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It's 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 a bathtub".

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 2004.

It's going to be a long two years.

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