The Catastrophic Success of Bush’s Other War
August 1, 2006
Months before the start of the Iraq War, President Bush was already a “war president”. This war was not about terrorism or democracy in the Middle East, but instead, as Vice President Cheney explained in pushing for tax cuts regardless of deficits, it was about getting “their due”. In this war, Bush could truly declare “mission accomplished,” but the toll to the nation in terms of dollars and lives lost could exceed that of the Vietnam, Korean and Iraq Wars combined
Getting “their due” means nearly $2 trillion in tax cuts which save millionaires nearly $50,000 annually at the expense of record deficits. Ninety-nine percent of Americans, however, received zero net benefit from the tax cuts, as the amount they received was more than offset by their share of the increase in the national debt.
Getting “their due” means showering Halliburton and other cronies with government contracts by increasing contracting to record levels and doubling the number of no-bid awards resulting in nearly $750 billion in contracts marked by fraud and mismanagement. The administration, however, has show little concern over this abuse because getting “their due” also means making the world safe for corporate lawbreakers by eliminating “responsible contractor” rules requiring agencies to take into account “violations of labor, employment, environmental, or consumer protection laws”; shifting the $1 billion annual cost for cleaning up hazardous waste sites from the polluters to the taxpayers and substantially reducing regulation and enforcement.
While commentators have used a lot of fancy labels such as “crony capitalism” and “trickle down economics” to describe this governing philosophy, the looting of the government by the wealthy elite at the expense of all other Americans sure sounds like a class war to me.
Class war skeptics should not be so quick to dismiss class war claims as election year demagoguery when there is ample evidence that this is exactly what is occurring but has escaped media scrutiny because much of it takes place in the tall weeds of the bureaucracy. Skeptics should consider the gross disparity in the administration’s tax enforcement policies where recipients of the Earned Income Tax Credit program, which provides tax credits for the working poor, were the target of half of all audits in 2005 and over 20 times more likely than millionaires to be subject to an in person audit. Or compare the administration’s seeking nearly $10,000 in fines against Catholic missionaries traveling to Cuba, while fining a coal mining company only $440 for “significant and substantial” safety violations that led to the death of a miner.
We should not hesitate to call this a class war since like all wars its costs are measured in both dollars spent and lives lost. The financial toll of this war is well known as the Congressional Budget Office is now projecting deficits beyond 2016. Class warriors will continue to make sure that everyday Americans bear the cost of “the haves and have mores” getting “their due”, as was demonstrated this spring when the administration fought off attempts to increase taxes on oil companies enjoying record profits, but was happy to triple the tax rate for students.
What is rarely discussed, however, are the human costs to this war. For example, Bush’s “Clear Skies” proposal to weaken existing Clean Air Act standards for older power plants would result in an additional 20,000 premature deaths from respiratory illness each year, while his weakening of sewage treatment rules is certain to increase the 900 deaths per year from waterborne infections.
Similarly, cuts in health programs under Bush have contributed to the record number of uninsured Americans and an estimated 2,700 additional premature deaths each year, while Bush also has blocked proposed health and environmental regulations that would save lives and ignored workplace safety and sanitation violations that have contributed to a number of deaths. In a single year, these few examples combined would be approximately half of the total number of Americans killed in the Vietnam War and over eight years would be the equivalent of wiping out a city the size of Providence or Salt Lake City.
President Bush once referred to the Iraq War as a “catastrophic success,” but this paradoxical statement more aptly describes his class war which truly has been the principal war of this administration. This is why the Republicans must rely on distractions such as gay-marriage and flag burning to obscure the calamity and devastation that is occurring.
Democrats will not pierce this fog by using labels in text books, but rather by plainly describing an ongoing class war which is counter to the American ethos of fairness and equal opportunity. If Democrats are going to end this “catastrophic success”, they need to make sure that this election is about the real issues involved – including both the war in Iraq and the war at home – so that on Election Day voters can decide whether a government of the few by the few and for the few is really “their due”.