Bush's Domestic War

The Nation, December 31, 2001 | Go to article overview

Bush's Domestic War


The American people, argued President Bush in his weekly radio address on December 8, "want action on an agenda of economic growth, energy independence, patients' rights, education, faith-based legislation--all of which are important issues that are stuck in Congress."

September 11 was supposed to change everything, but despite war and recession the President remains wedded to the same reactionary agenda he pushed before the attack. Invoking his wartime popularity and authority, he is driving his old agenda through a reluctant Congress and forcing party-line votes on a range of fundamental issues. Start with the "stimulus plan." The terrorist attack revealed glaring domestic security and public health needs. The spreading recession has exposed gaping holes in the safety net for workers and the poor. The triple punch of presidential tax cuts, recession and crisis spending has wiped out the projected budget surpluses. But Bush demands that the stimulus plan lock in even more permanent tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy while stiffing unemployed workers, states in growing fiscal crisis and domestic security needs. Protecting our food and water supplies and guarding our nuclear power plants can wait.

The turmoil in the Gulf and the bankruptcy of Enron have given new urgency to regulation, renewables, conservation and energy independence. But Bush has continued to press for an energy plan that features subsidies and tax breaks for energy companies and drilling in the Arctic wilderness. The stock market collapse and the importance of Social Security survivors' benefits to the families of victims of September 11 should have buried talk of privatization. But the President's Social Security Commission has just released proposals that call for deep cuts in guaranteed benefits to help pay for private accounts.

After September 11 there was much talk in the Administration about leading a renewed global initiative against hunger and disease. No more. Instead, the President joined the corporate lobby to buy enough votes to squeak fast-track trade legislation through the House, calling it vital to the war on terrorism. The ensuing negotiations will be less about aiding the poor than about repaying corporate contributors. In the war in Afghanistan, international cooperation and coalition have been essential. But the Administration has continued to shred US international commitments--spurning the final Kyoto global warming negotiations, withdrawing from the ABM treaty for Star Wars, even torpedoing negotiations over enforcing the biological weapons convention. …

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