Wacky 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, but green.

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.