Friday, September 03, 2004

Denying the Obvious; Bush Flip-Flops and Lies; Secrets they don't want you to know

Multiple items from

by David Sirota, Christy Harvey, Judd Legum and Jonathan Baskin

September 3, 2004

Put Put Put

New labor Department data
( show the U.S. added
144,000 jobs
( to
payrolls in August, signifying a modest gain "slightly below Wall Street
analysts' forecasts." Revised June and July job numbers "created a
moderately more favorable picture for summer job growth, but [are] likely to
leave unresolved for now whether the economy was successfully shaking
off" a midsummer soft patch. Other indicators are less inspiring: The
retail sector continues to lose jobs, reflecting weakness in consumption,
and long-term unemployment is up again
( . In addition, wages continue to
stagnate, boosting the numbers of Americans sinking into poverty
( . The
economy has still shed more than one million
( jobs since March 2001, assuring Bush will end his four-year term
with the worst jobs record since Herbert Hoover. American Progress' Scott
Lilly writes that Bush's jobs record is "particularly striking...since
tax cuts, the core of the administration's economic policy agenda,
have been justified year after year primarily on the grounds of job

Domestic Deja Vu

Meet the new term, same as the old term. A speech that President Bush
himself hyped as " 43 minutes of sheer wisdom
" ended up being an hour of the same weary formula: a series of
warmed-over and ill-conceived domestic policy proposals paired with naive
happy talk about an "ownership society." Throughout, "his biggest ideas
were not really new
( ,
and he left the daunting details of the agenda items...a comprehensive
overhaul of Social Security and Medicare, a reining in of federal
spending, a reshaping of immigration law -- almost entirely unaddressed."
Moreover, "the major items he did mention face significant opposition in
Congress, and many would cost far more than his own party seems likely to
be willing to spend."

JOB TRAINING FLIP-FLOP: In a second term, Bush pledged to "double the
number of people served by our principal job training program." That is
a nice idea, but he has spent the last four years cutting funding for
job training programs. His 2005 budget, for example, proposed to cut
job training and vocational education by 10 percent
-- that's $656 million -- from what Congress pledged to those programs
in 2002.

COMMUNITY COLLEGE FLIP-FLOP: Bush also promised to increase funding for
community colleges. But he was for cutting funding for community
colleges before he was for increasing it. Last year, the Bush administration
proposed cutting the largest direct aid initiative to community
colleges (
, the Perkins program for technical and vocational training, from $1.3
billion to about $1 billion. Congress had to step in to save the

THE PELL GRANT FLIP-FLOP: Another Bush reversal: his pledge to expand
Pell Grants for low- and middle-income families. For three straight
years, Bush has proposed freezing or cutting Pell grants
( . This,
despite pledging in 2000 to raise Pell grants to a $5,100 limit. The
maximum Pell grant is currently $4,050.

SOCIAL SECURITY REDUX: Last night, President Bush pledged to
"strengthen Social Security by allowing younger workers to save some of their
taxes in a personal account." What he didn't mention: establishing the
privatization scheme could cost $1 trillion or more over the next decade
( ,
expanding already record federal deficits. Administrative costs could
consume up to 40 percent of the funds
( placed in private accounts.
And, since returns in the stock market vary, many retirees would do quite
poorly. Bush may realize this is a bad idea. He proposed the exact
same thing in his last acceptance speech
( , but during four years in
office with a Republican Congress, nothing has been done. For more the
hazards of Social Security privatization read this new American
Progress column
( .

HEALTH SAVINGS ACCOUNTS REDUX: Bush also plans, if reelected, to "offer
a tax credit to encourage small businesses and their employees to set
up health savings accounts, and provide direct help for low-income
Americans to purchase them." What he didn't mention: HSAs will likely drive
up the annual deductibles paid by workers
. And because of their adverse effects on employer-based coverage,
HSAs could swell the ranks of the uninsured
( .

COMP-TIME/FLEX-TIME REDUX: In another nod to business interests, the
president reiterated his proposal to "change outdated labor laws to offer
comp-time and flex-time." But while the proposals have attractive
sounding names, they actually open the door for employers to pressure
to "accept time off instead of overtime pay." Even absent explicit
pressure, employers would be free to "channel overtime work to those who
were willing to take comp-time." Moreover, "employees would have to take
their earned time off when it suits their employer rather than when it
suited the employee." Bottom line: no one is against giving workers
more flexibility to take vacations, but when an hourly worker exceeds 40
hours in a week, he or she should receive overtime.

TAX CUT REDUX: As expected, the president renewed his calls to make his
tax cuts for the wealthy permanent. But making the tax cuts permanent
would be of great benefit to only very high-income households. Estimates
based on data from the Urban Institute-Brookings Institution Tax Policy
Center show that if the tax cuts are made permanent, the top 1 percent
of households will gain an average of $58,200 a year
( (in 2004 dollars) when the tax
cuts are fully in effect, reflecting a 7.3 percent change in their
after-tax income. By contrast, people in the middle of the income spectrum
would secure just a 2.5 percent increase in their after-tax income, with
average tax cuts of $655 -- a little more than one-ninetieth of what
those in the top 1 percent would receive. Moreover, making the tax cuts
permanent would swell the deficit and could destabilize the world
economy. It would cost $2.2 trillion over the next 10 years, forcing Americans
to give up important domestic programs or add to the $374 billion
annual deficit. A report by the IMF said the U.S. deficit has already
gotten so out of control, it could threaten the stability of the world

Denying the Obvious

President Bush last night made many claims about his national security
record -- many directly contradicted by the facts. In an effort to turn
his inflexible and ideologically driven foreign policy into a political
asset, the president sugarcoated his record to claim " America and the
world are safer
( "
because of his leadership. But both experts and the record show that is not
true. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in July that " I cannot
say the world is safer
today than it was two, three years ago." According to Bush's own State
Department, the number of significant terrorist attacks last year
reached a 21-year high
( . Osama bin
Laden and Mullah Omar are still not captured, as the Bush administration
shifted special forces off the hunt for al Qaeda
( in
Afghanistan and into Iraq. The International Institute for Strategic
Studies says that al Qaeda has taken advantage of the U.S. invasion in
Iraq and grown to 18,000 potential operatives
( in more than 60

claimed, "we have tripled funding for homeland security
( and
trained a half a million first responders." What he did not say was that
independent, nonpartisan experts agree that he has dangerously
underfunded homeland security and the nation's first responders. A task force
headed by former Sen. Warren Rudman (R-NH) found that "the United States
remains dangerously ill-prepared to handle a catastrophic attack on
American soil." It specifically said the Bush budgets would leave a $98.4
billion funding gap
( for first
responders over the next five years -- a finding the Rand Corporation
essentially seconded
( . This year, the
president is proposing to slash more than $600 million
(14 percent) from first responder funding. Similarly, the Bush
administration has allocated less than $500 million for port security, even
though the Coast Guard estimates that $7.5 billion is needed
in the next decade.

promised last night that " the Taliban are history
( ." But
according to the Wall Street Journal, that's not true: "Two-and-a-half
years since the Taliban abandoned Afghanistan's major cities, the war
here goes on
" in the vast rural areas. Taliban leaders have vowed to derail
elections in the country. Over the last year, some 50 Westerners and 1,000
Afghans have been killed in fighting with Taliban forces. The threat has
become so dangerous that Afghan President Hamid Karzai was forced to
admit he "is seeking the support of former Taliban officials
( " to stabilize
the country.

said, "I deeply appreciate the courage and wise counsel of leaders"
like Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski. What he did not say was that
Kwasniewski has expressed outrage over the Bush administration
deceiving his country about Iraq. In March of this year, the Polish president
went on TV and said America " deceived us about the weapons of mass
destruction ( " and that
his country was "taken for a ride." Kwasniewski isn't the only member
of the "coalition of the willing" to become disillusioned. Six
countries -- Honduras, the Dominican Republic, Spain, the Philippines, Norway,
and Nicaragua -- have already pulled their troops out of Iraq
( .
Three others -- Poland, the Netherlands, and New Zealand -- are
planning to withdraw shortly.

of a letter about Iraq that he attributed only to an "Army specialist."
That specialist doubles as a scholar
( at the National Center for
Public Policy Research -- a far right-wing organization funded by
extremists like the Richard Mellon Scaife

that "four years ago, Afghanistan was the home base of al Qaeda
( " and
that now it is not. But according to the Bush administration, al Qaeda
remains a threat in Afghanistan. As CNN reported in July, senior
intelligence officials said "a plot to carry out a large-scale terror attack
against the United States in the near future is being directed by Osama
bin Laden and other top al Qaeda members" who "are overseeing the
attack plans from their remote hideouts somewhere along the
Afghanistan-Pakistan border ( ."

The Reaction

Editorial boards around the country are expressing their frustration
with the president's lack of specifics about how he plans to turn around
a first term "marked by terrorist attacks, three years of war, job
losses ( and massive
deficits." The Washington Post:
"The chief difficulty with Mr. Bush's speech wasn't so much what he put
in, but what he left out: the missteps and difficulties that have marred
his first term and will make many of the goals he cited difficult to
obtain." The New York Times:
( "Despite the
enormous changes the United States has undergone since the last election,
from terror attacks to recession, Mr. Bush has been sticking resolutely
to the priorities he brought into the office in 2001... Each of those
policies has cost the nation dearly." The Houston Chronicle:
( "Bush
promised to expand freedom at home, although Americans have lost to the war
on terror the right to keep their library and bank records safe from
government scrutiny. He promised to simplify the tax code, which became
more complicated and less predictable on his watch. The Boston Globe:
"Few would doubt President Bush's intention to stay the course in a
second term...What is at issue, however, is not his resolve but the path

Under the Radar

HOUSING - HUD AVERTS DISASTER: The government is restoring millions of
that were to be cut by the Bush administration, threatening housing
provisions for millions of America's poor, elderly and disabled. Saying they
had " averted a major housing crisis
," New York City officials announced yesterday that the federal
government had agreed to restore almost all of the $55 million that had been
scheduled to be cut under a recent regulatory change affecting Section 8,
the government's main housing program for the poor. "For years, the
federal government has paid the full cost of rent vouchers...[but] in
April, HUD informed housing agencies that, for the current fiscal year, it
would pay only an amount based on the cost of a voucher in August 2003,
plus an inflation adjustment." Housing agencies denounced that
decision, saying it would shortchange New York and other places
where the cost of providing vouchers has outpaced inflation.

congressional subcommittee last week investigated the 9/11 Commission's
conclusion that unnecessary secrecy is "undermining efforts to thwart
They found a confusing array of classified documents. Both critically
important information and the "comically irrelevant" alike have been
classified in recent years, including everything from Chilean dictator
Augusto Pinochet's fondness for Pisco Sour cocktails to a study concluding
that 40 percent of Army chemical warfare masks leaked. And
responsibility for this extreme resides with the Bush White House: as Republican
Rep. Chris Shays (R-CT) notes, "The tone is set at the top...This
administration believes the less known, the better." According to J. William
Leonard, director of the oversight office of the National Archives,
officials in the Bush administration classified documents 8 percent more
often last year than the year before. (And don't expect help any time soon
from the public interest declassification board created in 2000 to
recommend the release of secret information in important cases: President
Bush never appointed any members.)

a front page story today on the investigation into the charges Pentagon
official Lawrence Franklin gave classified information to Israel. The
probe is wider than originally reported: now the FBI investigation is
examining whether "several Pentagon officials" gave secrets to both the
now-discredited neocon favorite Ahmad Chalabi as well as the pro-Israel
lobbying group AIPAC.
The common denominators: "First, the FBI is investigating whether the
same people passed highly classified information to two disparate allies
-- Chalabi and a pro-Israel lobbying group. Second, at least some of the
intelligence in both instances included sensitive information about

"Guess who's the latest victim of Cheney Potty Mouth Syndrome? Hard as
it may be to believe, it's none other than the man formerly known as
Mr. Family Values, one-time presidential candidate Gary Bauer
( ." Walking
outside Madison Square Garden, a protester yelled at the Christian activist.
"Bauer, without skipping a beat, popped off the now commonly procured
and deployed F Bomb. 'F--- you,' Bauer said as he kept walking."