Sunday, June 12, 2005

Beware the Ides of June: The Bush Recovery


Bush’s approval/disapproval ratings continue to slide. The opening round of polls in June mark the first time Bush’s disapproval ratings have averaged above 50%. The deterioration is the largest in any single month period in 2005. It is largely the result of migration of those with “no opinion” to disapprove (+3%) and the gradual, but continuing erosion of those who approve of Bush’s performance (-.5%). (See The Political Junkies for the full poll)

As Bush’s standing with the American public falls, elected Democrats should become embolden to challenge the President. Clear signs emerged this week that elected Democrats are stepping up public attacks as these examples demonstrate: Sen. Biden, who has generally supported the war in Iraq, called on the President to “level with the American people” that Americans will be in Iraq longer than Bush’s optimistic assessments would indicate.

“His assessment comes “after finding "a total disconnect" between the situation in Iraq and optimistic statements by Bush and his top aides. ‘This disconnect between reality and the political assertions made by the administration fuels the cynicism’ of the public and ‘causes Americans to think, `well, this isn't working. We've got to move out of Iraq[.]'”

Minority Leader Pelosi launched a stinging rebuke of Republican leadership in the US House as a Republican Committee Chairman terminated a hearing on the Patriot Act as Democrats called the legislation into question.

Pelosi said, “’The Republicans' abuse of power reached a new low this morning when they tried to silence Democrats at a hearing on the Patriot Act by cutting the microphones. Chairman Sensenbrenner proved again today that he is afraid of ideas, and that Republicans will stop at nothing to silence Democrats. It is quite ironic that at a hearing on the impact of the Patriot Act on civil liberties, the Republicans attempted to suppress free speech. This is part of Republican abuses of power: to silence Democrats and the voice of the minority, to deny millions of Americans a voice in Congress. Republican leaders dictate the party line and ram bills through committees, and permit few if any amendments on the floor. Republicans are unwilling and unable to compete in the marketplace of ideas, so they have chosen to arbitrarily and capriciously abuse their power simply because they can. Democrats will not be silenced when we uphold our oath of office to protect and defend our Constitution and civil liberties as we protect and defend the American people.’”

If Democrats continue the offensive, one would expect the Democratic Party message to continue the erosion of Bush’s standing and if Bush’s standing continues to decline Democrats will increasingly mount public attacks on radical Republican policies.

Bush’s tax cuts were touted to restore jobs and prosperity in America. General Motors obviously did not take its cue from Bush:

General Motors Corp. plans to close plants and eliminate 25,000 manufacturing jobs in the United States by 2008 in an attempt to restore profitability at the world's largest automaker, its chairman said Tuesday as he fended off calls for his resignation.

Paul Krugman graphically describes what is happening:

"Working families have seen little if any progress over the past 30 years. Adjusted for inflation, the income of the median family doubled between 1947 and 1973. But it rose only 22 percent from 1973 to 2003, and much of that gain was the result of wives' entering the paid labor force or working longer hours, not rising wages. b

Meanwhile, economic security is a thing of the past: year-to-year fluctuations in the incomes of working families are far larger than they were a generation ago. All it takes is a bit of bad luck in employment or health to plunge a family that seems solidly middle-class into poverty. b

But the wealthy have done very well indeed. Since 1973 the average income of the top 1 percent of Americans has doubled, and the income of the top 0.1 percent has tripledb

Why is this happening? I'll have more to say on that another day, but for now let me just point out that middle-class America didn't emerge by accident. It was created by what has been called the Great Compression of incomes that took place during World War II, and sustained for a generation by social norms that favored equality, strong labor unions and progressive taxation. Since the 1970's, all of those sustaining forces have lost their power. b

Since 1980 in particular, U.S. government policies have consistently favored the wealthy at the expense of working families - and under the current administration, that favoritism has become extreme and relentless. From tax cuts that favor the rich to bankruptcy "reform" that punishes the unlucky, almost every domestic policy seems intended to accelerate our march back to the robber baron era.b

It's not a pretty picture - which is why right-wing partisans try so hard to discredit anyone who tries to explain to the public what's going on."–
New York Times

TPJ would never say that Krugman is wrong; but in this instance he is not entirely right. Radical Republicans are not looking back. They are relentlessly marching forward to create an “ownership society.”

An “ownership society” is nothing more than the antithesis of the American social contract that emerged from the New Deal and progressive Democrat policies. The Republican concept is simply that every individual is more capable of providing for their basic retirement needs, education and health care without government involvement. It is also the concept that those who create wealth, by starting businesses or investing in businesses, are rewarded. The Republican catch phrases; “personal retirement accounts,” “school vouchers,” and “private health care accounts” denote the concept.

Bush articulated the concept in a 2004 speech: I love the idea of people being able to own something . . . . People from all walks of life, all income levels are willing to take risks to start their own company . . . And I like the idea of people being able to say, I'm in charge of my own health care . . I particularly like the idea of a Social Security system that recognizes the importance and value of ownership.

The problem with Bush’s concept is two fold. First, most Americans do not earn sufficiently to save and invest (own) and second, “ownership” of America is more centralized at any time since the Robber Barons of the 19th century. The richest 1% of Americans own more than the bottom 90% combined.
Implicit in the Republican concept is the devaluation of labor. Labor is simply a function of obtaining corporate profit (ownership). Republican “free trade” now has Americans competing against labor markets around the world, where laborers work far cheaper and with few or no benefits.

The effects of Republican “ownership society” policy is mounting:
Wages in the US are stagnant. In fact, wages are slowly losing ground to inflation.Fewer employees are working for employers who provide health insurance.Fewer employees are working for employers who provide retirement benefits.

The “middle class” is disappearing as Krugman notes. A new class, the “ownership class” is emerging. The problem is that the “ownership class” is an exclusive club.

The Downing Street Memo revealing that Bush and Blair had committed to war in Iraq earlier than admitted and in stark contrast to their public statements is starting to develop as a serious issue in the US and Brittan. The latest developments:

Military Families Against the War (MFAW) is preparing to take Prime Minister Tony Blair to court to force through the demand for an independent and effective public inquiry into the background and decision to go to war in Iraq. This legal action is being taken in the names of 18 of the families whose sons and husbands have been killed in Iraq. . . .

On Thursday June 16, 2005, Rep. John Conyers, Jr., Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee, and other Democratic Members will hold a Democratic hearing to hear testimony concerning the Downing Street Minutes and the efforts to cook the books on pre-war intelligence.

The June 16th hearing will attempt to answer the serious constitutional questions raised by these revelations and will further investigate the Administration's actions in the lead up to war with new documents that further corroborate the Downing Street memo.

Directly following the hearing, Rep. Conyers, Members of Congress, and concerned citizens plan to hand deliver to the White House the petition and signatures of over a half million Americans that have joined Rep. Conyers in demanding that President Bush answer questions about his secret plan for the Iraq war. -- After Downing Street

Details for the Washington hearing may be found at After Downing Street.
Most Americans cannot attend the Conyers hearings, but can participate by signing a petition. There are two petitions being actively circulated. They are sponsored by: MOVE ONand CONYERS LETTER TO BUSH


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