Irresponsible Bush Clueless on the Economy

With the stock market sliding down around the 11,000 marker, with unemployment up, and gas prices up, and food prices up, and home foreclosures up, Bush acknowledged on Friday, in his usual perfunctory manner, that "these are tough economic times for the American citizens."

But what does he know?

It was just a couple months ago when he was making fun of a reporter for asking him about gas approaching $4 a gallon so clueless was he.

Now it's approaching $5 a gallon.

He's so indifferent to "tough economic times" and has been his whole life that he can't get off his ass to do anything about it.

Instead, pathetically, he blames Congress.

On Friday, in his radio address on Saturday, and then on Monday with his executive order lifting the ban on offshore drilling, he reduced all of our economic problems to rising oil prices, and then he reduced that problem to inaction by the Democrats.

He pointed his finger at Democrats for opposing offshore drilling-though Bush's brother Jeb, down in Florida, opposes it, and so does Arnold. Bush also said the Dems were at fault for not allowing drilling in ANWR. He said we can "reach this oil with virtually no impact on the land or local wildlife." The word in that phrase that troubles me is "virtually."

Bush didn't say a word about oil companies gouging the consumer. Nor did he mention that they've not been drilling for oil on much of the public lands that they already have leases to. It's in Big Oil's interest to limit supply, and when they own the wells, the refineries, and the pipelines, they can distort the market.

Nor did he say a word about the need to conserve here at home. He didn't propose lowering the speed limits, or giving incentives to buyers of fuel-efficient cars, or supporting more mass transit, or subsidizing solar power (as Bernie Sanders of Vermont has proposed) by putting solar panels on all federal buildings around the country.

No, he takes demand as a given, and focuses solely on supply.

Of course, rising demand from China and India is also part of the equation. But prices are skyrocketing not just because "demand is outstripping supply," as he put it.

It's also because of his Iraq War, which took a lot of oil off the market.

And it's because of his-and Israel's-saber-rattling against Iran, another huge oil producer. (Michael Klare of The Nation has demonstrated this ably.)

The speculators have factored these risks in, and that's helping to goose the prices.

Of course, Bush won't take any responsibility for this.

He won't take responsibility for anything!

He blames Congress. That's so easy.

But even his framing of the problem is skewed. The problems with the economy are not all tied up in rising oil prices. They are also linked to the government's failure to adequately regulate the housing market and Bush's failure to make the economy work for the majority of the American public, which has seen a pay cut in real terms over the last few years.

The Bush economy has been good for the investors in Big Oil and Halliburton, not for working people who are losing their jobs, not for middle class people who've seen their 401(k)s dwindle.

Bush's fundamental economic impulse, his guiding principle, is to help the rich ("his base," as he called them in Fahrenheit 9/11). But that has not brought sturdy economic growth. His tax breaks for the rich did not trickle down. His trade deals for the multinationals destroyed jobs here at home. And when the economy sank, he didn't throw people a good enough rope. The tax rebates have not been sufficient: $600 just doesn't cut it when you're losing your house or your job, or when your car is guzzling that amount in no time, or your health care costs are ballooning, or you see your life's savings vanishing.

Every effort at a foreclosure moratorium, every effort at a much-needed public works program, every effort at turning the economy green Bush has opposed.

He won't lift a finger.

He'll only point one at Congress.

Matthew Rothschild is the editor of The Progressive magazine.

(c) 2008 The Progressive

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