On Native Ground
THE REAL AMERICAN EMERGENCY
by Randolph T. Holhut
American Reporter Correspondent
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- There was a story in The Miami Herald the othe= r day about how the federal government will likely accumulate deficits unti= l at least fiscal year 2005.
The Herald reported that President Bush's budget director Mitch D= aniels told Congress that the federal government will have to dip into the = Social Security surplus to pay for other federal programs, something that B= ush promised during the 2000 president campaign he would not do except in c= ase of war, recession or a national emergency.
"Lucky me -- I hit the trifecta," the President told Daniels shortly aft= er the Sept. 11 attacks, according to the Herald.
It wasn't luck. We ended up with a recession and a national emergency th= anks to the diligent work of the Bush administration. The war has merely be= en a convenient event to help accelerate matters.
Bill Clinton wasn't the best of presidents, but he did one thing right a= nd that was managing the economy to keep federal spending under control and= accumulate surpluses to pay down the national debt. While the economic boo= m that occurred during the Clinton years was unevenly distributed, the boom= put to rest the old knock against the Democrats that they can't be trusted= with the economy.
The reality is that the Republicans can't be trusted with the economy. L= ook back at the 1980s and consider all the waste, fraud and graft that we a= s taxpayers are still paying for -- the $500 billion it cost to bail out th= e S&Ls after they went belly up; the $59 billion unaccounted for at the fed= eral Housing and Urban Development; the $10 billion that's still missing fr= om the Bureau of Indian Affairs trust fund; the hundreds of billions of dol= lars that the Defense Department was overcharged for weapons; the billions = ripped off by insurers from state and federal health programs.
Looting the federal treasury on behalf of the wealthy and corporations t= hat support them is what the Republican Party is all about. It happened und= er Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. It's happening again unde= r President George W. Bush, and it was well underway before Sept. 11.
The electoral coup d'etat in Florida last November was the first sign th= at the president's team was prepared to do whatever it took to claim power.= Without even the pretense of a mandate, President Bush the younger appoint= ed the most reactionary and pro-corporate Cabinet ever assembled. He railro= aded a tax cut package that will cost us $1.4 trillion over the next 10 yea= rs -- tax cuts that mainly went to the wealthy. He gave an upraised middle = finger to the world as he pulled the U.S. out of a variety of international= treaties, agreements and protocols that were deemed contrary to the nation= al (read: corporate) interest.
All this was done with a minimum of opposition from the Democrats. The p= ublic outcry was minimal. After all, nearly half of the eligible voters in = 2000 didn't even bother to cast a ballot because many believed it didn't re= ally matter whether Vice President Al Gore or Gov. George W. Bush became pr= esident.
They were right, to a certain degree. We would have gotten much of the P= resident's agenda under Gore, except that it would have been better camoufl= aged and slightly more palatable under Gore.
The Democrats, who were once proudly the party of working- and middle-cl= ass Americans, have mostly abandoned their base in pursuit of campaign doll= ars from corporations and the rich -- in other words, the GOP's voter base.= But the Republicans don't have to shamelessly pander to the wealthy like t= he Democrats have in the past decade or so. The GOP have always been the pa= rty of the rich. To them, politics has always been about power and the effe= ctive use of it to benefit their supporters.
That's how the GOP prevailed in Florida. While the Democrats still belie= ved that fairness and the rule of law would prevail, the GOP went all out -= - from the day after the election to the December evening when five conserv= ative members of the U.S. Supreme Court selected George W. Bush to be our p= resident -- to use whatever means were necessary to secure victory.
The h= orrific events of Sept. 11 reinforced this. Suddenly, every desire by conse= rvatives to have complete and unfettered control of the nation became a rea= lity.
If you believe the polls, large majorities of Americans believe tha= t the press should be censored, that civil liberties should be curtailed in= the interest of national security, that bombing any country that looks cro= sswise at us is a perfectly sensible thing. President Bush still has a 90 p= ercent approval rating, and his opponents have been pushed even further to = the margins by a compliant press corps that is acting like the state-run me= dia of a totalitarian state in its enforcement of the party line.
Wrapping itself in the flag, Congress and the Bush Administration is get= ting to give the rich more tax breaks, to devote more money to the still un= workable "Star Wars" strategic missile defense sham, to open up the Arctic = National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling, to give the President the authori= ty to approve trade deals without congressional approval, and to privatize = Social Security. The Democrats will continue to be impotent, lest they be s= een as "disloyal" to their "wartime" president.
People like to trot out World War II analogies to compare this current w= ar to what many still believe was "The Good War." There is one similarity b= etween the two -- as in World War II, the enemy in this new war is fascism.
There are two kinds in this war. We know about the religious fascism of = Osama bin Laden and the Taliban. What doesn't get talked about is the other= fascism, the one that grows at home when the economy is weak and a nation'= s ownership class seeks to maintain control.
Adolf Hitler was a nobody until the German industrialists pumped money i= nto the Nazi Party in the late 1920s and early 1930s. The wealthy and power= ful did likewise for Benito Mussolini in Italy and in Spain for Francisco F= ranco. The subsidizers of fascism in these three nations saw their fortunes= grow, while the citizens were stripped of their civil liberties, saw their= labor unions abolished, worked longer hours for less pay and a reduced sta= ndard of living and were bullied into obedience to the government through t= errorism and murder.
The foundation of fascism is creating a climate of fear to distract the = people and using symbols and themes of national unity to bring them togethe= r to fight "the other." This is especially effective in a time of economic = crisis.
The Nazis got backing from the German middle class because they believed= Hitler would support them and improve their lot. Instead, the Nazis played= all the political, social, economic and religious groups off each other an= d seized power while the other groups fought among themselves.
Our nation doesn't quite look like Germany circa 1933, but things don't = look good. Unemployment is at a 10-year high and rising. Consumer and corpo= rate debt are at unsustainable levels. And we're trying to fight a global w= ar and a recession at the same time without raising taxes or increasing pub= lic spending -- two things that traditionally happen during wars and recess= ions.
Instead, President Bush and Congress are trying to shovel billions of d= ollars in "economic stimulus" to industries that don't need the money. The = $15 billion that went to the airlines was a prime example of corporate welf= are at its worst; the CEOs kept their bonuses while the industry fired more= than 100,000 workers after Sept. 11.
Protect the wealth of your supporters and distract the people with an in= quisition against Arabs and Muslims -- that's what the Bush administration = is doing. And while they loot the treasury and turn our nation into a polic= e state, they tell us not to worry.
Fascism can't happen here? When you look at all the things that have hap= pened in the past year, I would say this nation is already heading down tha= t road. Even worse, few Americans seem to notice or care and even fewer see= m willing to speak out against it.
Randolph T. Holhut has been a journalist in New England for morethan 20 = years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books).