in Waco: The Summit That Wasn't
August 15, 2002
By Richard Prasad
President Bush convened an economic summit in Waco Texas
on August 13th. Far from alleviating any fears caused by the
economic slowdown, it was nothing more than a conservative
echo chamber for Bush's already failed economic policies.
First off, why have the summit located in Waco? The last
major event associated in the public's consciousness in Waco
was a nightmare. If Bush wanted to give Waco a more positive
public image, bringing CEO's from the likes of Pfizer, a huge
pharmaceutical company who rips off the public with outrageous
drug prices, is not the way to do it.
I watched a lot of this mundane exercise on CSPAN, which
tells the reader all he or she wants to know about my life,
or lack thereof. The whole 'summit' seemed staged, and clumsily
so, with the twin underpinnings of, "the economy was
bad before Bush took office," and, "the economy
is improving after Bush took office." This was repeated
time after time by Don Evans, Paul O'Neil, and by Bush himself.
With that as a premise, it is easy to understand why people
did not take this 'summit' seriously.
Here are some examples of the so-called summit only serving
as a megaphone to promote Bush policies:
A professor said she was glad that Bush was emphasizing ethics
in business school. Apparently, this professor does not see
any problems receiving business ethics lessons from Bush,
whose business ethics seem situational, at best. Setting up
offshore tax havens in the Cayman Islands, and selling stock
while on the board of directors at Harken Oil, making an $800,000
profit just before the stock tanked. That seems like business
ethics at its best doesn't it?
A female CPA said that she wanted to simplify the tax code,
and endorsed Bush's tax cut unequivocally. Why would a CPA
want a simplified tax code? CPAs only make money if the tax
code stays complicated. Why would a woman argue against her
own economic interest? Doesn't make sense, does it?
Another woman who identified herself as a small business
owner, spoke in favor of ending the inheritance tax, which
Bush euphemistically calls the death tax. But the question
I have is, why would a small business owner be in favor of
a tax that affects only the top 2% of businesses and individuals?
Cutting the inheritance tax does not promote wealth, it concentrates
wealth permanently in the hands of a very few who are lucky
enough to inherit it. Amid all this talk of tax cutting, nary
a word about the deficit was ever spoken. By the way, the
inheritance tax was established by Teddy Roosevelt, one of
the few principled Republicans in history.
Bush tried to convey a spirit of diversity by inviting representatives
of the black chamber of commerce and the Latino chamber of
commerce. But the words chamber of commerce in their title
meant they only cared about one color - not black, not brown,
Do you need more evidence that the event was a Bush infomercial?
There was a statement by a black UPS driver endorsing Bush's
free trade policies. Most blue collar workers that I have
ever met are against free trade, because most of blue collar
America feels that free trade costs them their jobs. Sure,
there could be UPS workers in favor of free trade, but I bet
this one was told what to say.
And the last example of the pro-Bush speechifying by 'ordinary
people' was an elderly lady screaming for a tax credit to
cover some of her medical expenses. Most of the elderly want
a prescription drug benefit added to Medicare, not a tax credit.
The tax credit view simply does not represent the majority
view and therefore strains credibility.
The only words that rang true with me were spoken by a professor
from Rutgers University who was outraged by the huge CEO compensation
that occurs when CEOs leave a failing company. Bush echoed
the professor's outrage saying something to the effect that
CEO pay had to be commensurate with the success of the company.
The fact that Cheney took $30 million before leaving Hallibuton
must have slipped his mind.
In the real world, meanwhile, outside the rarefied air of
Waco, American Airlines announced that they would be cutting
7,000 jobs. Coming on the heels of the fact that USAir just
declared bankruptcy, this cannot be good news for the airline
industry. But the airline industry is hardly alone. Ames department
store is closing all 320 of its stores, and IBM is cutting
15,000 more jobs. Never mind all those numbers, be of good
cheer, George W. Bush says the economy is in good shape, and
he brought 240 of his friends to back him up.
The economic summit in Waco was many things, conservative
echo chamber, photo-op, infomercial, but not a serious economic
summit. Summits bring together opposing ideas and hopefully
bring forth a resolution. Bush showed his own interest in
the summit by saying, "I can't attend all the sessions, but
I will read the summaries." Thanks for your interest George.
Now go work on your golf game.