The Death of a Nation (a retropspective on the W. Bush era, Part 3: FISCAL)

Mitt Romney is sounding so much more like the worst side(s) of George W. Bush with every passing day, with every ‘new’ political forum/event, that it’s starting to get freaky out there! In the following overview (written in late 2004 and early 2005) of the fiscal policies brought into play during George W.Bush’s first term, there are — everywhere embedded — highly visible shades of Mitt Romney, 2012; the dilemma, the curse of conservatism, remains, apparently a long way from its own demise. Stated another way, The Death of a Nation remains on schedule. Conservatively speaking, of course.  (Part 1 & Part 2)

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Fiscal:

“A modern gentleman is necessarily the enemy of his country. Even in war he does not fight to defend it, but to prevent his power of preying on it from passing to a foreigner.”  ~ George Bernard Shaw

In his first address to Congress on the budget, on February 27, 2001, not yet six weeks into his first term, George W. Bush said: “My pan plays down an unprecedented amount of our national debt.”  Perhaps the obvious dyslexia in his statement should have warned the nation that he had no “pan” to ‘play down’ anything at all, nor did he have a ‘plan’ to ‘pay’ anything down; but he did have a plan to pay back those who had financed his campaign, those who paid big money to elect a Texas dyslexic who had never succeeded at anything he’d ever tried across the entire span of his life.  If ever there were questions as to why corporate power interests were willing to finance the election of what has been, in effect, a literary nitwit to the top seat of power, they’ve probably all been answered in the four years that have since passed.  Let it be noted that when George W. Bush took office, the fiscal figures he inherited from his predecessor Bill Clinton were among the rosiest the US had seen in half a century: the budget was actually running a surplus, and the huge national debt burden was being reduced.  It took Bush only a few months to turn things around completely.

In the year 2000, Clinton’s last, the budget figures were as follows (in billions of dollars):

Revenues:            2,025.2
Deficit/Surplus:     + 236.2
Total Debt:            3,409.8

2001, the beginning of the Bush years:
Revenues:            1991.2
Deficit/Surplus:    + 128.2
Total Debt:           3,319.6

2002:
Revenues:           1,853.2
Deficit/Surplus:    -  157.8
Total Debt:           3,540.4

2003:
Revenues:           1,782.3
Deficit/Surplus:     - 377.6
Total Debt:           3,913.4

2004:
Revenues:           1,880.1
Deficit/Surplus:     - 412.1
Total Debt:            4295.5

It’s true that no one set of numbers such as the above tells the whole story, not by a long shot.  On the other hand, if the numbers are “real” in the sense that the same methods were used to crunch data from the specified periods, they can at least be useful in spotting and/or in noting, perhaps predicting, directional trends.  They are useful for comparison purposes, in other words.

In summary, then, since Bush took office, his “pan” hasn’t managed to “play” down even a penny of the national debt; rather, his “pan” has increased it by nearly $900 billion in just four years, managed courtesy of both a substantial decrease in revenues AND a substantial increase in expense.  Also note that treasury revenue in ’04 is still less than it was in ’00, less by $110 billion.

Bush and his afficionados will, of course, blame it on everything and anything but themselves and their agenda; excuses range from ‘the Clinton economy was heading for recession’ to ‘since 9-11-01, we’re fighting a war on terrorism and that’s expensive.’  There may be a modicum of truth in both excuses, but one fact still serves to overwhelm:  Bush’s tax reduction – i.e. “gifts” to America’s wealthiest 1% and to her giant corporations – is the true and genuine culprit, operating in consort with dramatically increased outlays designated by the “conservative” Republican Congress.  Outlays have slid upward, from $1.8 trillion in 2000 to $2.3 trillion in 2004, an increase of half-a-trillion dollars since Bush arrived with a “pan” to “play” down the debt.

In fact, Bush’s budgetary numbers simply defy common sense.  When a nation is at war, and when military costs are soaring, is it a proper response to cut taxes for the wealthiest 1% of Americans, and for the mega-corp as well?  In a word, the answer is no.  This is, in fact, unprecedented.  Even Lyndon Johnson, himself a “big spender” Democrat (according to the standard Republican hyperbole) requested and was granted a ten percent surtax to help pay for his military excursions into Southeast Asia, and even that was not sufficient to cover the increase in expenditures.

So, what’s up here?  Is there a way to make sense of this drastic fiscal shift that’s occurred since Bush took office with his effective Congressional Republican majority?  Perhaps there is.  But to get there, one must set aside all principles and become, instead, an unprincipled monster.  Once there, the picture clarifies.  But be careful; those prone to fright palpitations might best avoid.

Here’s how it works.  Right wing conservative think-tanker, pundit, and nutcase Grover Norquist is president of Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), and as such he helped the Heritage Foundation write the Republican’s 1994 Contract With America. Shortly thereafter, Norquist led a right wing charge to “de-fund” the left, declaring that “We will hunt [these liberal groups] down one by one and extinguish their funding sources.” Norquist is the effective author of what’s become known as “Starve the Beast” – seen as the method of choice whereby right wing Republicans feel they can dismantle and destroy once and for all the Social legacy which emerged during Roosevelt’s New Deal, a legacy which includes Social Security plus later additions Medicare and Medicaid, plus any and all programs which are people-oriented as opposed to business-oriented.  The theory is that if budget deficits become so high, and the national debt so huge that together they threaten the very existence of America, then the only way to ‘fix’ the problem is by (a) privatizing virtually all federal obligations (except for the military, of course) and (b) discarding all social welfare programs of any sort, including Social Security, the New Deal’s remaining benchmark. (highlights added for emphasis, 10-18-2012)

Suffice to say, the consequences of such a philosophy, if enacted, would destroy the nation as its people have come to know it, to perceive it; such a philosophy would likely serve, instead, to turn virtually all of value over to the Spiders, one meal at a time.  As essayist Mike Whitney wrote recently, it seems a virtual certainty “that the economic tsunami planned by the Bush administration is probably only months away. Many of us have watched helplessly as the national debt has increased 3 trillion dollars while the dollar has continued its predictable decline. At present, the dollar has fallen a whopping 38% since Bush took office, due entirely to the massive $450 billion tax cuts Bush gave away to his constituents. At the same time, myriad laws have been passed (Patriot Act, Intelligence Reform Bill, Homeland Security Bill, National ID, Passport requirements etc) anticipating the need for greater repression when the economy takes its inevitable nosedive. Regrettably, that nosedive looks to be coming sooner rather than later.”

As Whitney notes, the US dollar has taken a whipping of late on the international monetary exchange, esp. when compared with what has become its rival benchmark, the Eurodollar.  Comparing the fate of each currency over the course of Bush’s presidency is an interesting exercise.  Consider:  In November 2000, a barrel of oil cost $33.61 and a Euro was worth 83.82 cents, which meant a barrel oil cost 40.10 Euros. On March 17, 2005, a barrel of oil cost $57.60 and a Euro was worth $1.3373, which means a barrel of oil cost 43.07 Euros. So, on the other side of the ocean, the per barrel cost has increased from E$40.10 to E$43.07, or by a mere 7.4 percent; meanwhile In the United States the per barrel price has increased 71 percent.  That reality is reflected in the price Americans pay at the pump where, since late 2000, the price of a gallon of gasoline has soared from around $1.25 to today’s (circa March 17) $2.10 and rising.  We hear the politicians blaming it on everything but themselves, of course, but when the fall of the dollar is taken into account and combined with the fact that Bush’s war in Iraq has effectively reduced the world’s daily supply by around one million barrels, the picture clears up rapidly.  As usual, America’s domestic price inflation is the result of Washington’s profligate spending/fiscal policies, and while the rich get richer (or at least keep up), the average Joe gets smacked in the wallet one more time.

The more one studies and ponders the consequences of Bush’s fiscal and war policies, the more obvious it becomes that the poor and the ever-shrinking “middle class” have been set up to take all of the hits, to protect the wealthy from political excess.  Add into that equation the fact that those guilty of political excess also stand to profit immensely by virtue of said excess – at the expense of the rest of the nation – and the picture becomes perfectly clear: our so-called “leaders” are nothing more than bandits: wolves dressed like sheep.

Whitney, noted above, predicts an “economic tsunami” in the not too distant future, i.e. the giant and destructive wave brought forth by the imminent and seismic collapse of the US dollar, brought forth by the unshackled greed of those in this Bush administration.  We citizens should perhaps pray that Whitney is incorrect – not an easy task, given the facts of the matter and especially the incomplete assemblage which is currently on the table and in view.  But, in the final analysis, who’s really to blame if not that same cluster of poor and middle class that, for reasons known but to themselves, supported and continues to support the Bush bandits?  The wealthy – the top 1%, give or take – can’t elect patronizing shysters all by themselves.  They can make things a lot easier, true enough, by paying big bucks for campaign advertising, and they do.  They can also assist electoral efforts by helping ‘their’ shysters steal votes at the polls courtesy of bogus and paperless voting devices, and they do.  But the bottom line still belongs to the common everyday person who listens without hearing, who looks without seeing, and who votes without thinking.  That person is, in the final analysis, the true enabler.  (highlights added for emphasis, 10-18-2012)

To be continued . . .

Read Part 4 here.

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