[Homestead] The Thought Police of Tweedlededee and Tweedledeedumb
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
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
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
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.
More information about the Homestead