2 Years Later | The Bush AgendaUnder the Radar




Since September 11, 2001, the Bush administration has been super busy reshaping the world. But they’ve still found time to reshape the United States, and not for the better.

Having campaigned as a more or less reasonable (if unqualified) guy, George Bush, as president, hit the ground running as a scary-as-hell conservative (see tax cuts, ABM, Kyoto etc.) That hasn’t changed since 9/11. What has changed, perhaps, is the amount of attention Americans were willing to give to domestic politics. (More pressing was the question of whether we were all going to die.) The public was prepared to give the prez the benefit of the doubt on the home front — so long as he looked like he was doing something about terrorism.

Bad idea. While you were buying gas masks and looking for Afghanistan on the map, Bush & Co. were rolling back nearly 30 years of environmental protection, tried to cram the federal bench with right-wing judges, and, by a deft combination of tax cutting and military spending, ran up a $500m deficit.

Take the judiciary. The American Prospect says Bush has gone all out to “cement the far right’s hold” on the judicial system. Although the prez failed to work it for Miguel Estrada, he’s not going to let that stop him from hustling his “court-packing agenda.”

Perhaps one of Bush’s most dubious judicial appointments is Alabama Attorney General Willliam Pryor, known for his extreme-right views, most notably on abortion, which he adamantly opposes even in cases of rape and incest. He’s also a darling of corporations. The Republican Attorneys General Association (Pryor is treasurer and co-founder) was busted by the Washington Post earlier this summer for soliciting hundreds of thousands of dollars in political contributions from corporations, even though these same corporations were subject to lawsuits or regulation by their state governments. Democrats are trying to block Pryor’s nomination.

After the World Trade Center tragedy, Bush wasted no time charging forward in his attack on environmental protection. And as Osha Gray Davidson writing for Mother Jones, notes, “No president has gone after the nation’s environmental laws with the same fury as George W. Bush — and none has been so adept at staying under the radar.”.

Last week, Interior Secretary Gale Norton was touting Bush’s Healthy Forests Initiative, which supposedly improves the health of forests by clearing away fodder for wildfires.

But The New York Times says the initiative is “misdirected.” Prima facie, “the plan seems innocent enough,” writes The Times. But the plan’s mandate is broad enough that it actually invites the deep-pocket timber industry to log areas that don’t pose a threat:

“It would increase the Forest Service’s fire-prevention budget and presumably the service’s ability to stop fires before they happen by aggressively thinning overgrown forests and deliberately setting controlled fires to prevent even bigger blazes. The problem with the plan is that it is hopelessly, perhaps deliberately, vague. It does not specifically require that the money be spent where it would obviously do the most good, at the urbanized edges of the forests, where homeowners and their property are most at risk. Indeed, its mandate is so broad that it practically invites commercial logging on millions of acres in remote areas of the national forests, where fires pose little or no threat to people or property but where the trees are the biggest and the opportunities for profit are the largest.”

More bad news: Last week the U.S. General Accounting Office released a report showing that Superfund trusts could be depleted by the end of the month. The Superfund program was created in the 1980s to force corporate polluters to pay for clean-up in the communities they dump on. But under the Bush administration, not only has clean-up declined, but the burden of paying for the clean-up of the toxic sites will shift to the taxpayer.

All this is in the context of a ballooning deficit — at $500 million and counting, it’s the worst in nearly 200 years. More and more ordinary Americans are losing their jobs every day (try telling them Bush’s massive tax cuts for the wealthy are helping the economy).

Americans are starting to wake up. Bush’s approval ratings are on the slide, and with the Congressional Budget Office reporting last week that the deficit will likely be between $1.4 trillion and $4 trillion over the next decade, things suddenly don’t look so good for the president.

Yet Bush continues to brag that “[t]ax relief is stimulating job creation all across the country.” But as the Washington Post points out, the Labor Department reported last week that employers are still laying off their employees in record numbers:

“The perils of presidential promises hit the White House anew when the Labor Department reported this morning that employers shed 93,000 jobs from payrolls in August. It was the seventh consecutive month companies had slashed payrolls, up sharply from the 43,000 positions lost in July. This time, the losses came just as the president’s $350 billion tax cut package was showing up in consumers’ pockets.

Not only did the president frame the tax cut as a jobs program, but also his Council of Economic Advisers left a paper trail. The council predicted that passage of the tax cut would produce 510,000 new jobs in 2003 and 891,000 in 2004. Since the tax cut was signed in late May, employers have shed 225,000 jobs.

Joe Lieberman says it best when he tells the Post, “Of all the broken promises of this president, the most hurtful has been the broken promise to create new jobs and protect the ones that exist.”