the Economy, Stupid... Or Is It?
February 27, 2003
By Frederick H. Winterberg III
With a potential war in Iraq taking up virtually all of the
time on cable news shows, little attention is being paid to
domestic issues such as the economy, unemployment, the stock
market, and rising drug and medical costs. What little attention
is paid to these pressing problems seems to center around
the theme "when will the economy recover?", taking for granted
that it will, in spite of the havoc Bushonomics has wreaked
on all the aforementioned fronts.
We see Bush touting a brand new tax cut for the rich, or
an economic stimulus bill that relies on tax cuts for the
rich and big business, and the talking heads speak reverentially
of how great a leader Bush is, and how soon his worthless
proposals will reverse the two year death spiral of our economy.
It's always a question of "when" we will see recovery, not
if, which prompted me to realize for the first time:
Bush and the Republicans don't want a recovery.
Once it finally occurred to me, a lot of pieces started to
fit together. From the day it became official that Bush would
be sworn in as president, I figured the economy would be his
Achilles heel. Judging by the economic performance of his
father and Reagan, and Bush's stated desire to enact a huge
tax cut, it was a given he would grab the wheel and drive
us into the proverbial ditch.
But even I was amazed at how fast and how far we plunged.
I kept waiting for the mainstream media to start calling him
on the carpet, but, amazingly, heard more blame being leveled
at Bill Clinton than at George Bush. Then, the fall of Enron,
WorldCom, and countless other companies under the weight of
their creative accounting. Surely they would start asking
questions now, considering Bush's extremely close ties to
Enron and Kenneth Lay; once again, almost nothing. Next, the
fact that both Bush and Cheney had both personally employed
the same accounting gimmicks at Harken and Halliburton respectively
(a fact well know to anyone with a modem and a search engine,
though the press never said boo about it during the 2000 campaign);
barely a whisper.
It became apparent that the press was not going to hold him
accountable for his actions and policies. And if he is not
held accountable, what incentive would he have for making
things better? Other than the well-being of millions of American
citizens, none. And as the well-being of the average American
has never been a concern to Bush, I began to wonder, what
incentive would he have for keeping the status quo, or even
letting things get worse ?
Plenty, as it turns out.
It has long been a goal of right wing Republicans to bankrupt
the federal government for the purpose of doing away with
it. Their ideology sees the federal government as a gravy
train of money for millions of shiftless people too lazy to
get off the couch and make a living. Grover Norquist, a well
known right wing icon, has many times stated his goal of reducing
the federal government to a size small enough to "drown in
By doing so, they can do away with Medicare, Social Security,
and all the other government programs put in place to benefit
the average American. In their vision, the federal government
would exist solely for defense and to dole out corporate welfare
to the richest individuals and corporations.
How best to starve the federal government? Cut off its source
of income. By giving huge tax breaks to corporations and the
wealthy, the burden of taxation falls on the lower and middle
classes. And when the economy tanks and millions lose their
jobs, the federal government takes in less and less money.
And when the money dries up, the first things that are cut
are social programs that benefit the needy, on the grounds
that they don't have the funds to keep them going.
Another beneficiary of a poor economy is the wealthy. As
the stock market keeps going down and down, many businesses
fail or become devalued to a small fraction of their former
worth. The vast majority of people can't realistically play
the market when it is this volatile, as the risk is too great
for people of modest means. However, this allows those with
the means to buy companies, or controlling interests in said
companies, for what amounts to pennies on the dollar. This
allows them to accumulate even more wealth and more economic
power. Seeing as how all of Bush's policies cater to corporations
and the rich, to them this is not a bad state of affairs;
in fact, it's exactly what they want.
But perhaps the most chilling effect of a poor economy is
its effect on lower and middle class people, those of us who
have to go to work every day to make ends meet. Fear of losing
one's job is always in the back of one's mind, as we watch
those around us lose their jobs, their homes, essentially
their lives. We work longer hours, in hopes of ingratiating
ourselves with our superiors; we take on more assignments
and work, because we fear that if we don't somebody else will.
Employers, on the other hand, know and understand this and
use it to their advantage. They know they can pay less money,
give smaller raises, cut back vacation time, do away with
bonuses, or pretty much anything they want, because there
is no job market for their employees to go to. This, of course,
goes hand in hand with Bush's domestic policies; corporations
can never have enough money, power, or leverage over
the common man.
All evidence points to my assertion that Bush and the Republican
congress would actually prefer a weak economy and the attendant
recession (or depression). It enables them to further their
right wing agenda at the expense of the rights and well being
of the majority of U.S. citizens, which they have shown time
and again is not a concern to them. As long as the media refuses
to hold Bush accountable, he will have no incentive to make
things better, and I predict things will only get worse, at
least until we have a chance to remove him from office in
It's going to be a long two years.