Published on Thursday, May 1, 2003 by PhillyBurbs.com
Losing the War at Home
by Suzanne Blanchard
NOTE: The battle for Baghdad is won, but have we won the war? Have we even gained ground? To answer this question, we have to step back and look at the big picture, both at home and abroad. In this second of a two-part series, I examine the impact and implications of the war at home.
Division and Distrust
Let's start where we left off last week: The majority of Americans, despite generalized support for the war in Iraq and President Bush, have deep concerns about what this war will cost, both literally and figuratively.
The George Bush who avoided active service in Vietnam through college deferment and then Air National Guard service and then blew off even this "safe" duty after refusing to take a drug test, had zero foreign policy experience, and voiced strong opposition to becoming the "world's policeman" is long gone, replaced by a strident, unilateralist hawk who acts every bit the Commander-in-Chief.
In fact, even as President Bush theatrically announces the end of the conflict, the White House acknowledges that $600 billion will be needed for this episode of nation-building in addition to the $100 billion already committed in direct war costs.
So what has been happening at home while President Bush rediscovered his spirit of adventure (technically, it would be vicarious adventure, since the real soldiers in Iraq are actually the ones taking the risk)? Let's have a look at some of the measures of national health, and at the health of our basic freedoms.
Did it give you pause last week when there was a three-day run on New York-based Abacus Bank? How about the fact that the Bush administration has already had to finagle the National Debt ceiling twice in the last two months? That debt now stands at a staggering $6,460,581,338,149.98 and has been increasing at an average of $1.13 billion per day since September 30, 2002.
When Clinton left office, with a balanced budget and a surplus, unemployment stood at its lowest rate since the 1960s. In less than three years, the rate has increased 24 percent to 5.8 percent. That's the national average. The rate for blacks is 10.2. The rate for Hispanics is 7.5. These statistics don't count the 1.6 million people who are so discouraged they have stopped looking for jobs.
In the president's home state of Texas, the unemployment rate rose to 6.7 percent. Unemployment stands near 10 percent in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, where America was buoyed last year by the miraculous rescue of nine trapped coal miners.
Certainly, these folks are in worse shape than the millions of working Americans who have lost most or all of their retirement savings in the economic downturn and corporate scandals.
And just what has happened to the corporate reform promised by President Bush in the wake of Enron? To date, zero corrupt executives have been jailed. Only seven executives at Enron were even charged with a crime. Bush recently appointed a lobbyist with ties to Enron to head the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), right about the time his administration was lining up fat contracts - without competitive bids - for his cronies to do the "rebuilding" in Iraq.
Over at Qwest Communications, Fortune magazine says, "Joe Nacchio ran a company once worth $86 billion, and left it on the brink of insolvency, walking away with $260 million." But Nacchio is not alone: Fortune has compiled what it calls a "pig list" of CEO "Neros" who fiddled and got rich while Rome burned. While the economy crumbled, and workers gave back pay and benefits, median CEO compensation rose 14 percent.
Meanwhile, 29 states including Enron target California, Pennsylvania and New Jersey have imposed draconian budget cuts. Two-thirds of states have laws mandating balanced budgets, but face deficits. In Missouri, they want to unscrew one of every three light bulbs to save state funds. In Texas, the chief justice proposes a constitutional amendment to eliminate two state Supreme Court justices to save money. Some Pennsylvanian legislators actually think citizens will volunteer to pay more taxes.
The Dow Jones Industrial average has lost more than 21 percent of its value in the past three years. The NASDAQ lost an astonishing 41 percent of its value. Gross Domestic Product (GDP), that arbiter of national economic health, increased only 1.6 percent in the first quarter of 2003. It increased 3.8 percent in 2000, but only .3 percent in 2001.
Liberty and Freedom for All
But Bush inherited these economic woes, right? And he had to spend money to defend us after September 11. We needed to fight to preserve our fundamental American way of life: Democracy, liberty, justice, freedom.
So how is the Bush administration doing with that task? If you think Iraq really posed a clear and present danger, then you probably think we are doing pretty well.
Since September 11, 2001, we have faced some very difficult choices about our individual liberties and our justice system. I believe that the choices made by the Bush administration present a much graver threat to the American way of life than Iraq, Iran and North Korea put together. By acting out of fear and suspicion, by not trusting the strength of the American system of government and the strength of the American people, Bush has betrayed us.
Following the government's intolerant lead, hate groups and hate crimes are on the rise across the country.
Our civil liberties erode around us, while those who speak out are threatened by the government and by fellow citizens. Specific threats to liberty include:
As for the chilling effect on free speech, Bush lackeys have even taken to threatening "unpatriotic" members of his own administration. Back on the farm, the Dixie Chicks are suppressed by a bunch of hillbillies with tractors and a man gets arrested for wearing a shirt that says "Give Peace a Chance." Meanwhile, the Bush administration has launched an unprecedented assault on the concept of separation of church and state, one of the very reasons our nation was founded.
We may have won the battle to occupy Iraq, but we are well on our way to losing both the war on terrorism and the way of life we seek to defend.
©2003 Copyright Calkins Media, Inc.