Friday, September 17, 2004

Who is the bigger dupe: Dan Rather or George W. Bush?

Bush apologists are now demanding a retraction and an apology from CBS News and Dan Rather over the apparently forged National Guard documents. CBS was apparently duped into running a story on 60 Minutes II that was based on the bogus memos.

Well, get in line folks. I’m still waiting on a retraction and an apology from the Bush administration for taking us to war based on phony information about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The chief U.S. weapons inspector has now formally concluded that Iraq Had No WMDs.

So which of these two instances of people being duped by bogus information is more deserving of our attention? If Dan Rather is forced to step down to atone for the mistakes at CBS, why isn’t Bush stepping down for misleading us into a war that didn’t need to happen when it did?

While the Bush-appointed head of the Iraq Survey Group, Charles Duelfer, is finally admitting that Saddam Hussein did not have stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction - the major reason for our headlong rush to war more than a year ago - he still insists that Hussein “left signs that he had idle programs he someday hoped to revive.”

Uh huh, sure. And Saddam also had big plans of becoming a best-selling novelist.

“Saddam Hussein spent the final weeks before the war writing a novel predicting that he would lead an underground resistance movement to victory over the Americans, rather than planning the defence of his regime...”

Maybe during the first Gulf War Saddam might have been a threat, but it is clear now that at the start of this war he was just a delusional old man who was rapidly losing control of his country.

"He lost touch with reality," said Saad Hadi, a journalist who was involved in the production of Saddam's novels. "He thought he was a god who could do anything, including writing novels."

So Bush was duped into taking us into an ill advised war against a toothless old dictator who had “lost touch with reality” at the cost of more than 1,000 U.S. lives and more than $200 billion in tax dollars. And right-wingers are demanding that Dan Rather step down to salvage CBS’s credibility. What about our nation’s credibility?

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Bush's bankrupt tax policy

My conservative sparring partner, Mark Harden, in the comments for the previous post links to an op-ed piece in the Detroit News written by Donald (I’m not a stalker) Luskin, that purports to “debunk” the notion that Bush’s tax cuts favor the rich.

Luskin, an investment banker who writes for National Review Online, argues that a recent report by the Congressional Budget Office, which produced headlines such as “Reports contend Bush tax cuts benefit rich” and “Tax Burden Shifts to the Middle,” actually shows that the overall federal income tax burden has been shifted toward the wealthy and away from lower-income earners.

Now the problem with Luskin’s piece and particularly with the way that Mark uses it to try and counter Robert’s statement -“while there have been tax cuts for the wealthy” - is that Robert is talking about all of Bush’s tax cuts as a whole and Luskin is referring strictly to income taxes alone. In fact, Luskin even admits in his piece that when you include Bush’s 2002 tax cuts which allowed for greater deductibility of capital expenses for corporations it skews the numbers very sharply in favor of the wealthy.

“Naturally, the highest-income earning taxpayers will get the bulk of this,” Luskin admits. But he then tries to excuse this by arguing that “all taxpayers enjoy the many benefits of a stronger economy...” Yeah, right. More trickle down B.S.

The problem with Bush slashing federal income taxes, besides running up the deficit, is the way it shifts the tax burden on to other more regressive forms of taxation. As federal revenues dry up, there is less available to pass on to state and local governments in the form of federal grants. That forces state and local governments to jack up property taxes and sales taxes and fees and other hidden forms of taxation. State-run schools jack up tuitions, poor kids are cut from federal health programs which drives up health costs at the state-run emergency clinics. And it goes on and on.

Here is an excellent web site that details many of the problems with Bush’s tax policy. And while we are swapping op-ed pieces back and forth, here is one from The Seattle Times that I will quote extensively:

“Bush's performance is the worst for job creation in the first two years of an economic recovery and second from last in gross domestic product (GDP) growth, as compared with the eight earlier postwar recoveries from recession.

No president in the past 60 years, save George Herbert Walker Bush, has failed so miserably in his economic performance. But to see how bad President Bush's economic policies have been, we must work through the numbers. It's worth the effort.

Consider the percentage change in jobs from the bottom of each of the postwar recessions to 28 months into the recovery. Before the early 1990s, job increases averaged over 7 percent; the elder Bush gained only 2 percent; and the current recovery, as of March 2004 (the report's cutoff date), had produced no job growth.

Later information shows an increase of 1.5 million jobs in the past 10 months. It is still a tepid performance after an unprecedented postwar record of no job gains for the first two years into the recovery.

The Bush record also pales compared with Bill Clinton's average of 236,000 additional jobs per month, or 2.3 million in 10 months. Clinton's average gain per month is 50 percent greater than the average of Bush's gains in the past 10 months.

Finally, Stephen Roach, chief economist for Morgan Stanley, has pointed out that over four-fifths of total job growth in the past year has been in low-end occupations.”

Did you catch that? Four-fifths of the jobs that Bush is touting right now as proof that his tax cuts have helped the economy “turn the corner” are in low-end occupations. Terrific.

“In assessing Bush's performance, deleterious consequences clearly resulting from the three tax cuts also need to be taken into account. Most important was the swing from a budget surplus in 2000 of $236 billion, or 2.4 percent of GDP, to a Congressional Budget Office-projected deficit of $477 billion, or 4.2 percent of GDP, in 2004.

As Shapiro and Friedman underscored: "The swing of 6.6 percentage points of GDP is the sharpest deterioration in the nation's fiscal balance since World War II."

Despite Bush's efforts to blame the size of the deficit on the economic downturn and increased defense and homeland security spending, the authors wrote that his three tax cuts "account for more than half of the 2004 deficit."

Without the three tax cuts, the deficit in 2014 is projected to be under $100 billion. In contrast, the projection 10 years out is a whopping $675 billion with the Bush tax reductions, they said.”

In other words, while 9/11 was certainly a blow to the economy, we would likely have turned things around a lot quicker without Bush’s tax cuts dragging us down.

“Bush's three tax cuts add up to the worst major income-tax legislation in American history and are the major policy factor in the least successful economic performance of the postwar years.

Nor is the poor performance a mystery. The Bush administration has refused to abandon an economic theory that did not pan out. The largest three-year tax cut in the nation's history produced record yearly budget deficits, but failed to generate lots of good jobs or high economic growth.

The bottom line is that Bush refuses to accept the hard facts showing the failed policy performance and instead relies with blind stubbornness on a bankrupt economic theory that threatens to bankrupt the nation.”

I’ve said before that Bush is an ideologue. He governs by blind faith. Faith in failed ideas that have resulted in a failed presidency.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

The “Bush Bash” lessons

My friend Michael Gaffney says a pox on both houses for all of the negative mudslinging in the presidential campaign. I can’t blame him for turning away in disgust. This election has gone downhill rather rapidly and I’ve been just as guilty as anyone of following it down that path.

But I would just say that the fault lies less with the politicians and more with the electorate which has allowed itself to be swayed by negative campaigns over the years. The voters (those that bother to vote) have a habit of awarding election victories to whoever manages to slam their opponent the hardest. It doesn’t pay anymore to sit back and take the high road while your opponent trashes your character - just ask Michael Dukakis.

George W. Bush learned that lesson a long time ago when he made his unsuccessful bid for a congressional seat from Lubbock in 1978. He got slammed by his opponent after one of his supporters ran an ad in the Texas Tech newspaper touting a “Bush Bash” fundraiser featuring “Free Beer-Music”.
I wrote about the incident several years ago when I was a reporter for the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal...

“...Bush would run into one more stumbling block before crossing the finish line in November. The infamous ''Bush Bash'' ad that appeared in the University Daily, Tech's student newspaper, on Sept. 18, 1978, became prime fodder for a last-minute counterattack by Hance's campaign. The ad invited students to attend a ''Bush Bash'' that evening with ''free beer-music'' at the home of former Lubbock Mayor Jim Granberry.

Just as the race was winding down, George Thompson, one of Hance's law partners, penned a letter to 4,000 Church of Christ and First Baptist Church members that called into question Bush's moral character for using alcohol to garner the support of Tech students.

The letter extolled Hance as a person of high moral character and then went on to state ''Kent's opponent, young Mr. Bush, apparently is using tactics to secure votes which do not indicate the same high character. Mr. Bush has used some of his vast sums of money in an attempt, evidently, to persuade young college students to vote for and support him by offering free alcohol to them.''

Bush called the letter questioning his morals ''unfair'' and said he did not know about the ad in the student newspaper before it was published.

Today, Hance said he does not believe the ''Bush Bash'' was a factor in his election victory. He said his polling at the time did not show any significant change before and after the issue went public.

''I really think that Mahon's endorsement of me was a bigger help than the one-day story on the beer bash.''

But Bush supporters from that period remember the issue as being much more damaging.

''I wouldn't say it killed it for him, but it didn't help him any,'' Stinnett said. ''I think it hurt him with those particular church groups.''

''My sense is that it was overstated,'' Weiss said. ''But it didn't help things. The letter to The A-J about how improper it was really hurt.''

Today, Bush and his surrogates are quick to attack on the “character” issue and all of its implications. And Democrats, not willing to be the good guys who finish last, are ready to respond in kind. So we get campaigns that focus on “character” issues like the Swift Boat allegations and the National Guard follies. To be fair, the “official” campaigns don’t focus on these things, but their surrogates do and so does the national media.

Now I tend to be very pragmatic about these kinds of things. If this is the way you have to win elections these days then that’s what you have to do until someone can come up with a way to make it better. We can tut-tut about it all day long, but this is the reality we are faced with.