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Foolin' Some of the People...
August 20, 2002
By Bob Volpitto

Did you catch Bush's "really big, big, shew" in Waco the other day? If you missed it you were undoubtedly spending your summer vacation in outer space.

Looking less like the "Economic Forum" it was supposed to be and more like a 30's Berkley-Busby musical production, the scenes portrayed Mr. Bush as a modern day Moses who will lead us out of the economic wilderness back to the promised land of prosperity, Republican style.

I especially liked the photo showing our Great Leader working a crowd of invited guests who were supposed to offer down-home, grass roots economic advice to him. Did you notice the pair of African-Americans in the picture? Both in their mid-thirties, dressed like Sears catalog models with beaming ear to ear smiles as if they were very pleased to be among those down home, grass-roots folks who just happened to be passing by Baylor University that day.

Along with the African-Americans I'll bet - with tongue in cheek - Bush & Co (Karl Rove, CEO) extended overtures to a Jewish rabbi, two Catholic nuns, a westernized Muslim and one female of Hispanic descent. Two fellows shown with their backs to the camera appear to be a pair of misguided Reagan Democrats left over from the 1984 campaign. Regardless of their diversity, all present were said to agree that George Bush was the greatest president since George Washington and his plans to restore the economy were right on track - another 100% approval rating.

Because the phony forum was billed as one that would be devoted to the current economic mess (inherited from the Clinton/Gore administration, of course), Bush's handlers invited three - count 'em - three economists. It's an even bet their air fares to Waco were paid by the Heritage Foundation. Leading the insignificant Democratic contingent was Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, but he was offset by the Minority Leader, Trent "Sore Head" Lott traveling in concert with hordes of Blue Chip executives. And to think, all this contrived heterogeneity coming from Bush Republicans who abhor quotas in any form.

I've heard that Bush asked a few Blue Collar guys to be among his guests, but conspicuous by his absence was John Sweeney, President of the AFL/CIO. I also noticed the absence of Ralph Nader as well. Remember, however, Baylor does have limited space in its visitor parking lots, although V.P. Dick Cheney and seven cabinet members managed to squeeze in.

Bush's announced that the last couple of months have been "kinda tough," but, he advised, "hang on folks, things'll git better down the road." All of which reminded me of Herbert Hoover's remark that "Prosperity is just around the corner." Unfortunately for Mr. Hoover, "around the corner" were long lines of unemployed workers who in November 1932 queued up outside polling places eager to vote him out of office.

It can honestly be said that the American electorate is "mad as hell and not going to take it any more." The American economy is not "fundamentally sound" in 2002 any more than it was seventy years earlier in 1932. Just because "this is America," as George Bush reminded us (as if we didn't already know it) it doesn't mean that we can feed hungry children, pay an overdue mortgage or find employment for those 5.9% of the workforce out of work.

"You represent America," Bush told the recently trapped Pennsylvania coal miners in another recent photo-op. Boy, I'll be those nine men felt so much pride their shirt buttons popped open.

Both references to "America" thinly veil the patriotism theme that got Bush his 90% approval rating after 9/11. Won't work this time, Georgie. People are facing real problems and getting unreal solutions. The best Bush could come up with is killing the Estate Tax, reducing federal deficits and extending income tax for the wealthy beyond its expiration date of 2010 - which, paradoxically, is a major reason we have federal deficits. Now that's economic leadership!

Throughout the "forum" Bush portrayed himself as America's benevolent monarch. His face, however, told us he did not feel the pain of those suffering during this economic recession. Born of wealth and privilege, Bush never endured debasing experiences such as FDR's polio or JFK's never-ceasing pain from a wound of war. George Bush is a spoiled brat who lacks even the slightest amount of humility and empathy.

Like Herbert Hoover, Bush's faith is in the "rugged individual." Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps is the philosophy of both Bush and Hoover and is preached almost daily by Rush Limbaugh. This concept failed to lift the disinherited in 1932 and is destined to fail them in 2002.

The show must go on, Broadway tradition tells us. Bush went stomping around the mid-west and elsewhere touting his "economic program" with side stops to raise money for Republican Congressional candidates. That way he can charge off the trips to the very taxpayers he vows to help get out of the economic morass he allowed to grow for 19 months of his first (and I hope only) term.

Try to picture Woodrow Wilson, during his national rail tour to promote his dream of a League of Nations, getting up and saying, "Urge your senators to vote for America to become part of the League - and, by the way, I'm also here today to pick up a few bucks for Democrats running in the next election." The gall to mention Wilson and Bush in the same breath is a sour shame on our political tradition. Bush, unlike Wilson, is not a leader, a statesman or even a decent human being. He is a political hack with a single purpose - solidifying his hold on the White House.

We don't need a Hollywood production with a hand picked cast of political "yes, sirs" to lead us back to Clinton's near decade-long prosperity that Bush squandered so needlessly in less than half a term. We need men and women of sound intellects with minds open to the needs of reform to our capitalistic system.

We need meaningful restraints on our business leaders and their paid advisors to keep them honest and otherwise moral in order to serve their stockholders, their employees and their consumers with integrity and openness. We need statesmen in Washington, not politicians whose foremost goal is to get reelected every two, four or six years.

We need men and women in Washington endowed with true compassion who can empathize with those in need, those who have been economically wronged by lost jobs, lost wages, lost retirement funds, lost health care, lost hope and lost faith.

Most of all this country needs and deserves a national leader who will truly "restore dignity to the White House," and restore dignity to the American worker with prosperity through gainful employment - not just talk about it.

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