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Thanks to Cindy Procious

By David Podvin

The administration of George W. Bush routinely falsifies government statistics for the purpose of achieving political objectives. The most infamous example of numerical legerdemain involved Bush coercing the Central Intelligence Agency, the State Department, and the Department of Defense to transform the numeral “zero” – which represented the total stockpile of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction – into an undefined yet terrifyingly large number. The list of statistical con jobs being perpetrated is lengthy because since seizing the presidency, Bush has methodically destroyed the validity of government data. The result has been a growing disconnect between the self-serving fiction released by the administration and the bitter reality that exists in Bush’s America.

The overriding theme of the Bush presidential campaign is that he is making America safer. The Department of Justice has consistently promoted that propaganda by releasing phony statistics about its success in identifying and prosecuting terrorists. Attorney General John Ashcroft claims that DOJ has “disrupted well over a hundred planned terrorist actions since 9/11”. Newspaper investigations of those cases found that included among the foiled terror attacks were incidents involving drunken passengers misbehaving on airplanes, prisoners rioting in protest of bad food, and personal disputes between American civilians. The congressional General Accounting Office confirmed the newspaper accounts and recommended that Ashcroft employ a stricter definition of terrorism, whereupon the administration stopped releasing specific information about terror cases.

Bush has assured the voters that he is increasing their security with the rapid development of the Ballistic Missile Defense System, which is the current marketing term for the Strategic Defense Initiative. Bush has claimed that before this year is over, BMDS will protect the American people against incoming missiles launched from Northeast Asia. The Bush Defense Department insists that over sixty percent of the tests conducted have resulted in BMDS shooting down its intended targets. In fact, BMDS has never shot down a missile that did not contain a tracking device designed to make it impossible to miss, and even then BMDS has failed to hit the mark almost half the time.

Statistics on the economy are also being distorted. The Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis recently reviewed the second quarter of 2001 and revised the numbers on seasonal adjustments for car sales in a way that changes the economic status of that period. As a result of this mathematical trickery, it is now the official position of the federal government that no recession has occurred during the Bush administration. The business slowdown and loss of millions of jobs has been reclassified as a “lull period in an ongoing economic expansion”, followed by a “re-acceleration” in which less than a third of the lost jobs have been recovered. This Soviet-style revisionist history will allow Bush to be speaking the government-approved truth when he trumpets the outrageous lie that his tax cut for the rich has “reignited economic growth”.

The shameless deceit extends to the issue of employment. Beginning in June 2003, the Bureau of Labor Statistics implemented the “Current Employment Statistics Net Birth/Death Model Of Total Private Industries”, which uses a methodology for calculating job numbers that produces fantasy. Under the new calculations, when companies go out of business the jobs that are lost do not get subtracted from total national employment numbers. Conversely, jobs are added to the national total based on the hiring practices at nonexistent firms that are “estimated” to have recently started. Using this brazenly dishonest equation, 288,000 new jobs were created in April 2004, of which 18,000 were verifiable real jobs and the remaining ninety-four percent were “estimated” imaginary jobs.

The Bush administration is lying about the cost of living. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that for the quarter ended in July prices of food and beverages rose at an annualized rate of approximately five percent. This claim was directly contradicted by Sysco Corporation, which is a huge national food and beverage distributor with a reputation for ethical accounting practices. Sysco issued a statement that "as measured by the rise in our cost of goods", food and beverage inflation during the quarter ending in July actually rose eight percent.

Bush is playing political games with the budget deficit. In August 2004, Goldman Sachs stated, “The Office of Management and Budget has perfected the art of underpromising and outperforming in terms of its near-term budget deficit forecasts. For example, in its semiannual review, the OMB lowered its deficit forecast for fiscal 2004 to $445 billion from $521 billion.  This creates the impression that the deficit is narrowing when, in fact, it will be up sharply from the $375-billion imbalance of a year earlier.  This process is likely to continue in October, when the fiscal 2004 deficit turns out to be lower than the current OMB forecast.”  An increase in the deficit from $375 billion last year to $420 billion this year is not an improvement. However, by massaging the numbers Bush will be able to create the illusion of progress even though the larger shortfall in 2004 will mean that four consecutive years of deficit increases have followed eight straight years of deficit reduction.

Social programs have not been spared from the mathematical machinations. Early in his administration, Bush attempted to neutralize the Democrats’ longstanding advantage on Social Security by having a handpicked government commission release inaccurate numbers in a report that advocated privatization. Independent analyses of the finding condemned its algorithms as being invalid and debunked its premise that Social Security is destined for insolvency unless Wall Street is allowed to handle the average American’s retirement fund. Nevertheless, Bush brandished the commission’s deceitful findings as proof that only he stands between future retirees and abject poverty.

The Bush Environmental Protection Agency proclaimed that it has made ninety-four percent of American drinking water safe. However, internal EPA documents leaked by a whistleblower revealed that only about eighty-one percent of the jurisdictions monitored have safe drinking water, placing an additional thirty million people at risk of serious illness.

The phony Bush statistics comprise an endless litany, spanning the gamut of issues from child abuse clinics and crime prevention to veterans’ benefits and health care costs. Previous occupants of the White House have interpreted government numbers in self-serving ways, but Bush has revolutionized the concept by making virtually the entire federal bureaucracy complicit in conning the public.

The strategy of cooking the books to deceive the electorate is nothing new for Bush. His singular bragging point as governor was the “Texas Miracle”, the education reform program that emphasized mandatory testing for students who were entering high school. According to the numbers released in 2000 by Houston school superintendent Rod Paige, the program was so phenomenally successful that his district had quickly gone from having one of the worst dropout rates in America to having one of the best. Bush campaigned for the presidency pledging that he would do for children across America what he had done for the students of Houston. Opinion surveys confirmed that without this issue that resonated so well with parents, Bush would have been unable to keep the election close enough to steal.

Yet it was all a lie. Investigative reports in Houston have confirmed that the statistics were doctored by Paige and other Bush functionaries to create the illusion of success at a time when the dropout rate was actually increasing and the quality of education was in decline. The fraudulent Texas Miracle had done absolutely nothing to help students, but it was invaluable in enabling a habitual liar to gain control of the presidency.

Paige was rewarded for his dishonesty with an appointment to be Secretary of Education. By contrast, the government's chief analyst of Medicare expenses was threatened with firing if he disclosed to Congress that Bush was lying about the true cost of the administration’s vaunted prescription-drug bill. Richard Foster said that Medicare administrator Thomas Scully warned him he would lose his job if Congress were told the truth about Bush deliberately underestimating the cost of the legislation by almost two hundred billion dollars. Bush is now boasting to voters that he got the Medicare bill through Congress, although he is choosing not to mention that he did so by corrupting the legislative process.

George W. Bush and his surrogates continue to produce numerical mirages as he observes no moral limits in attempting to keep the office he attained by lying and cheating. For representative government to have any meaning, the electorate must have access to the truth, but the trespasser in the White House knows he can win only if the voters are bombarded with lies. By again subverting American democracy for his own selfish benefit, Bush has verified that the presidential candidate who lacks patriotism is not the one with the three Purple Hearts.

More David Podvin

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Last changed: December 13, 2009