Pumping Empire and Losing Job Muscles

“I have nothing but contempt and anger for those who betray the trust by exposing the names of our sources. They are, in my view, the most insidious of traitors.”

George W. Bush at the Dedication Ceremony for the George Bush Center for Intelligence, April 26, 1999

“President George W. Bush has no plans to ask his staff members whether they played a role in revealing the name of an undercover CIA officer.”

Washington Post, 9/29/03

Don’t bother him with details! Nobody’s totally consistent! If you remember long ago, in 2000 to be precise, George W. Bush eschewed expensive and ambitious projects like nation building and called for less spending on overseas operations not directly connected to immediate US interests. He called himself a “compassionate conservative” and pledged, among other things, to “leave no child behind.” One wit reminded me that Bush had not left one child behind; rather, he’d left millions of kids in far worse shape than before he took office.

It’s because of the economy, stupid! In 1980, his daddy shouted “Voodoo economics” when Republican candidate for President, Ronald Reagan, announced his “no tax and spend freely” program as the cure-all for America.

Boola Boola economics (the Yale Fight Song thought to have come from a Hawaiian island) might better describe W’s version. A rich kid from Yale majors in cheer leading and during the Harvard game cheers as he sips from the hip flask. “Bring ’em on,” he roars as the Harvard eleven emerge. He remembers the phrase before a presidential TV appearance and repeats it, now referring to Iraqi resistance fighters. He would fight them just as he did his hated Ivy League rival vicariously.

After the football games W always looked forward to tearing down the goal posts a metaphor for what he’s doing to the US economy.

Although he supposedly now steers the ship of state from the Oval Office, logic still eludes him. He has developed a monster-sized spending habit in Afghanistan and Iraq while slashing government revenue — taxes. He still claims unqualified success for his Iraq policy while he and his staff ferret in the halls of the United Nations for help to get out of the Iraq mess.

As Iraq looks daily more like a quagmire than a liberating success story, the deficit rockets upward and job losses continue. With his Alfred E. Newman grin, W tells the public not to worry because the brave but economically poor — servicemen and women and those in the reserve will forgo their pleasures and fight, die and sacrifice for the filthy rich that just got rewarded by his tax plan.

Bush seems unaware of the pain “out there.” His dad couldn’t very well teach him how the average American lived. Remember when Bush 41 encountered a zebra code in a supermarket and asked what the funny black and white thingydoo was for?

But under Daddy, the economy may have sputtered, but didn’t lose jobs. W is the first president since Herbert Hoover to preside over an economy with a net 2.7 million payroll job loss, the heaviest hit taken by the manufacturing sector (New York Times Week in Review, September 28, 2003 p.3.). His speech writers had him promise that “he will not be satisfied until every American who’s looking for a job can find a job.” He simultaneously assured the public that he had a “comprehensive plan for job creation all over America.”

Even some Wall Street conservatives don’t understand how cutting taxes for people who least need or deserve them will produce jobs. Just as W falsely reiterated that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction and close links with the 9/11 ghouls, W now repeats his economic mantra: somehow, some way, through his zany economic plan God will bless the unemployed by finding them a job.

Instead of describing the newest tax cut plan as simply one more sleazy means of satisfying the plutocrats who put up big money for his campaign, Bush infused his policy with an aura of nobility. On April 24, 2003, he said that “the whole purpose of the [tax cuts] package is…to create the conditions for job growth, so people can find work.” “This is a jobs program,” agreed Stan Collender, Budget Analyst at Fleishman-Hillard, but it’s “for two people, the president and the vice president, as they face their re-election” (January 7, 2003).

For all his assurances that lower taxes would help everyone, Bush’s plan demonstrably hurt the poor. A new Center for Budget and Policy Priorities report demonstrates that between 1995-98 the nation’s top 400 taxpayers more than doubled their average income to $110 million average and they did even better during 2001-3, under Bush.

Between 1979-97, the top 1% of the country’s rich had already made more than $414,000 (per family) thanks to government tax policies. During that same period, the bottom 20% had lost about $100. The wealthy benefited from low-taxed capital gains and a fall in the federal tax rate for the upper high income levels from 30 to 22 percent. Under the years of lucrative stock options, where CEOs routinely made tens of millions on “legal” insider trading, the elite figuratively snorted money as if it was lines of powdered cocaine. But the majority of the nation’s population actually paid more in overall taxes.

By cutting the overall domestic budget, the federal grants to the states also diminished. Programs like health care for the poor and mentally ill disappeared. Funds for schools and parks and even police forces diminished. Bus routes disappeared in city after city. Cost cutting measures affected negatively public services in every sector. The rich don’t use any of these so it doesn’t matter to them.

Vociferous anti-tax advocates, who have come close to adding “thou shalt not pay taxes” as the eleventh commandment, laud Bush. Mountebanks like Rush Limbaugh, Larry Elder and Sean Hannity fill the air waves with righteous “conservative” palaver about how honest citizens give their hard earned dollars to the no-goodniks of government. These same self proclaimed Christian screamers have little sympathy for the poor. Why should the rich pay anything to those whom God has decided to occupy lower rungs of the income ladder?

The poor had their chance and blew it, the compassionate conservatives implicitly allege. When these low income types get tax refunds, they spend them meaning creating jobs and kick-starting the economy. But, according to economists like William Dudley, who directs domestic research at Goldman Sachs, the ultra rich tend to horde or invest their massive tax gains in non-productive entities (New York Times, September 28, 2003 p.3).

George W. Bush, loyal to his class, wants to rid the plutocrats not only of the burden of taxes on income, but those on estates and dividends as well. He wants the well-born to enjoy ever greater pleasure when they read and re-read and the gloat over their monthly financial statements.

The average American worker, on the other hand, struggles to make a yearly $40,000 for his or her family. “Why,” asks New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, “does the administration, even on its own estimates, need to offer $500,000 in tax cuts for each job created? If it’s all about jobs, wouldn’t it be far cheaper just to have the government hire people?” (April 22, 2003).

Don’t confuse W with facts or logic. More than 400 economists, including 10 Nobel Prize-winners, agreed that Bush’s tax plan would not produce meaningful job growth. Rather, they reported “its purpose is a permanent change in the tax structure,” that favors the already favored (“Economists’ Statement Opposing the Bush Tax Cuts,” February 10, 2003).

One Bush Administration critic, Dr. Lawrence Mishel, told the House Education and Workforce Committee on February 12, 2003 that the President’s plan will generate growth in GDP and in jobs in the first two years i.e., a plan geared for reelection rather than real job growth. Indeed, Mishel predicted that the plan would raise unemployment higher than would otherwise be the case from 2005-2007.

Mark Zandi, Chief Economist at Economy.com, claimed that the Bush plan would result in 750,000 fewer jobs by 2013 (Economy.com, February 2003).

Boola Boola economics purveyors will continue to pretend that tax cuts have noting to do with government’s ability to meet the needs of the average American. They will try to sell that line to meat packers and food processing workers, supermarket checkers and Walmart clerks whose needs have grown acute. W hailed firefighters and cops for their 9/11 heroism and used them for photo ops, but slashed programs that would help them and their families.

By accumulating a $200 million campaign chest for 2004, the Bushies plan to bamboozle the electorate, and, if necessary, chad enough votes to win four more years to make four more wars. Politically, the Bush gang aims to create the sense of utter hopelessness in the minds of the poor. That way the downtrodden will not have the will to vote and the rich will no longer face even a remote electoral challenge. Yeah, “bring ’em on.”

SAUL LANDAU is a fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies. He teaches at Cal Poly Pomona University. For Landau’s writing in Spanish visit: www.rprogreso.com. His new book, PRE-EMPTIVE EMPIRE: A GUIDE TO BUSH S KINGDOM, has just been published by Pluto Press. He can be reached at: landau@counterpunch.org


SAUL LANDAU’s A BUSH AND BOTOX WORLD was published by CounterPunch / AK Press.