Jim Hightower

When Bush Budgets

These days, any president’s budget is an exercise in political posturing and economic gimmickry, but this year’s $2.4 trillion offering by George W. is a P.T. Barnum exercise in economic voodoo, political whitewash, hog excrement, and outright fraud. It pretends that 2+2 equals 22—and that you and I are too stupid to know the difference. Start with the fact that the Bushites admit that they have eaten all of the $240 billion surplus they inherited and will leave us with a $520 billion deficit this year alone. But the debt they’re passing on to our children is far worse than that, for Bush simply excluded from the budget any cost for his ongoing occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, not to mention any cost for his war excursions into other “evil-doing†nations. He says he’ll let us know how many gazillions these items will cost after the elections. If you went to a bank for a loan with numbers like these, they’d haul your worthless carcass directly to debtor’s prison!

The bulk of the debt that Bush is creating is merely to cover his giveaway of trillions of dollars from our public treasury to the corporations and millionaires who finance his presidency. Buried down in the line-item details of his budget, you’ll find that George is financing this massive giveaway to his already fabulously rich supporters by cutting back on firefighters, his own No Child Left Behind Act, high-school dropout prevention, heating for low-income seniors, disabled students, veterans’ health, clean water, prevention of children’s lead-poisoning, low-income childcare—and even the Office of Domestic Preparedness.

RE-SEGREGATION

“Let us be dissatisfied,†said Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “until the dark yesterdays of segregated schools will be transformed into bright tomorrows of quality integrated education.†While we never quite got there, we made great strides, and at least we were trying as a nation. But then, stuff happened. In the name of cutting excessive government spending, budgets for public education began to be slashed by opportunistic politicians at all levels. Through their shortsightedness, our once proud public school system is being reduced to shambles—school buildings themselves are in dangerous states of deterioration, classrooms are so jammed that many are little more than warehouses, basic teaching equipment and supplies are unavailable, teachers are now being forced to instruct students on how to pass a standardized test rather than teaching cognitive skills, and the idea of quality education for all has been made to take a back seat to tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy.

As for integrated education, the picture is even more dismal as legislative bodies and courts have cynically abandoned our national striving for that still-worthy goal. A new national study by Harvard University researchers finds that America’s schools are practically as segregated as they were when Dr. King was assassinated in 1968. In the late 1980s, public policy abandoned King’s vision, halting our decades-long commitment to integration. As a result, the trend has rapidly reversed, and most white students now have little contact with black and Latino students. In Southern states, 70 percent of black students are now in predominantly black schools. In Western states, some 80 percent of Latino students are in predominantly minority schools—twice as many as in 1968. It’s time for all of us to be dissatisfied again.

TIME FOR A NEW GROWTH ENGINE

If you’ve got an old wreck of a car with a busted engine, you can put the shiniest coat of paint there is on it, but that old wreck still won’t take you anywhere. This reality seems to have escaped the Bushites, who keep slapping shiny new paint on their old wreck of an economic policy. The latest comes in response to the growing crisis of job losses in American manufacturing. In George W.’s three-year tenure, nearly three million manufacturing jobs have been lost. These are usually the best-paying jobs in town, and when they go, so do local businesses that count on those workers to be customers, and soon the town’s whole middle-class future dries up. This year, even though stock prices, corporate profits, and CEO pay are on the rise, American factories continue to shed jobs, and the wages of most workers are either stagnant or falling. So the Bushite painting crew has rushed out with a bright new color they call “A Comprehensive Strategy to Address the Challenges to U.S. Manufacturers.†It offers nothing but the same old corporate giveaways that this crew always puts forward: more tax breaks, fewer environmental protections, more nuclear power, and more limits on the ability of consumers and workers to sue corporations for wrongdoing. To add sparkle to this coat of paint, the Bushites also call for a new “President’s Manufacturing Council†to—get this—give corporate leaders more say in government. More say? These guys already own the White House, most of Congress and the judiciary.

The Bushites latest paint job was revealed at a media event staged in an Ohio factory. But even as Commerce Secretary Don Evans was laying it on thick, executives at a factory in neighboring Michigan were saying adios to their 2,700 workers, notifying them that their factory was being moved to Mexico. To get America moving, we don’t need new paint, we need a new engine.

Jim Hightower is the best-selling author of Thieves In High Places: They’ve Stolen Our Country And It’s Time To Take It Back (Viking Press).

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Published at 12:00 am CST
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