USE BY THE NUMBERS
by Walter Brasch
American Reporter Correspondent
BLOOMSBURG, Pa. -- President George W. Bush likes numbers. A day after he received 50.7 percent of the vote in the 2004 general election, he decided he had a mandate.
At a White House press conference, one of the few he held in four years, President Bush told America, "[T]here is a feeling that the people have spoken and embraced your point of view, and that's what I intend to tell the Congress" His victory, he said, "is like earning capital... . I earned capital in the campaign, political capital, and now I intend to spend it. It is my style."
But the President also doesn't like numbers. First, there's the economy. When he came into office, President Bill Clinton left him a $230 billion surplus and a balanced budget. Not only isn't the budget balanced, that surplus from five years ago has turned into a $7.95 trillion deficit, increasing at the rate of about $1.7 billion a day. That's about $27,000 for every American, including those who are unemployed.
Part of that deficit is because of the Bush administration's ill-conceived tax cuts. In his first year in office, the President pushed through a $1.35 trillion tax cut, followed by almost $400 billion in additional cuts, which primarily relieved the financial burden of the wealthy.
The top one percent of wage earners, those making at least $356,000 a year, received 45 percent of the cuts, with their share rising to almost 52 percent by 2010. The 36 million Americans who are living below the poverty line have little concern about the tax cuts since they receive almost no benefit. Nevertheless, President Bush claimed the tax cuts would spur the economy and create more jobs. In the 30 months after the tax cuts were announced, 2.4 million jobs were lost.
Last month, more than 7.5 million Americans who wanted work were unemployed. Another 1.5 million, several hundred thousand of whom are so discouraged they have given up trying to find work, weren't included in that number because they didn't report to a state or federal office.
About three million are homeless; mostly, they aren't counted in unemployment statistics. Not worrying about unemployment are the oil company executives whose companies are receiving about $11 billion in government incentives for oil exploration, and recording their highest profits ever.
Since President Bush's inauguration in January 2001, about 2.7 million manufacturing jobs and almost 850,000 professional and trade sector jobs have been outsourced to other countries, according to research conducted by the AFL-CIO. Most of the manufacturing jobs have gone to Mexico, China, and several Asian countries. Professional telemarketing and technical support jobs to assist American consumers on everything from computers to playground slides have gone to India and other countries.
The Bush Administration also pushed through a $20 billion tax reduction plan that resulted in an 85 percent tax cut on profits earned in foreign countries. The tax cut has little to do with stimulating the languid economy, increasing jobs in America, or helping the unemployed; it does encourage corporations to develop more overseas operations.
About 45 million Americans, including about nine million children, don't have health insurance, according to the American Public Health Association. The United States is the only country in the developed nations that doesn't have universal health care.
When it comes to numbers, there's also that pesky "War on Terror." Between $4 and $5 billion is spent each month to sustain the war. And the number "six" is important: Before the invasion of Iraq, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld claimed the fighting "could last six days, six weeks, I doubt six months." It's now been more than two-and-a-half years, and the Commander-in-Chief now tells us, "Our efforts in Iraq and the broader Middle East will require more time, more sacrifice and continued resolve."
There are 150,000 troops in Iraq, with about 40 percent of them men and women of the National Guard and Reserve. However, pay increases for soldiers who have given up their families and hometown jobs to serve in a war zone for at least a year is not in the President's philosophy. A proposal for a $75 a month increase in "imminent danger" pay (to $150) and a $150 a month "family separation allowance" increase (to $250) was opposed by the Pentagon which claimed the budget couldn't handle a $300 million temporary addition; ironically, $300 million is almost as much as the Bush re-election campaign spent.
There's also the $1.7 billion no-bid contracts awarded to Halliburton, where Vice-President Dick Cheney resided as CEO for five years, and accepted a $13.6 million "retirement" package. But there's an even more important set of numbers: Almost 2,000 American soldiers have died in Iraq; about 15,000 have been wounded, several hundred permanently disabled.
The number "92" is also important. That's the percent of those killed since their Commander-in-Chief declared on May 1, 2003, that major combat operations were over. That number, 92, is likely to get very close to 100 before American troops leave Iraq.
Shortly after Sept. 11, President Bush declared he was going after the terrorists who caused Sept. 11 - "We will smoke them out of their holes. We'll get them running and we'll bring them to justice." As to Osama bin Laden, he vowed he'd get him "dead or alive." About six months after Sept. 11, the President said, "I truly am not that concerned about him." Now, let's look at the number "O," as in the number of times the world's most wanted enemy has been captured.
Of course, most Americans have forgotten Afghanistan. The Taliban government that hid bin Laden had received a $43 million gift from newly-inaugurated president Bush in April 2001. There are about 16,000 American soldiers in Afghanistan; there are almost 240 American soldiers who were killed there since October 2001.
And then there are the polls. President Bush especially doesn't like polls. "You know, if a president tries to govern based upon polls, you're kind of like a dog chasing your tail," he told Americans, and then explained that a politician can't "make good, sound decisions based upon polls." He said he didn't think "the American people want a president who relies upon polls and focus groups to make decisions for the American people." But those numbers help reveal American beliefs and values.
First, the good news, according to a series of polls taken in July and August 2005. Although 56 percent of Americans believe the President is arrogant, 64 percent say he is a strong person and 63 percent say he's likeable, according to an Associated Press/Ipsos poll. A CBS News/New York Times poll gives the President his highest number - 77 percent believe he has a vision of how he wants to lead the country.
But a president has to be more than a likeable chap who has a plan. It makes little difference which independent poll results you believe, they all show numbers that reveal a nation that has lost confidence in its leader. The NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll reveals only 49 percent of Americans approve of President Bush's job performance. His lowest ratings are in the Harris and CNN/U.S.A Today/Gallup polls, which reveal that only 40 percent of Americans approve his job performance.
In between are the Zogby American poll (45 percent), Rasmussen Reports and CBS News polls (both 43 percent), and the Associated Press/Ipsos and Newsweek/Princeton Survey Research Associates polls (both 42 percent). Even with a margin of error of three percent per poll, his job performance ranges from a low of 37 percent to an absolute high of 52 percent.
In contrast, according to research conducted the five largest independent polls, as well as one conducted regularly by the conservative FOX News, President Bill Clinton's job performance ratings, even when he was embroiled in a sex scandal, seldom dropped below 60 percent, and were usually in the mid- to upper 60s and 70s.
President Bush likes to consider himself to be a "war president." To prove it, he trumpets 9/11 at every campaign stop and official appearance. For the most part, Americans, even into the 2004 election, went along with the White House spin that Bush was strong on the defense of the country.
In May 2003, about 69 percent of Americans gave him a favorable rating. However, slightly more than two years later, an AP/Ipsos poll reveals only 38 percent of Americans approve of his handling of the war in Iraq. A Newsweek poll reveals only 34 percent of Americans approve of his handling of the war.
Americans believe there is no sense of mission in Iraq. They know there was inadequate post-invasion planning, that the soldiers don't have the proper body and vehicle armor, and that the military hospitals and the Veterans Administration are not prepared to handle the heavy casualties following the "end of major operations." Nevertheless, Vice President Dick Cheney says he is "absolutely convinced we did the right thing in Iraq." He claims the United States is making major progress in Iraq.
The American people disagree. Only 40 percent of Americans, according to the Newsweek/Princeton poll, believe the U.S. is making progress in Iraq. The numbers are even lower in the Rasmussen Reports poll (38 percent) and ABC News/Washington Post poll (37 percent.)
Only 34 percent of Americans, according to a CNN/U.S.A Today poll, believe they are safer because of the invasion in Iraq. A year earlier, Americans were evenly divided on the subject. "We will stay the course. We will complete the job," says President Bush, the "compassionate conservative" and the "uniter not a divider" who has given America slogans, not action.
There's also the matter of honesty. Shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, the White House pressured the Environmental Protection Agency to lie to Americans by claiming it was safe to live and work near Ground Zero. The oil-friendly Bush administration also opened the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska - and claimed oil exploration wouldn't upset the balance of nature. There have been innumerable documented lies about the environment, health care, employment, the economy, and dozens of social issues programs, but especially the so-called "War on Terror."
One year after Sept. 11 , a Washington Post poll noted that 70 percent of Americans believed Iraq was behind Sept. 11 . That connection undoubtedly was because Bush administration officials falsely claimed Iraq was funding al-Qaeda, and put the words "9/11" and "Saddam" into the same paragraph about as many times as the number of grass blades on the White House lawn.
Having built a propaganda base, President Bush told Americans he was forced to invade Iraq because it had stored biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons of mass destruction that were probably going to be used against America and its allies. When that proved to be a lie, the President retreated and told the people that Iraq "could have" developed weapons of mass destruction, and then settled upon the fiction that the invasion was to free Iraq from dictatorship. To prove it, he named the war "Operation Iraqi Freedom."
His Vice-President doesn't contribute anything to the credibility issue. In June, Vice-President Cheney told us that the insurgency in Iraq is "in the last throes," only to be contradicted by Gen. John Abizaid who said the insurgency is as strong as ever.
On all issues, war and otherwise, less than half of Americans believe the President is honest. The Pew Research Center reveals only 49 percent attribute honesty to President Bush. The AP-Ipsos poll says only 48 percent of Americans believe Bush is honest. The NBC/Wall Street Journal poll reveals that only 41 percent of Americans believe the President is "honest and straightforward." It is the lowest point in his presidency.
President George W. Bush had broad-based popular support from all Americans after Sept. 11, and manipulated that into a second-term victory. But through his own arrogance and incompetence, he long ago spent whatever political capital he thought he had, even if took the American people nine months after the 2004 election to finally speak out.
No matter which poll you believe, they all reveal the same thing - if President Bush was being graded by the standards of his No Child Left Behind Act, he'd fail.
Dr. Brasch is professor of mass communications at Bloomsburg University, and author of 15 books. His latest book is America's Unpatriotic Acts; the Federal Government's Violation of Constitutional and Civil Rights [www.walterbrasch.com/unpatrioticacts.htm], available through most major on-line stores. You may contact Brasch through www.walterbrasch.com.