Bush Lie Number 1: The Tax Cut Lie
While it is a partial truth that the tax cuts allowed the wealthy to keep more money, the truth is that there are a lot of ways they and the rest of us are paying more money than before. It's a tax cut that will actually end up costing most of much more.
Perhaps one of the biggest categories is education. States are being creamed by the budget shortfalls and they are making up for it by raising local school and real estate taxes. They are raising college tuitions. So, you got your $400 rebate for your kid under 14, well you'll pay $500-1000 or more extra for your 19-year-old in college. But that's not all. About 84,000 students will lose federal Pell grants. That's because Bush cut these financial need-based scholarships funding by $270 million.
Then take a look at what you are paying at the pump. This is not a direct result of the tax cut. But it was set off by the massive electrical blackout. The gasoline companies used the blackout as an excuse to raise prices. The blackout happened because energy companies are not spending enough to modernize their equipment. Why not? Because that kind of spending hurts the short-term bottom line for businesses. And more and more of the nation's energy generators and transmitters are businesses rather than public utilities because of the rampant drive to privatize that the political right has been pushing. We know what it did to California. Of course, with the country struggling to pay its Iraq bills, and with government intentionally being starved, it's no wonder that the Republicans have bottled up funds to upgrade the energy grid, tying the legislation in with the Bush favorite bill—to drill in the arctic refuge of Alaska.
Then there's health care. Rates for insurance are going through the roof--whether you are individually insured or an employer paying for employees. Either way, if you are an employee, you are probably paying more, since a recent report says that employees are paying 48% more for their share of health insurance than they were three years ago. One reason is that the Bush administration is allowing the health insurers and pharmaceutical companies to run wild. Of course, the Republican mantra is "deregulate." But with deregulation, you have a huge percentage of health care costs going to drug company profits and obscenely inflated health industry top management salaries--even when the companies are tanking.
Of course, one thing about the tax cut is true. Along with cutting taxes, the Bushies want to do away with government, to weaken it, to decrease its regulatory influence on corporations. If municipal, state and federal government agencies are under-funded, they can't check out what corporations are doing and what they shouldn't be doing. We end up with a castrated form of government that is unable to protect the public, unable to keep rogue corporations like Enron and MCI in line.
Now when I think of government, I think of a few things:
Protection: like military, police and judicial--protecting us from crime, law-breaking, threats to the nation and to our freedoms. Cut these budgets and we'll end up spending more fixing problems and abuses that could have been prevented.
Services: education, health. Get cheap here and we end up with under-educated workers with lower salaries. Cut health care and you end up with more emergencies rather than preventing illness. Public transportation rates go up. Police give out more parking tickets.
Maintenance of the Commons: roads, infrastructure, laws, natural resources, lands, air, water.
Standards: food, ecology. The short-term solutions may save money, but long-term, this is bad husbandry and leadership that will cost us in the end.
Fairness: taking care of those who need help. (Compassionate conservatism is, perhaps, Bush lie number two.)
Leadership: I put leadership last because it is clear that the Bush administration has not budgeted for leadership. As history looks back on these times, George W. Bush will undoubtedly be held up as an example of the most extreme buffoonish incompetency. His combination of stupidity, ignorance, lack of both education and willingness to learn and his egomaniacal fundamentalist beliefs in God's intentions for him have added up to much worse than incompetence. He blunders and fails at just about everything he touches, unless you are counting his gifts to corporations and friends, in return for gifts they gave him first.
So we have a situation in which there's a big tax cut—but most of America is really experiencing a deep gouge in the pocketbook. Already, with a half-trillion dollar annual deficit, the nation is experiencing the adverse affects of this tax-cut monstrosity.
As the cities, states and the federal government run out of money, they'll need to borrow more. This will eventually have to be paid for. Someone will have to pay the taxes to pay the interest. Another way the states are looking to pay is that they are allowing more "sin" services and products--Sunday liquor sales that can be taxed, gambling, slot machines....these all add income without income taxes. But they also come at a price--many people who are addicted to alcohol or gambling will ruin their lives and hurt their families. This is not exactly consistent with the fundamentalist Christian perspectives Bush is supposed to reflect.
The polls are now showing that a majority of Americans are unhappy with the way Bush does business. It is time that the elected Republicans who hold the majority in both houses of congress stop doing the lock-step march with the administration. It is time that they did something about the debt, about the bleeding state budgets, about kids not getting college tuition money.
It is time that we face the fact that the people of the US are under assault by the super wealthy and the mega corporations. They've declared war and they are winning.
But we can take back America. Former Democratic Party Chair Ed Rendell says we need a more aggressive media. Well, you're reading it right now, in whatever website or print publication in which you see this Op-Ed. Support it. As Ghandi said, "Be the change you wish to see." Take action every day. Send your favorite democratic candidates money before the end of this month, since they'll get matching funds. And let people know what a liar George is.
Rob Kall, of Newton, Pa.,
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This story was published on September 16, 2003.