Consumer confidence has plunged to its lowest level in more than a decade, according to a Reuters report.
That means it hasn't been this bad since, well, since the last time there was a President Bush in the White House.
War fears continue to drive gasoline prices higher. Unemployment continues to hover at the highest level in more than a decade. The Economic Policy Institute has reported that we are experiencing "the longest continuous stretch of job decline since 1944-46." Since March 2001, the economy has lost 2.5 million private-sector jobs.
Let's face it. Bush has been in office for more than two years, over half his term, and there are no bright spots to point to on the domestic front. The driving obsession of this administration for the past six months - at least since it became clear that Bush's tax cuts were not having the desired effect on the economy - has been in prosecuting an unprovoked conflict in Iraq. As a diversionay tactic it has worked like a charm. It largely responsible for the Republican victories in the November election fueled by "rally round the flag" sentiments. But the question that remains is what effect will the war have on the economy? I'm sure Bush's folks are hoping - betting the farm - that a quick victory in Iraq will be followed by a rebound in U.S. consumer confidence which will then drive the economy back into the black just in time for Bush's re-election campaign in 2004. Then, with a fresh mandate (who knows, maybe he will even win the election this time) and possibly a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate and continued control of the House, the Republicans can finally push through their entire agenda on tax cuts, education vouchers, repealing Roe vs. Wade, filling up the federal courts with movement conservatives, elimination of environmental regulations preventing oil drilling and logging efforts, etc. A rightwinger's paradise.
Unfortunately, when this whole loopy fantasy comes crashing down, it's not going to be the wealthy Bush supporters who suffer the most. The vast majority of the Bush team never served in the military, and their children are not serving there now. They did not attend public schools and neither do their children. They live in a different world where you make a fortune by investing big piles of other people's money and then looking for ways to keep from paying taxes on it.
Looks like there will be no diplomatic cover for Bush's war in Iraq after all. Two days ago the White House was insisting that it was just one vote away from securing majority support on the U.N. Security Council. But that prediction has held up about as well as the administration's guarantee that its big surplus-eliminating tax cut last year would jump-start the economy. Guninea has said it will abstain and Chile has said it will vote no. But Bush is going to go forward anyway thrusting our nation into an unprecedented pre-emptive attack on another nation in defiance of the United Nations. Even Bush Sr. has come out in opposition
to this foolish course of action!
Meanwhile, Bush's supporters here in the U.S., in a fit of pique, are busy tossing out their French toast and blacklisting the Dixie Chicks on country radio.
In order for Bush to win U.N. support for his pre-emptive war on Iraq, he must gain the support of eight other countries on the 15-member U.N. Security Council and avoid a veto by any of the five permanent members (U.S.; Great Britain; France; Russia; China). This is all but impossible as France and Russia have both made it clear they will veto a move to go to war at this time. Since Bush intends to go to war either way, he is simply trying to garner majority support from the Council to use as diplomatic cover when he ignores the veto. As best I can tell, the only thing that would halt Bush from going forward with the war now would be for Saddam to personally hand over the keys to the Iraqi oil fields to Dick Cheney.
It will be interesting to see if Bush can arm-twist enough of the little countries to get his 9-vote majority. Here is how the field looks right now:
Countries in favor of war:
The so-called Undecideds:
I thought this was pretty funny from some Canadian comic:
“On behalf of Canadians everywhere I’d like to offer an apology to the United States of America. We haven’t been getting along very well recently and for that, I am truly sorry. I’m sorry we called George Bush a moron. He is a moron but, it wasn’t nice of us to point it out. If it’s any consolation, the fact that he’s a moron shouldn’t reflect poorly on the people of America. After all it’s not like you actually elected him. I’m sorry about our waffling on Iraq. I mean, when you’re going up against a crazed dictator, you wanna have your friends by your side. I realize it took more than two years before you guys pitched in against Hitler, but that was different. Everyone knew he had weapons."
The last comment raises a good point about the World War II analogies that keep getting tossed around by war proponents today. Comparisons of Saddam Hussein to Hitler are ridiculous on their face, but they are made in such a way as to demonstrate the urgent need to go to war right away. Isn't it ironic then that back when Hitler was around in the days before Pearl Harbor -- attacking his neighbors, persecuting Jews and other minorities, using weapons of mass destruction -- it was the same types of folks who are so eager to go to war today (mostly Republicans and conservatives) who fought tooth and nail to keep us out of the war in Europe. The Republicans back then were even critical of FDR for his efforts to lend economic assistance to our European allies under assault from the Nazi's. So it took two years for us to get involved and only after we were provoked by the Japanese. And that is not counting the years that Hitler was building up his power base, just the time when he was being openly aggresive.
There was a most disturbing story that trickled out last Friday about the Iraq situation and it has received very little attention since then. It seems that a "key piece of evidence linking Iraq to a nuclear weapons program" was forged, according to The Washington Post.
The New York Times and the L.A. Times reported similar stories.
Apparently, documents that Colin Powell used to show that Iraq officials were shopping for unanium in Africa two years ago had been fabricated. U.S. officials said they were duped. "We fell for it," said one unnamed U.S. official in the story. The U.N. spokeman said they do not blame the U.S. or Britain for the forgeries, but the story does not address who else might have been responsible or why.
That seems like a pretty serious question to me. If there is someone out there forging documents in an effort to help start a war in Iraq wouldn't it be prudent to find out who and why? And have they planted other false evidence. The U.S. media always laughs and dismisses the Iraqi government whenever they call charges against them "lies" but now we have proof for the first time that they were right. This doesn't mean that Saddam is suddenly a good guy or anything, but perhaps he is not as intent on obtaining nuclear technology as some interested parties would have us believe. I would really like to know more about these forged documents before we plunge into a bloody confrontation.
On a lighter note, I saw on one web site a suggestion for what we should name this war once it gets started:
Dubya Dubya III.