In 1973, Richard Nixon declared, “I had no prior knowledge of the Watergate break-in; I neither took part in nor knew about any of the subsequent coverup activities… That was and that is the simple truth.”
We now know that Dick was lying to the American people. Alas, he is not our only lying president. In 2004, George W. declared, “A wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we’re talking about chasing down terrorists, we’re talking about getting a court order before we do so. It’s important for our fellow citizens to understand, when you think Patriot Act, constitutional guarantees are in place when it comes to doing what is necessary to protect our homeland, because we value the Constitution.”
To the contrary, we now know that George was lying.
In recent weeks, Bush has been forced to admit that he has unilaterally abrogated one of our most basic constitutional protections: freedom from unreasonable searches. Since 2002, he has routinely been authorizing federal agents to tap into our phone calls and otherwise spy on us—without bothering to get a court’s okay. He has done this despite the fact that there is a secret court set up specifically to give quick authorization when such covert surveillance might be warranted. Indeed, this court, called the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, has considered more than 1,700 requests from the Bushites in the last year alone, approving nearly all of them. But W. doesn’t want to be bound by the rule of law. He asserts that he has the inherent executive authority to be King George the W., autocratically disposing of any provision of the Constitution that gets in his way. Far from valuing the Constitution, he is treating it like waste paper. Not only is Bush wrong, he has lied to the American people yet again.
Why does reality continue to be such a stranger to W.? After five years as president, you’d think he would’ve at least brushed up against some of life’s real experiences—even if by accident. But, no, he seems securely sealed in his political bubble, kept perfectly pure from any intrusion by the hardships that regular folks face. Take the economy. Bush is reported to be befuddled by the fact that he’s not getting credit—kudos, even!—for what his economists and political puffers tell him is a booming economy. America’s economic growth is up, says George excitedly—corporate profits are through the roof, and look, I created 215,000 jobs last month alone. But that barely keeps up with the number of young Americans who entered the job market for the first time that month. Moreover, it’s not the job, George—but the wage. Replacing a $35,000 job at General Motors with a $15,000 Wal-Mart job is not counted as progress in middle America. While the overall U.S. economy grew last year, middle-class Americans saw their incomes fall for the fifth year in a row. And, while the salaries of high-level executives have risen splendidly on your watch—the average earnings of hourly workers (who make up the vast majority of the American people) are now lower than when you took the helm. Also, did I mention that the number of Americans who find themselves with no health coverage has risen steadily while you’ve been president? This is the reality, George, that keeps people from erupting into applause over your handling of our nation’s economic fortunes. After all, people know the difference between chicken salad… and chicken manure.
It’s time for a riddle! This one involves a particularly nasty pesticide called methyl bromide. How nasty is it? So nasty that, as of January 2005, its use was banned by an international treaty. So nasty that even the Bushites back the ban! Yet—here comes the riddle—U.S. agribusiness giants are still pumping more than 10,000 tons of this nasty into our croplands and air each year. Can you figure it out? Bingo, if you said “politics.”
Methyl bromide is a cheap way for Big Agribusiness (especially in California) to wipe out pests and weeds on such field crops as strawberries and tomatoes. Never mind that its “cheapness” comes at a hefty price to others. This toxic gas also causes convulsions, comas, neurological damage, and other debilitating problems (including death) among farm workers who inhale it. The fumigant also disperses into the atmosphere and depletes earth’s protective ozone layer. Without that layer, we all fry.
The Bushites have played a cynical game of politics that lets them seem to support the treaty yet ignore it. Before signing the treaty, the U.S. stuck in a loophole that lets a country give exemptions to the ban when necessary to prevent “market disruptions.” The Bushites have tossed out these exemptions, allowing this killer chemical to be used on everything from Christmas trees to golf course sod. Thus, they please the chemical makers and agribusiness interests, while proclaiming that it is their “fervent desire and goal” to eliminate the chemical. As a result of these exemptions, this year’s tonnage of methyl bromide use in the United States will exceed that of two years ago—prior to the “ban.” Even when the Bushites back an international treaty, they gut it. To help close this political loophole, call the Natural Resources Defense Council: 212-727-2700.
Jim Hightower is a speaker and author. To order his books or schedule him for a speech, visit www.jimhightower.com. To subscribe to his newsletter, the Hightower Lowdown, call toll-free 1-866-271-4900.