Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Vote for Bush? Only in Bizarro-world 
A friend of mine who recently moved to a rather conservative town in California had emailed me, looking for some constructive criticism on a letter-to-the-editor he was composing in support of Kerry. In fact I didn't think much of his letter - it was way too wishy-washy and didn't define sharply enough why people should not vote for Bush. I sent him a long response, most of which delineated what I think are some of the major failings of the Bush administration, taking the issues my friend had raised in his letter point by point.

He wanted me to edit it a bit and then submit it to his paper as a possible op-ed. It's not that good - but it does hit a lot of reasons why Bush is so undeserving of election. So I'm posting it here, for whatever its worth:
I do not believe George Bush believes in any of the things you mention, at least in any way outside of fantasyland, where all people are white, straight, fundamentalist Christian, and wealthy. Leave the rhetoric aside - by his actions over the last four years Bush has demonstrated his disdain for education, his lack of interest in the the needs of working families, and his contempt for seniors.

He forced NCLB[No Child Left Behind] through Congress, guided by an Education Secretary who likened the teachers union to a terrorist organization. He's cut back on all the programs that help support struggling families - AFDC[Aid to Families with Dependent Children], WIC[Food Stamps], HEAP[Home Energy Assistance Program] - while his income tax cuts have forced the burden of public programs increasingly onto working folks, via increases in fees, state and local income taxes, property tax, gasoline tax, sales taxes - all of which are far more regressive than the income tax and thus hurt people who work for a living, for wages. (whether their income is $10,000 or $250,000 per year). Under Bush, seniors have been forbidden by law to seek less expensive Canadian prescription drugs, Medicare has been forbidden to seek volume drug discounts, Medicare's new "drug discount card" program, for which seniors must pay, provides them in many cases with drugs that cost MORE than they would cost at retail, and privatizing social security would require either drastic benefit cuts or 4 TRILLION dollars of new taxes to make up the shortfall in Social Security fund income.

On National Security: Yes, Bush says he's for a strong defense, but his conduct of American foreign and military policy demonstrates the opposite. His lack of knowledge and misunderstanding of what would provide security - strong alliances and a perception in the Muslim world that the US is a fair arbiter - argue against him. The conduct of the Iraq war, from its conception to today, show that (beyond the war's dubious merits) he and his team do not understand and are incapable of pursuing an effective military policy. Our armed forces are grossly understaffed, deployments in Iraq are at half or less of the levels needed, and every senior General who said so has been demoted or forced into retirement. On the Homeland Security front, our ports, borders, and chemical plants are no more secure than on 9/10/2001. The CIA today has fewer Middle East experts and Arabic speakers than in 2001.

George Bush may very well believe that the economy is growing. Why shouldn't he? It is doing very, very well for Halliburton, CACI, The Carlisle Group, Exxon-Mobil, and other friends of the Bush and Cheney families. Paradoxically, the unemployement rate is at a modest 5.4%, but economists believe that this is, in large part, a result of the long-term unemployed dropping off rolls when their benefits end. Indeed, there are about 1 million fewer jobs today than in January 2001 when Bush took office, and the number of jobs that ought to have been created in the last 4 years but have not is about 6.5 million - we are SHORT 7.5 million jobs. Not good for workers. And even the stock market isn't doing very well. The DJIA has been hovering around 10,000 for several years - about 10% lower than in 2001 - and the NASDAQ average has declined by 15% in just the last few months. In part due to failures in Iraq and partly due to the long-standing relationship between the Bush, Saud, and bin Laden families, oil prices are at an all-time high (and thus, in the medium-term, the price of EVERYthing will go up - note that interest rates on on the rise, too). The economy is weak, and likely soon to get weaker.

You have the right facts on education - but again, I think they demonstrate that Bush's goals are the exact opposite of what he claims. His real goals seem to be to dismantle the American system of public education entirely, in favor of parochial/religious schools for the "lower" classes and prohibitively expensive private schools for the wealthy.

Finally, I do not agree that Bush has a clear vision of where he wants the country to be in 4 years. Certainly some of his advisors do - the neo-cons see a future of US world hegemony and a fantasyland Pax Americana that is collapsing as we watch. The Christian right sees an equally fantastical world of 100% Jesus-loving heterosexuals who have sex only for procreation and even then only in the dark. But Bush himself? He seems to have no vision beyond being the coolest guy with the best toys in the world. In true Bizarro-world fashion, Bush has tarred Kerry with the brush that really applies to him - he's taken almost every side of every issue over the past few years - his clear vision, if he has one, extends about 72 hours out. Beyond that, all bets are off.

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