into his elastic campaign fund, then lies about the economy, innumerable domestic issues, and reasons to send American youth into war, we just nod our heads and tell him to keep sucking and spinning.

Go figure.

Walt Brasch’s latest book is “The Joy of Sax: America During the Bill Clinton Era.” You may reach him at brasch@bloomu.edu. Assisting was Rosemary R. Brasch.

Walter Brasch is an award-winning social issues journalist. His latest book is Fracking Pennsylvania, an analysis of the history, economics, and politics of fracking, as well as its environmental and health effects.

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