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By David Podvin
The most important American story of 2002 received attention halfway around the world in New Zealand, but was considered to be unworthy of any significant coverage by our domestic corporate media. In May, then-Secretary of the Treasury Paul O'Neill posted the following on the Treasury Department Web site: “For fiscal 2001, our results were an accrual-based deficit of $515 billion in contrast to a $127 billion surplus (for fiscal 2001) reported last Fall.”
During 2001, George W. Bush turned a hundred billion dollar Clinton surplus into a one year budget deficit of more than half a trillion dollars. In astounding defiance of all the laws of probability, he has managed to bankrupt America without improving national security or stimulating the economy. The sole dividend of his drunken spending spree is that the well-to-do are now doing much, much better.
The massive Bush budget shortfall is going to force the federal government to monopolize access to credit at a time when foreigners are withdrawing their money from America at a faster rate than at any time in history. The effect is likely to be a credit crunch that deprives the private sector of access to essential capital, resulting in a more serious version of the economic paralysis that occurred during the term of George Herbert Walker Bush.
This is not green eyeshade stuff. When the economy goes south, people lose their jobs and their self-respect. During bad economic times, the rate of violent crime skyrockets. So do divorces, spousal beatings, and child abuse, which in theory should concern the self-styled party of “family values”. Homelessness increases, and most of this country’s homeless are under the age of twelve. One in five American children currently must cope with hunger on a daily basis – during a severe recession, that obscene statistic becomes one in three.
Old people will needlessly die because they lack the funds to heat their apartments during the winter, or because they don’t have the resources to pay for basic medical attention. An increasing number of elderly Americans, many of whom risked their lives to defend this nation, will be forced to exist at a subsistence level. Millions will lose their retirement money as the housing and stock markets collapse.
Depriving the young, degrading the old – this is the decoded reality of compassionate conservatism.
Of course, others will suffer as well. In the short run, many who bought into the American Dream are going to be leveled by the American Reality as it is fashioned by our presidential son of privilege. Longer term, huge budget deficits that were created by lavishing largesse on the rich will have to be funded with massive new issuances of federal bonds. This will force interest rates higher, eliminating growth and destroying jobs. George W. Bush is practicing class warfare on an unprecedented scale, and he is going to produce an unprecedented amount of pain.
The motive behind the mainstream media’s decision not to emphasize this story is easily understandable. The deficit was created as a result of Bush repaying his benefactors with tax cuts and pork barrel projects; the multinational media conglomerates have been among the recipients of the graft. It is also not difficult to understand why Alan Greenspan has been a willing accomplice to this looting. The Federal Reserve Board Chairman has always been a functionary for Corporate America. After spending eight years of threatening President Bill Clinton with dire consequences unless Clinton toed the line of fiscal responsibility, Sir Alan has passively watched as Bush has busted the budget. Greenspan objects to running a deficit for the purpose of providing indigent children with medicine, but has no problem with running a much larger deficit for the purpose of enriching his billionaire patrons.
What is more problematic is why the Democratic Party chose to lose the last election by failing to hammer Bush on his gross economic malfeasance. The decisive electoral factor in the 2002 GOP Congressional victory was the support for Republicans by “swing voters”. These are the people who backed Ross Perot in 1992. Perot gained the allegiance of such voters – many of whom are either grandparents or suburban housewives – by emphasizing that the Democrats and Republicans were spending the inheritance of the nation’s children. He understood that many ordinary Americans associate deficits with being selfish and reckless. He challenged swing voters not to allow the entrenched political powers to leave this country in worse shape than they found it. The message resonated so well that Perot won almost twenty percent of the vote.
In 2000, the Congressional Budget Office projected “budget surpluses for as far as the eye can see”. That money would have guaranteed financial solvency for this generation and the next. Instead, Bush used 9/11 as a pretext for plundering the Treasury and created a new flood of red ink. “During a time of war,” he said, “ sacrifices must be made.”
The dominant issue of the last election should have been: Who must make the sacrifices that Bush says are necessary? Distilling the matter to its most elemental form: Will we burden our children with a crushing debt while giving big tax cuts to multinational corporations?
This approach is a proven winner in attracting the crucial support of citizens who do not identify with either major party. It is exactly the line of attack that buried Bush I, stripping him of independent voters who are fiscally conservative in the old fashioned sense of craving balanced budgets. These people voted for the Republicans in November out of ignorance regarding the financial malpractice of Bush II because NO ONE TOLD THEM!
Like a dissident in a totalitarian country being designated as a “non-person”, the malignant budget deficit has become the “non-issue”. Ne’er is heard a discouraging word, even after Bush’s own Treasury secretary publicly announced that the former Texas governor has run up an annual budget deficit almost twice as big as any in history. This issue will have a deeper and longer lasting impact on the citizens of the United States than virtually any other, and it is a big story…in New Zealand.
Meanwhile, Bush is preparing to smash his own record for fiscal irresponsibility with more upper income tax cuts and implementation of a missile defense system. The Strategic Defense Initiative still doesn’t work, but it sure is profitable for the aerospace companies that help finance the Republican Party. That is the dominant ethos of the last two years – contribute generously to Bush, receive billions of taxpayer dollars in return, and to hell with what’s good for America.
An informed electorate is essential for the survival of freedom. When a half trillion dollar budget deficit goes almost totally unreported - and the ostensible opposition party neglects to even mention it during the campaign - the access to information that makes democracy possible does not exist. The future has been stolen from the people of this country, yet even now most Americans have no idea of what has been done to them.
Podvin on the Media
Podvin, the Series