"Fool me once, shame on you," says a wise political
maxim. "Fool me twice,
shame on me." In his State of the Union address, President Bush will perpetrate a
consumer fraud that makes his feint to the center in the 2000 campaign seem like
You'll recall that the kinder, gentler Bush of the campaign postured moderate
and sought, with success, to steal the Democrats' clothes. He, too, cared about
children, women, poor people, minorities, abused HMO patients, trees, and so on.
It worked just enough to neutralize Gore's advantages on all these issues. Bush,
as president, then went blithely on to appoint a hard-right administration.
Now Bush is basking in stratospheric approval ratings courtesy of September 11
and the Afghan war. But he remains vulnerable on domestic issues. So in the
January 29 State of the Union address, we will get Spurious George: The Sequel.
This big-lie strategy is the work of political guru Karl Rove. Look for a lot of
Americans to be fooled twice.
The big theme is to be Economic Security. ("Economic Stimulus" didn't quite
play. Even the most gullible commentators didn't buy the idea that retroactive
corporate tax cuts would cure the recession.) So the repackaging will attempt to
wrap the Bush economic program in the halo effect of the war. What exactly does
Bush mean by Economic Security? Here, according to White House press office
advance leaks, are the highlights:
a typo. But everything about the Bush program does the opposite. His tax and
budget program enriches the Haves and cuts money to help the poor and the working
middle class. Child care, Medicaid, unemployment compensation, college aid, and
other services for the working poor are all dwindling. Corporations are shifting
health costs to employees, thanks to Bush's lax regulatory climate. The
Republicans resist unions and minimum-wage laws. Bush's failure to address the
recession leads to higher joblessness and stagnant wages. Does the man think the
voters are total fools?
is code for drilling in Alaska and more tax breaks for the oil companies. The one
decent thing Bush has done here is to put federal backing behind development of
fuel cells. But in general, the administration's approach leads to more reliance
on oil. With U.S. reserves declining, this by definition means more foreign oil.
Bush opposes even modest conservation measures. For the definitive rebuttal, see
"Energy Forever" by Amory B. Lovins and L. Hunter Lovins on page 30.
Trade-Negotiating Authority. Come again? The job growth of the 1990s was the
result of technological breakthroughs that raised productivity and of Bill
Clinton's improved fiscal climate, which lowered interest rates. Trade had
little to do with it. On the contrary, our chronic trade deficit actually costs
the economy at least two million net jobs.
Lowering the Cost of Prescription Drugs. The sheer chutzpah of the man is
breathtaking. People are losing health coverage. HMOs are cutting coverage even
for the nominally insured. Bush has resisted every serious measure to expand
insurance, and his budget underfunds stopgaps like the federal children's health
program and Medicaid. Public-health outlays took a back seat to corporate tax
cuts. Bush's program for voluntary drug-discount cards is a joke. Republicans, in
bed with the pharmaceutical industry, have blocked Democrats' plan for serious
cost controls, expanded drug benefits, and HMO regulation.
employment. Some states, thanks to reduced welfare rolls, used part of the new
federal block grant to offer improved child care and opportunities for former
welfare recipients to attend community college. But these success stories are
evaporating, and Bush's budget is too stingy to make up the difference.
Meanwhile, new people are coming onto the rolls, while those who have hit the new
five-year limit are on the street. So "welfare reform" needs not just
reauthorization but overhaul.
Will the voters applaud the themes and get rolled on the details?
If you buy this preposterous story of how to attain economic security, shame on