by Randolph T. Holhut
American Reporter Correspondent
December 7, 2001
THE REAL AMERICAN EMERGENCY
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- There was a story in The Miami Herald the other day about how the federal government will likely accumulate deficits until at least fiscal year 2005.
The Herald reported that President Bush's budget director Mitch Daniels told Congress that the federal government will have to dip into the Social Security surplus to pay for other federal programs, something that Bush promised during the 2000 president campaign he would not do except in case of war, recession or a national emergency.
"Lucky me -- I hit the trifecta," the President told Daniels shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks, according to the Herald.
It wasn't luck. We ended up with a recession and a national emergency thanks to the diligent work of the Bush administration. The war has merely been a convenient event to help accelerate matters.
Bill Clinton wasn't the best of presidents, but he did one thing right and that was managing the economy to keep federal spending under control and accumulate surpluses to pay down the national debt. While the economic boom 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. Look back at the 1980s and consider all the waste, fraud and graft that we as taxpayers are still paying for -- the $500 billion it cost to bail out the S&Ls after they went belly up; the $59 billion unaccounted for at the federal Housing and Urban Development; the $10 billion that's still missing from the Bureau of Indian Affairs trust fund; the hundreds of billions of dollars 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 that support them is what the Republican Party is all about. It happened under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. It's happening again under 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 that 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 appointed the most reactionary and pro-corporate Cabinet ever assembled. He railroaded a tax cut package that will cost us $1.4 trillion over the next 10 years - 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 national (read: corporate) interest.
All this was done with a minimum of opposition from the Democrats. The public 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 really matter whether Vice President Al Gore or Gov. George W. Bush became president.
They were right, to a certain degree. We would have gotten much of the President's agenda under Gore, except that it would have been better camouflaged and slightly more palatable under Gore.
The Democrats, who were once proudly the party of working- and middle-class Americans, have mostly abandoned their base in pursuit of campaign dollars 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 the Democrats have in the past decade or so. The GOP have always been the party of the rich. To them, politics has always been about power and the effective use of it to benefit their supporters.
That's how the GOP prevailed in Florida. While the Democrats still believed 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 conservtive members of the U.S. Supreme Court selected George W. Bush to be our president - to use whatever means were necessary to secure victory.
The horrific events of Sept. 11 reinforced this. Suddenly, every desire by conservatives to have complete and unfettered control of the nation became a reality.
If you believe the polls, large majorities of Americans believe that the press should be censored, that civil liberties should be curtailed in the interest of national security, that bombing any country that looks crosswise at us is a perfectly sensible thing. President Bush still has a 90 percent 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 media of a totalitarian state in its enforcement of the party line.
Wrapping itself in the flag, Congress and the Bush Administration is getting to give the rich more tax breaks, to devote more money to the still unworkable "Star Wars" strategic missile defense sham, to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling, to give the President the authority to approve trade deals without congressional approval, and to privatize Social Security. The Democrats will continue to be impotent, lest they be seen as "disloyal" to their "wartime" president.
People like to trot out World War II analogies to compare this current war to what many still believe was "The Good War." There is one similarity between 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 into the Nazi Party in the late 1920s and early 1930s. The wealthy and powerful did likewise for Benito Mussolini in Italy and in Spain for Francisco Franco. 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 standard of living and were bullied into obedience to the government through terrorism 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 together 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 and 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 corporate debt are at unsustainable levels. And we're trying to fight a global war and a recession at the same time without raising taxes or increasing public spending - two things that traditionally happen during wars and recessions.
Instead, President Bush and Congress are trying to shovel billions of dollars 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 inquisition against Arabs and Muslims - that's what the Bush administration is doing. And while they loot the treasury and turn our nation into a police state, they tell us not to worry.
Fascism can't happen here? When you look at all the things that have happened in the past year, I would say this nation is already heading down that road. Even worse, few Americans seem to notice or care and even fewer seem 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).