Page 14


Unfortunately, as we have learned with Clinton, this is not at all what it seems to be. What the government wants to do is to talk tough, and practice reinventing government, supporting new rules and regulations, while in the process getting rid of the basic, simple law that the government has ignored all these years, which bans pesticide residues in foods. This law, the Delaney clause, blocks the Food and Drug Administration and the EPA from approving food additives, including dexterously attempting to circumvent that. In April, the Administration entered into an agreement with Georgia Pacific, the nation’s largest timber company, to protect the red cockaded woodpecker, a rare forest bird which ought to be protected under the act. In exchange for a promise to restrict operations on more than 50,000 acres, the company won a promise that the government will not invoke the act to curtail logging on the rest of its land in the South some 4.2 million acres. which in a trillion-dollar budget is less than a drop in the bucket. Consider the case of Head Start: Clinton had wanted $1.4 billion for the preschool program, but that has now been reduced in subcommittee to $500 million. And despite all assurances to the contrary, the Senate, in the name of deficit reduction, pared other social services like food stamps, basically assuring more, not less, poverty. Meanwhile, Clinton’s proposed $50 billion in Medicare cuts grew to $69 billion. These are aimed at doctors and hospitals, but without health care reform and sharp cost control, they will surely be passed along to the patients. The deficit might have been cut by plugging tax loopholes in such items as the corporate alternative minimum tax, in real estate, multinational corporations, capital gains, and taxes on foreign investors, all of which could add up to $139 billion, according to Citizens for Tax Justice. Yet the House-passed bill asks almost nothing from business. The net corporate tax hike under the House bill is only $3 billion a year by fiscal 1998. “When you look at the deficit reduction package what you see is that at the end of five years, the deficits are still around $200 billion,” says Paul Leonard of the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. Without serious reform of the inflationary health care system, the deficit will keep on growing. And even with health reform, the President will have to attempt another round of deficit cutting, hacking the budget and raising taxes within three or four years. The cornerstone of Clinton’s social policy, support for the working poor through a more aggressive set of incentives including an earned income tax credit, seems salvageable as the conference committee convenes. Yet here is another case of smoke and mirrors. Conservatives and liberals like the working poor, and in theory they want to help families with income tax credits, expanded day care assistance, and child support. But they are not willing to increase the minimum wage. And thus, all this network of social programs does is to subsidize low-paying service industries such as fast foods. That is hardly an infrastructure change that leads anywhere. For those trying to escape the hidden-hand theory of history, the environment seemed to offer an organizing principle, a new agenda in the post-Cold-War world, a looking glass through which the future can be envisioned. Vice-President Gore’s popular book outlines such a course. Yet the Administration’s environmental policies to date don’t reflect any new view of the world, but more concessions to business lobbies. As an example, the Administration recently moved to take advantage of two new reports on the dangers of cancer-causing pesticide residues in foods. Sounding like Rachel Carson, the Clinton Administration pledged to adopt a stiffer regulatory stance. EMILY KAPLAN pesticide residues, that have been shown to induce cancer in animals or humans. But the agriculture industry wants to kill Delaney and replace it with a system of risk assessment which sets a “tolerable” level of cancer-causing chemicals based on a mathematical calculus. Clinton also had promised a serious review of the Environmental Protection Agency’s long-standing and ruinous policy of burning toxic wastes. After extraordinary protest in Ohio, the Administration announced a moratorium on future construction of incinerators. Yet the burning of toxic wastes continues. In the early 1980s, James Watt defined Reagan’s approach to the environment by his efforts to sell off the public domain, roughly one-third of the nation. When Bruce Babbitt became Secretary of the Interior, he indicated he would reverse this process, ending subsidies for mining and cattle raising and taking steps to protect the forests. But when the Western resource interests balked, Clinton, who himself was once beaten by the timber interests in Arkansas in a bid for the governor’s office, swiftly backed down. The Administration now is prepared to increase, not decrease, timber cutting. The only thing that stands in the way is the Endangered Species Act, and Clinton has been Six months into his term, Clinton tosses about in the tempest of such cornpromises. “I think Clinton is the last white liberal,” William Strickland, a Jesse Jackson adviser and member of the Rainbow Coalition, says. “In the ’80s, the right wing proved liberals were bankrupt. And Reagan/Bush have proven the conservatives are bankrupt. Since we have no other credible philosophy what you get are Pavlov’s dogs and Skinner’s pigeons. They say the same bullshit regardless of the fact it has no correlation to reality.” He adds, “Clinton has allowed himself to be saddled with the past … appearing inept when he hasn’t been able to solve problems that were created over 12 years. I mean Dole is talking about Travelgate and here you have an $11 billion sweetheart deal in HUD, Neil Bush in Silverado, the raping of the American people. Clinton has declined to explain that to people.” It is true that Clinton has made a few progressive, modest first steps in his budget. But every day he lurches toward the right. During the campaign Clinton taunted George Bush, but if anything he has come to resemble Bush. Bush was torn between the New Right of Lee Atwater and Bill Bennett and the comfortable world of blue blood New England. Unable to reconcile the two impulses, Bush dithered and was destroyed. Clinton, too, is a prisoner of his time. Torn by his desire to be all things to all people, Clinton comes off as a man without a core, trying to prove his manhood in the Gulf. In recent weeks, he has been talking about playing to the center. But the center is constantly moving and full of contradictions. The only way to play is by following principles, such as those laid out in the State of the Union. Instead, “Clinton has accepted the corporate framework for the presidency,” Ralph Nader concludes. “To spend his career being blamed for the crimes of his predecessors and being expected to reduce the impact of those crimes. Every day he backs down. It’s basically, leave the corporate entitlements alone. He’s accepting the language of the Doles and the Hatches. It’s what my father told me years ago: A politician who’s more afraid of his opponents than he is of his friends will end up becoming more like his opponents and less like his friends.” 14 JULY 16, 1993 `r ,t11 ,