A useful list of Bush 'accomplishments'
On Sept. 20, my city's sort-of, sometimes newspaper, the Star Tribune, had a story headlined “Federal deficit plan puts a big squeeze on social services” in a bottom corner of its front page.
That was notable: The page carried three real news stories – four if you think routine crime pieces that have no broad significance are major news stories. Some days it has no real news on the front page and many days there will be only one genuine news story, frequently one that doesn't make the first page of other papers around the country.
The deficit story also was somewhat unusual because the piece clearly stated the facts without spin, just like a real newspaper: Important social service programs, such as those aimed at getting troubled parents off drugs and into anger-management classes, and counseling parents who don't know how to parent and a whole raft of other programs are losing financing. One of the cuts will mean $10 million less in Hennepin County alone for support of children who have been abandoned by a parent, the Strib reported.
The article was clear in stating that the financing losses are deliberate, the programs specifically targeted by Congress to “help trim the federal deficit.”
It also quoted county officials as stating the federal cuts will lead to still more property tax increases and cuts in services – a pattern that has been the norm since Republicans took control of both the federal and Minnesota governments.
Of course, the article didn't point out who controls Congress, but we know. It also didn't say that gigantic federal deficits are the clear and inevitable result of the Republican pursuit of the Bush agenda, but those of us who keep up with public affairs also know that.
Another, very important thing the article didn't do was to link previous and new cuts in social services financing to a big increase in juvenile crime, which the paper has been trumpeting for months.
That there is a direct connection to lack of programs for the poor and the abused and the services available to help them help themselves is clear. (Let's not even consider for now the huge increase in poverty under the Republicans.) Countless studies have shown that social services reduce crime over time. But it's not a connection an American corporation-run newspaper is likely to make on its own hook, especially in an election year.
Such thoughts, combined with reading several times a day about new assaults by our rulers on the public well-being, led me to spend 15 minutes jotting down other accomplishments of Bush & Co. and the corporate water carriers in Congress. I wrote them down as they occurred to me. Feel free to copy the list, pass it on to friends and foes, add to it and use it in any way you think might be useful. Everything on the list is demonstrable fact, and I either have at hand or can find the documentation.
Here we go:
* The U.S. trade deficit continues at near-record levels and is likely to hit a new high in the next quarter. Although most Americans don't understand it and therefore shrug it off, the deficit has a huge negative effect on our economy. Having created it, the Bush crowd uses it as an excuse for hacking at all sorts of programs that benefit the average citizen but not necessarily its super-rich clients.
* The Bush Administration continues to capture and imprison people illegally – against our own and international law – and to torture human beings, just as the Japanese and Nazis we held in such great contempt did in World War II.
One of the biggest recent news stories throughout the rest of the world, and especially in neighboring Canada, in recent weeks involves the snatching of a Canadian citizen by the United States (with some help from the Canadian Mounted Police), and sending him to Syria to be tortured. Note that Bush officials often have denounced Syria for its brutality and lack of democracy, but still use the country to do their really dirty work.
The captive, a software engineer named Maher Arar, was freed in 2003, after being held in a tiny concrete cell and undergoing frequent beatings for 10 months, but the story only got through to the press recently. Government officials in both Ottawa and Washington admitted Arar was innocent of any and all wrongdoing and that he had no connection to any terrorist organizations or activity. Most of the American news media has buried or ignored the story.
There are now many such stories. Another grusome one, involves a guy who returned to this country sans most of his fingernails, which had been ripped out, Nazi fashion, while he was "interrogated." He, too, was shown to be an innocent, decent citizen.
* The Bush administration continues to push for the “right” to torture. The supposed “compromise” on torture recently worked out with fake-liberal Republicans in Congress actually does almost nothing to prevent torture, and the Bush administration already has signaled that it intends to ignore what puny limits it does impose. (Aincha proud to be an American?)
* The Bush has signaled that it intends to make another assault on Social Security after the November elections, despite overwhelming public opposition to its plans. Many in Congress with ties to banks, financial and insurance companies, will go along. “Privatizing” the government program would create huge new profits for those funders of campaigns and golfing vacations.
* In spite of increasingly desperate outcries from the scientific world about global warming, the administration and Congress not only fail to take steps to halt industry's suicidal sins against nature, they continue to push actions that will increase the damage – for the sake of profits for their corporate funders, of course.
* In a similar vein, the administration and leading Republicans in Congress have pushed to hand publicly-owned land containing valuable natural resources to favored corporations at little or no cost.
* And while it is allowing our revered national park system to deteriorate to a level of seediness that appalls visitors, the Bush is trying to turn over much of park resources to corporate “sponsors.” They've even suggested selling naming writes to some of our greatest natural treasures. How would you like the Halliburton Grand Canyon?
* Profiteering in Iraq, in the hurricane-hit Gulf Coast region and elsewhere by Halliburton, Blackwater Security and other companies with close ties to the Republican Party and the Bushes has hit levels never seen before in the history of the United States. Billions of taxpayer dollars have simply “disappeared” into their coffers, services and goods we pay for often are not provided. The contracts still are handed out without competitive bids, and any attempts at auditing are turned back by the Bush Administration. Government hearings in the past couple of weeks have shown some of the extent of the fraud by Halliburton, but most of the country's newspapers, radio and television outlets have ignored the hearings.
* Because money and troops were quickly diverted from Afghanistan to Iraq, and troop levels from the start have been far below what military leaders says is necessary to accomplish the stated goals, Afghanistan is reverting to the control of warlords and the Taliban. Illegal drug production in Afghanistan country recently hit record highs. Much of that production comes to our shores.
* Funding for public education has been drastically reduced, and the schools show that clearly. The phony “No Child Left Behind” program is a disaster from the public's standpoint. College already is beyond the means of many middle class people, and the number of folks being priced out of an education grows rapidly.
* Corruption in Congress – plain crooked dealing, selling of influence, trading dollars and goods and services for votes – is at a level not seen in the United States since the 19th century, and possibly ever. For every one of the Congressional and lobbyist crooks so far indicted or prosecuted, there are 10 to 20 more who should be sent to the courts on the basis of acts of malfeasance that are on public record.
* The public debt is at a disastrous level – again, from the public standpoint. As a tool to justify cutting public services, it's just what the neocons want.
* It's such common knowledge it's easy to overlook this: The nation's wealth is being transferred at a shocking pace from the poor and middle glass to a tiny minority of the super rich. This is happening through deliberate government policy. After the elections, the Republicans plan another drive to make tax cuts for the rich permanent and to give them further tax breaks.
* In exchange for political support, the rulers of this country are following the dictates of the Christonazis on public policy, even when their actions do demonstrable damage to the public health and well-being. Notable lately is the ban on most stem-cell research. Anti-gay and antiabortion moves also fall into this category. So does the move to use tax money to support various extreme Christian “charities” in place of funding public programs. The moves to insert fundamentalist Christian teaching into public schools are getting increasing support from the Bush crowd and their Congressional backers.
* In the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, destruction of the World Trade Center – an event that is used to excuse every crime the administration has since committed against democracy and the rule of law – the government deliberately, knowingly lied to emergency response personnel about the dangers they faced. At least partially as a result of that, more than 70 percent of the early emergency respondents now suffer from lung disorders. The government still claims there is no “proof” that working in the rubble caused the health problems.
* The program created by the Bush and friends supposedly to help Medicare recipients get less expensive prescription drugs is a fraud. The infamous “doughnut hole” just now hitting medicare users will negate the supposed savings for most patients while further enriching pharmaceutical manufacturers that already are making astonishing, record profits. The law specifically forbids the government from negotiating with the pharmas for lower prices. The law was written by the pharmas.
* While demanding that the public “support our troops,” the Bush government has been saving money (or pumping it into the coffers of Halliburton & Friends) by keeping our armed forces poorly equipped and keeping the number of troops below levels needed for basic functioning. It also has very deliberately kept costs down by preventing wounded veterans from receiving adequate health care. (Yes, this is provable. It's a very ugly story, almost ignored by the corporate press.)
* Again, one of those things we know so well we sometimes forget to mention: Much of the world's population despises this country. The number of our enemies has grown by millions since Bush took over the White House. All of the United States intelligence services agree on that point. This country is held in contempt by the populations of countries still thought of here as allies. Probably a majority of Americans think it doesn't matter because...well, because we're America, the most powerful country in the world. They are wrong. The hatred Bush has inspired makes the world a vastly more dangerous place for us than it was just a few years ago.
* The state of our health care system continues to deteriorate. The number of people who do not have regular access to health care has increased by a couple of million over the past five years. More people are sinking into abject poverty when hit by a major health problem. A substantial portion of the middle class is just one serious illness away from financial ruin.
* Our constitutionally guaranteed freedoms are being wiped out at a pace that virtually all of us would have said just five years ago was impossible. Much of the public, ill-educated and ill-informed, has been frightened by the Bush crowd into believing the loss of freedom is necessary to “keep us safe.”
* Our electoral system is being systematically dismantled in order to guarantee the present ruling oligarchy perpetual control of our government. The last two presidential elections were stolen; and that's a fact, not partisan whining. The federal governments requirement that all states switch to electronic voting, laughingly called the Help America Vote Act, has led to obvious election fraud -- all of it favoring Republicans.
The latest move in the destruction of democracy came with the House passage of a bill requiring that individuals present a picture ID in order to vote. On the surface, to the average member of the middle class, that doesn't seem a big deal. But it will, should it become law, keep a large number of people from voting. The costs of the cards often are prohibitive for the poor, and in many places in this country one has to travel 20, 30 miles or more to get to a place that issues the official ID cards. That's all but impossible for many of the poor, elderly and infirm voters the law is intended to disenfranchise.
* Congress now is moving to override state laws on food safety in order to improve the profits of food-industry corporations that provide or promise major campaign contributions and other benefits to their Congressional benefactors.
* Court rulings against the Bush administration are simply ignored. A small case in point, one of many: Eight months ago, the government was ordered to pay a total of $5 million to 800 people who were defrauded because personal data on them was wrongly handed over to thieves. The company from which the data was taken paid the Federal Trade Commission $15 million. The FTC has not paid the individual victims. It has made no move to pay them. It has not appointed anyone to run the compensation fund. It obviously has no intention of complying with the court order. The FTC uncovered the breach of security and illegal action four months before it informed the public, and thus is itself liable for the problems of numerous individuals.
* The Bush Administration regularly gives far greater weight to the profit concerns of corporations than to the clear welfare of the public.
One of hundreds of cases that could be used to illustrate this: The Environmental Protection Agency, now just another political tool of the administration like virtually all government departments, in the last few days disregarded the advice of its own science advisers and literally dozens of medical groups, including the American Medical Association. Instead it continues to allow egregious spewing of particle soot into the atmosphere by a few industries. Particle soot is one of the most lethal of air pollutants. The administration claims its new standards are “tougher” but that is a blatant lie, as all of the many scientific groups concerned with the issue attest.
* Similarly, four government auditors responsible for monitoring oil and gas leases on federal property have sued the government because the Interior Department blocked their efforts to recover millions of dollars from corporations that were deliberately cheating the government (and taxpayers). The auditors said their politically-appointed bosses kept them from going after more than $30 million that the companies knowingly underpaid on royalties. There are similar stories from other government departments, and they continue to pop up frequently.
* In a similar vein, the Bush administration has suppressed numerous scientific studies that run counter to its political interest in catering to industries and right wing religious groups that provide campaign funding and other political support.
Among such suppressed studies: One on the impact of industrially-spread mercury on public health, another on an extensive study on environmental problems resulting from mountaintop removal by mining companies in Appalachia. The Centers for Disease Control was ordered to remove from its web site, or unscientifically alter, a report on research showing the effectiveness of condoms in preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS.
* An airliner crash at Lexington, Ky., on Sept. 1 was attributed by some experts to the fact that the airport there had only one air traffic controller on duty at night, and he was overtired and overworked. Some reports noted that a few other airports, including one in South Dakota, had similar situations.
In spite of that, and demonstrating the usual Bush disdain for the safety of the American public, the Federal Aviation Administration, following Bush Administration demands for more cost cutting, ordered further reductions in the number of air traffic controllers nationwide. The cuts will put the number of working controllers at 10 percent below levels previously negotiated with the controllers, and the controllers and other aviation experts said those levels really are too low.
Just to annoy the controllers and further destroy their morale (and make us less safe), the FAA also has imposed a new dress code, new salary caps, lower pay for newly hired controllers and stricter rules on vacations and sick leave.
* Remember all the Republican noise about Bill Clinton “renting out” the Lincoln bedroom in the White House? The Associated Press just reported that Republican operatives Grover Norquist and Ralph Reed, both closely associated with crooked lobbyist Jack Abramoff, had more than 100 meetings at the White House with King George and/or other high administration officials between 2001 and this year. Many of the meetings also involved lobbyists who worked with Abramoff; it was the job of Reed and Norquist to set the lobbyists up with the administration insiders.
Norquist runs the right wing Americans for Tax Reform, which has nonprofit status. Reed is former executive director of the Christian Coalition.
I could go on yet for quite awhile, but the point is made. We are living under the most corrupt government in our history and, with Russia, one of the two most corrupt in the developed world.
A quicky: In the past few weeks I've had brief political conversations with two modestly well-off octogenarians, both of sound mind and body, who were until the past two years, life-long Republicans. Both were active in the party, and in political campaigns. One held several party offices at the local level.
Both now are trying to persuade their old friends to vote against Republican candidates who support Bush. One, who never voted for any Democrat before 2004, goes so far as to state flatly that all Republican office holders and candidates should be defeated in order to deprive Bush of support at all levels of government.
I don't suggest that has any wider meaning, but it is interesting.