Halfway Down the Road to Hell

I don’t meet many Republicans, but those few I do talk to agree that the world and the country are going to hell. That oft spouted cliché has taken on new meaning given recent and very dire environmental news. The worsening of global warming may have brought about natural catastrophes — hurricanes. The almost comical incompetence by Bush’s imperial managers compounded the disasters–human suffering. Yet, Bush’s panorama in his State of the Union address and subsequent speeches reflected only optimism.

Bush’s rosy picture contradicts certain economic facts. He attributed to tax cuts and free trade policies the news that “The Dow Jones rose above 11,000 in February on the basis of good economic news.” An NPR reporter explained that “mild January weather spurred home starts.”

I don’t know what “above 11,000” means, but why doesn’t the Dow react to the nearly $730 billion U.S. trade deficit? This all-time record was dwarfed, however, by the $8.2 trillion national debt. The supposedly conservative Republicans spend like addicts hooked on wasting the public’s money.

Nothing succeeds like failure, I suppose. Outgoing Fed chairman, Alan “The Enigmatic” Greenspan, in various farewell speeches lauded free-trade as a solid basis for the economy.

Did Greenspan mean the Chinese economy? In 2005, the US reported a $200+ billion trade deficit with China, an amount that grows every year. In addition, the United States ran record deficits with Japan, Europe and Canada; the US even ended 2005 minus $50 billion with Mexico.

Bush (41), Clinton and Bush (43) promised that NAFTA would buoy the US trade balance. It would also help create enough jobs in Mexico to cut back illegal border crossings. Promise ’em anything! Despite the maquila jobs created by NAFTA, Mexicans have not significantly raised their standard of living. Some 60 million of the 100 million people there live under the poverty line.

After Congress approved the trade treaty in 1993, US companies raced faster than ever to Mexico to take advantage of low wage labor, the absence of environmental and work place regulation–and no taxes.

Clinton was right about increasing US jobs, however. The $35 an hour skilled auto worker lost his job to a Mexican who made one tenth the amount. After losing his job, the auto worker might have begun bagging groceries in Safeway for $12 an hour; so did his wife, who used to stay home with the kids. Compare their combined $24 an hour with his previous $35. But thanks to NAFTA, the family had two jobs instead of one. And, a third job arose from this new economic agreement: the couple hired a baby sitter for $7 an hour.

Listen skeptically when officials declare that free trade creates jobs. Since Spring 2003, the Bushies claimed their economic policies produced more than 4.5 million new jobs–in addition to low unemployment (under 5%). Bush officials didn’t mention, however, that the newly created jobs emerged in non-productive government work.

Since 2001, the United States exported almost 3 million manufacturing jobs, including in computers, software and electronics, once areas of US pride. Instead of making products here, the United States now imports them from places where corporations buy low-wage labor and avoid costly regulations that accompany “civilization.”

My friend Joe, a Mexican American construction worker, said: “Bush talks about how well the economy is functioning. He’s full of it. I’m working less than half the number of days I used to work, but for three companies instead of one. And I’m earning the same money, which means I’m making less because prices keep moving up.”

Statistics bear out Joe’s complaint. With inflation, wages have remained the same or dropped. In February, an Economic Policy Institute study showed “real wages fell by 0.5 percent over the last 12 months.” Investors, brokers, bankers –speculators or the free-traders–have loved the policies of both Bushes and Clinton.

Investors never show much interest in the fact that tens of millions face increasing daily hardships. Nor do they worry about the harsh facts of Bush’s foreign policy. His flag-waving initiative, fighting terror by making war against Iraq, has thus far benefited Iran, his newest and supposedly most dangerous opponent.

In mid February, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice applauded the House International Relations Committee for drafting a resolution condemning Iran for violating obligations under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, and other commitments to the International Atomic Energy Agency. The House overwhelmingly approved a decision to refer Iran to the United Nations Security Council. Members urged permanent council members Russia and China to press for rapid consideration of the Iranian issue.

To show how much suffering the Iraqi people have endured to obtain democracy, Rice referred to the fact that “the Iraqi people have voted three times in the face of terrorist threats.” What she forgot to say was that they voted for pro-Iranian religious parties that want the United States to leave Iraq and did not vote for the pro-US candidates.

Even strong pro-Israeli Members didn’t scream indignantly at La Rice for Bush’s policy of “losing Iraq to Iran” and making possible a Shi’ite belt from Teheran to Beirut.

But predictably, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the Congresswoman representing the Israeli lobby and the most virulent anti-Castro exiles, accused Iran’s government of deceiving and provoking the international community by declaring Iran’s right to have access to nuclear arms and announcing they “would provide nuclear technology to other Islamic states.”

Ros-Lehtinen did not mention that in the 1970s Iran got nuclear technology from US experts. At that time, the pro-US Shah appeared bound to rule eternally.

Facts don’t seem to matter in the chilling atmosphere of the terror war. History seems to vanish into the aeries of the House dome. Democrat Tom Lantos asked his “colleagues to imagine this terrorist state [Iran], armed with nuclear weapons, and in possession of large amounts of nuclear weapons material. Even if it did not put these destructive materials up for sale, a nuclear-armed Iran would terrorize and destabilize the entire Middle East.”

No Member mentioned Israel, which has invaded several of her neighbors, has an estimated 200 nuclear weapons. Nor did anyone refer to the fact that only one nation had ever used nuclear weapons. That same nation de-stabilized the Middle East by illegally making war against Iraq.

Rice preached to the uncritical congressional choir. The United States is at “war against a group of terrorists who show no regard for innocent life, who spawn an ideology of hatred so great that they take innocent life without even thinking, whether it is the Twin Towers of New York or a wedding party, a Palestinian wedding party in Jordan, or whether it is schoolchildren in Russia or whether it is a metro in London.” Note how she lumped certain terrorists together. “They take innocent life not as collateral to their efforts but as the target of their effortsThis is a different kind of war.”

The innocent lives lost when US bombs hit school kids or people’s homes–well, that’s unfortunate, collateral damage. She assured Congress that Bush would “make certain that any peace that we achieve in that war will be a permanent one.” In the course of fighting the war, he would “spread of liberty and democracy as antidotes to the ideology of hatred that we are experiencing in the world.”

But if elections result in the wrong winners, Rice offered her treatment. “A vote and election is not the full story. With governing comes responsibility. And so what has happened in the Palestinian territories with an election for which the Palestinian people should be congratulated, an election that was free of violence, that was free and fair, but that brought to power Hamas, an organization that is a terrorist organization that has killed thousands of innocent people in its quest.”

So, Israel cut off their funds. Rice said “tsk, tsk.”

When elections “went wrong” in Iran, it became “a strategic challenge for the United States and for those who desire peace and freedom.” She said Iran used “terrorism and terrorist surrogates…to destabilize this volatile region.” So, she declared the government will offer $75 million to Iranian equivalents of Ahmed Chalabi to promote democracy in a country that just had a free election and returned religious zealots to power.

The Iraq war and occupation now costs over $6 billion a month (about $250 billion thus far), a lot more than the initial Bush estimate of $65 billion total. That’s quite a sum to have pro-Iranians taking over the Iraqi government.

More Republicans understand these facts. They also note the economic news about how Americans have stopped saving money while Chinese savings rise. “The average American now owes $9,000 to credit card companies.” (Stephen Pizzo Alternet Feb 19, 2006.)

Republicans and Democrats alike might well see that fact as a step toward Hell.

SAUL LANDAU is a fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies


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