On Native Ground
PRESIDENT BU.S.H'S DUBIOU.S. ECONOMIC ACHIEVEMENTS
by Randolph T. Holhut
American Reporter Correspondent
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- In the first two years of George W. Bush's presidency, more than two million Americans lost their jobs. He's well on his way to becoming the first president since Herbert Hoover to preside over an actual decline in employment in the U.S.
The unemployment rate now stands at 6 percent, the highest its been since the early 1990s. There are now more than 10.2 million unemployed workers in the U.S., and another 4.8 million who are working part-time because they can't get full-time employment.
The stock market has seen its biggest and longest sustained losses since the 1929 crash. The Dow Jones Industrial average lost about 20 percent of its value and the NASDAQ lost more than 40 percent of its value.
The federal deficit now stands at $6.4 trillion and is increasing at an average rate of $1.1 billion each day. Almost every state is in a budget crisis. Private bankruptcies are at an all-time high.
In short, the U.S. economy isn't in great shape right now.
President Bush entered office with the strongest economy in U.S. history. Unemployment was at its lowest levels since the 1960s. The federal budget was balanced and generating surpluses. And in two short years, he has managed to send every major economic indicator straight down.
This is why you won't likely hear President Bush talk about his economic achievements during the 2004 campaign. He hasn't any.
Instead, we Americans can expect a steady diet of fear and misinformation regarding the "war on terror" - a war without end against an ever-growing list of foes. The Bush administration seems to think we'll forget about our economic woes as long as they can keep us afraid.
Have you noticed that over the past few months, most of President Bush's public appearances have been at either military bases or weapons factories? His breathtakingly brazen photo-op on the flight deck of the U.S.S Abraham Lincoln on May 1 was merely the culmination of months of trying to burnish his image as Commander-in-Chief.
But where I live, folks would like to see a little more attention paid to the economy. Our local food bank has had its shelves stripped bare this winter as many people could not afford to both heat their homes and eat. Hundreds of manufacturing jobs have disappeared from my county in the last couple of years, and although Vermont is one of only a handful of states not yet facing a budget deficit, it may join the ranks of the cash-strapped soon.
Recently, there were some interesting numbers thrown out - in, of all places, the New York Post - regarding the economy and how it might effect the 2004 election.
The Post quoted Donald Straszheim, the head of independent research firm Straszheim Global Advisors. Straszheim found that over the past 40 years, no incumbent president or his political party has been returned to office if job growth was under 3 percent in the third and fourth years of his term. At the same time, job growth of more than 5 percent in the second half of a president's term resulted in victory in all but one election - the 1968 race won by Richard Nixon, where the dominant issue was the Vietnam War.
According to the Economic Policy Institute, the economy would have to generate 140,000 new jobs a month from now until November 2004 for President Bush to avoid being linked with Herbert Hoover. That's seems unlikely. The Gross Domestic Product rose at only 1.6 percent in the first quarter of this year, and the nation would need at least double that percentage of economic growth to see any new jobs in the coming months.
While energy prices are starting to decline and mortgage interest rates are at a 40-year low, there's still the big problem of all the money that people lost in the stock market in what has been the longest bear market since - here's that name again - Herbert Hoover's administration.
The tax cuts that President Bush has proposed aren't going to make a great deal of difference to the average American. As with the 2001 tax package, almost all of the benefits will go to the wealthy.
Even worse than the handouts to the rich are the budget cuts that will pay for them and the "war on terror." Remember that the $74.6 billion that was appropriated for Gulf War II and the $200 billion that the reconstruction of Iraq is expected to cost comes on top of the $400 billion a year that is already being spent on the military.
So what is getting shortchanged? Education, health care, environmental protection and homeland security for starters. Even veterans benefits are getting cut.
There's a lot of competition for the most cynical moment of Gulf War II, but near the top of the list should be the Republican members of the House of Representatives pushing through a resolution to "support the troops," and then two hours later voting to cut nearly $15 billion from programs for veterans.
This act exemplifies exactly where President Bush and the Republican Party stand when it comes to looking out for the welfare of the people. They will fall all over themselves to proclaim their patriotism and wave the flag, but will do nothing to help those in need.
Right now, there are threats to our national security even bigger than those phantom weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Like seeing more than 10 million Americans without work. Like working people who have to get their groceries at food banks because their jobs don't enough money to support a family. Like seeing more than 41 million Americans without health insurance.
Does President Bush have an answer for these problems? It's safe to say that in the coming months we shouldn't expect to hear him talk about anything other than more tax cuts for the rich and more wars against countries that can easily be bullied.< Randolph T. Holhut has been a journalist in New England for more than 20 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books).