vanden Heuvel, Katrina, The Nation
Third-quarter GDP grew by 8.2 percent, October unemployment dropped to 6 percent, manufacturing orders are soaring, the stock market is up--as are profits, the value of stock options and CEO salaries. The President boasts that his tax cuts are working and we're on the right track. But is it time to celebrate?
Before boasting too loudly, shouldn't the Bush Administration pay attention to what Robert Borosage of the Campaign for America's Future has called "economics for real people"? More than 3 million private-sector jobs have been lost since Bush took office. Nine million people are out of work, wages and salaries are stagnant or down, healthcare costs have increased to staggering double-digit rates, retirement savings have been ravaged by the stock-market meltdown, school budgets are taking severe hits, tuition at public universities is soaring and personal bankruptcies and debt are at an all-time high.
Headlines like the New York Times's Bloom Is on the Economy, or the Washington Post's Tough Times Over? seem foolish, even meanspirited, when families, communities and whole states are struggling to survive. Consider that in Bush's home state of Texas, according to the Houston Chronicle, 54,000 children have been dropped from the federal-state health insurance program because of budget cuts. Texas and other states are also cutting back on subsidies for healthcare, further increasing the number of people with no coverage--now conservatively estimated at 43 million, with the number rapidly increasing. And paying for health insurance is becoming a problem for more than just people living on low or fixed incomes, with many hospitals and neighborhood clinics saying that middle-class people are now joining the poor in seeking their care.
More than 12 million American children live in poverty, and indeed, the United States has the worst child-poverty rate of all the industrialized countries. Last year alone, another 1.7 million Americans slipped below the poverty line, bringing the total to 34.6 million--one in eight of the population--up from 31.6 million in 2000.
And as Trudy Lieberman reported in our pages this past July, the ranks of the hungry are also increasing. About 33 million are now considered "food insecure" (they literally do not know where their next meal is coming from). Hunger is epidemic in Ohio, which has lost 1 in 7 manufacturing jobs since Bush won there in the 2000 election. According to the Guardian, 2 million of the state's 11 million people used food charities last year, an increase of more than 18 percent from 2001. …