Robert Borosage is co-director of the Campaign for America's Future and co-editor of The Next Agenda: Blueprint for a New Progressive Movement and Taking Back America: And Taking Down the Radical Right.
George W. Bush has made tax cuts the touchstone of his presidency, supporting new ones each year, with the economy in growth and in recession, with record budget surpluses and record deﬁcits, in peace and in war. Most of his fellow Republicans have sworn blood oaths never to raise taxes. They even managed to gain overwhelming popular support for repeal of the estate tax -- perhaps the nation's most progressive tax, affecting less than 2 percent of the wealthiest few -- by renaming it the “death tax” and peddling a big lie about protecting family farms and small businesses.
This one hurts big. But progressives have little time for grief or recrimination. George W. Bush claims a mandate for his radical domestic agenda and for his preemptive foreign policy. The dollar has already begun to fall and interest rates to rise. The evangelical right is clamoring for advancing the jihad against gays and choice. The corporate lobby is salivating at the coming feeding frenzy. Democrats, particularly those in red states, are shaken and ready to retreat. Progressives had better take a clear look at what happened and get ready to fight.
An educated citizenry is the hallmark of America's democracy and central to the success of its economy. That was true at the founding of the republic, when Common Sense, Thomas Paine's call for independence, sold 112,000 copies in three months -- the equivalent of 17 million today -- to the remarkably literate colonial settlers of the time. It was surely true in the last century, as America rose to prominence and prosperity. Education provided a common language and a common civic culture to the immigrants who flooded our shores. America became the first country to require 12 years of formal schooling. After World War II with the GI Bill, ours became the first nation to provide widespread college education.
"If we're going to create jobs, the first thing we have to do is make sure that George W. Bush loses his." John Kerry's refrain elicits raucous cheers wherever he goes, and it's echoed by the other Democratic presidential contenders. All share a similar and compelling critique of Bush's failure: More than 3 million private-sector jobs have been lost, record surpluses have turned to record deficits and millionaire tax cuts have given away the store with little to show for it. Bush will end this term with the worst jobs record of any president since Herbert Hoover and the Great Depression.
While the nation's attention is riveted by the inexorable march to war against Iraq, the Bush administration has quietly opened a new front in the relentless, largely covert war it has been waging here at home against U.S. workers and their labor unions.