[Homestead] The Thought Police of Tweedlededee and Tweedledeedumb

Tvoivozhd tvoivozd at infionline.net
Wed Sep 1 13:50:06 EDT 2004


Nothing of importance affecting the U.S. future is allowed to escape the 
Thought Police in control of "nomination" conventions.  Kerry has little 
to offer, and the only thing Bush has to offer is his best efforts to 
ruin the U.S. economy (and a scrupulously avoided topic) to  complete 
the transferral to China of the U.S. manufacturing sector.  Numb-oh 
cannot comprehend what he is doing, and for short term political 
advantage couldn't care less if he did.



Bush's ruinous economic plans

By Robert Kuttner  |  September 1, 2004

WE WILL shortly hear from the president himself, but the outlines of his 
domestic program for a second term are already all too clear. Take five 
key areas of economic policy -- health, Social Security, energy, taxes, 
and the deficit.

   

All five have this in common: In each case the administration program 
doesn't really address the underlying problem. Rather, the purpose is 
either to help an industry ally, stir up the party base, or advance an 
ideological goal (or all three).

Health Coverage. Health insurance premiums have risen by more than 
one-third since Bush took office, leaving more and more people uninsured 
or underinsured. Families USA calculates from Census Bureau data that 
one nonelderly American in three was without health insurance at some 
point from 2002 to 2003. Meanwhile, employers and insurers are 
moderating their own costs by increasing copays and deductibles paid by 
consumers.

The president's proposed health program, a massive expansion of 
so-called health savings accounts, doesn't address the twin problem of 
dwindling coverage and rising costs. It simply accelerates the shift of 
those costs onto consumers and gives affluent people one more tax break. 
Health savings accounts are useful mainly for the healthy and the 
wealthy because they don't buy coverage that is both comprehensive and 
affordable.

Social Security. The Bush plan to privatize Social Security, in whole or 
in part, is back. But there is no way that privatizing the system will 
shore up its finances. Rather, it will do just the opposite by diverting 
payroll tax revenue needed for Social Security payouts into new private 
accounts. To keep the promise of Social Security intact, Bush would need 
either massive new borrowing or massive tax hikes. But the more likely 
result is reductions in benefits. Of course, these cuts, like the damage 
from his deficits, would hit long after Bush left office.

Energy. There's a growing consensus among experts that the most recent 
wave of oil price hikes is not mainly the result of market manipulation, 
refining bottlenecks, or the Iraq occupation but the harbinger of the 
long-predicted depletion of the world's extractable oil reserves. With 
the huge populations of China, India, and other emergent economies 
joining the global consumer society, demand is simply outstripping supply.

Bush's program is essentially deeper and wider drilling, lubricated by 
friendly tax and environmental policies. His support for conservation or 
alternative energy sources is token at best. Last week three Bush 
Cabinet secretaries, just in time for the Republican National 
Convention, belatedly conceded that science has proven the reality of 
global climate change caused by carbon emissions. Bush said he was 
unaware of the report.

Taxes. The tax program for a second Bush term will be more of the same. 
One goal will be to make the tax cuts of 2001 to 2004 permanent. A new 
twist will be a shift to consumption taxes -- either a value-added tax, 
a national sales tax, or new tax breaks for money saved rather than 
spent. The result will be an overall reduction of taxes paid by those 
wealthy enough to save substantially and a shift onto workaday voters 
who spend most of what they earn. This will be advertised as a program 
to create jobs and reward entrepreneurship, but it sure didn't work in 
Bush's first term -- the only presidency since Hoover with fewer payroll 
jobs at the end than the beginning.

The deficit. Hardly anyone, Republican or Democrat, truly believes that 
the Bush tax-and-spending program will do anything other than make the 
deficit problem worse. The Congressional Budget Office, whose director 
is appointed by congressional Republicans, projects endless deficits in 
excess of $400 billion a year. If Bush succeeds in making recent tax 
cuts permanent and adding new ones, the deficits will be even more 
serious. With military outlay rising, the administration's only game 
plan is to backload the effect of tax cuts until after this president 
leaves office and cut domestic spending even further.

As the latest Census report makes clear, the typical American is 
economically worse off than in 2001. The GOP game plan is to keep 
voters' attention riveted on the memory of 9/11 and the threat of 
terrorism. Otherwise John Kerry will eat Bush's lunch on the pocketbook 
issues.

It's a remarkable commentary on the ability of the administration to 
wave the flag and change the subject that Bush isn't held more 
accountable for the huge gap between his policies and their results. As 
the president himself so memorably attempted to say, "Fool me once, 
shame on you . . ."

Robert Kuttner's is co-editor of The American Prospect. His column 
appears regularly in the Globe.
       





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