This is Wartime Economy
January 14, 2004, 1:00am

In his weekly radio address a few days ago, President Bush told us, “America’s economy is strong and getting stronger.” It’s an election year, so of course that’s what he wants us to believe. Bush wants us to think that his tax cuts have done more than just increase the federal deficit and put money back in the hands of millionaires and billionaires. He wants us to think he’s doing something to help the working and middle-class Americans struggling to survive… But how out of touch is this man when he keeps painting us a pretty picture while doing nothing to make meaningful improvements in the lives of ordinary Americans?

Sure, there have been some signs that the economy may be picking up. With all the money we are spending on the war in Iraq to contract out the military equipment and rebuilding of a country, one would hope that American companies would be generating more profits, just as we did during World War II to get out of the Depression. But is this really a long-term solution? What will happen when the war is over? Will the economy tank again like it did at the end of the first president Bush’s Iraq war? And what are the costs, in both lives and the long-term financial impact of the country, as Bush continues to add to a deficit that he created?

And sure, I’m doing okay, and if you happen to be a corporate CEO you’re getting all kinds of breaks. But what about the millions of Americans still looking for jobs? What about the long-term fiscal health of this country? What about the states, counties and cities still struggling to provide the most basic services to their neediest residents?

Here’s a reality check:

  • The Bush administration fell short on its promise for new job creation in 2003 by 1.615 million jobs (!), according to a new report from the Economic Policy Institute. In fact, December saw a net gain of just 1,000 jobs, far short of the 306,000 jobs a month Bush promised us his tax cut would create. Despite these paltry numbers, Bush has continued to evoke confidence in his economic policy. In December he said, “This administration has laid the foundation for greater prosperity and more jobs across America so every single citizen has a chance to realize the American dream.” What America is he living in?
  • Hourly wages continued to fall this year, and the Republican Congress refused to consider raising the Minimum Wage for the lowest wage-earners.
  • Over two million fewer people are employed since Bush took office.
  • Leading economists are expressing more and more concern over major U.S. budget and trade deficits, which are likely to only get worse as the Baby Boomer generation retires. Former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, along with other major economists, recently issued a report that the U.S. deficits “may severely and adversely affect expectations and confidence, which in turn can generate a self-reinforcing negative cycle among the underlying fiscal deficit, financial markets, and the real economy.” In spite of these warnings, The Bush administration is turning a blind eye, continuing to claim that the deficits are “manageable.” To pay lip service to these calls for precaution, the Bush administration is calling in their new budget proposal for cuts in services for the needy that will do little to address the major problems caused by the costs of the Iraq war and his tax cuts, while still placing the burden on America’s neediest families.
  • The Euro rate continues to rise against the dollar, signifying a drop in confidence for the American economy.
  • According to a recent New York Times article, states experienced a combined budget shortfall of $200 billion in the past three years due to the national economic picture. Most states have been forced to either raise taxes or make deep cuts in important services, such as education and health care. In Alabama, which rejected a tax increase, 5,000 nonviolent offenders are being paroled early from prisons, troopers have gone to a four-day workweek and schools have run out of money for textbooks and computers. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reports that 34 states have cut spending in Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program over the past two years, for a total loss of health benefits to 1.2-1.6 million poor people.

When the president goes on in speeches about the bright economic picture, he just looks more and more out of touch. We know the truth, and many Americans unfortunately are feeling the truth in the own lives as they struggle to provide the day-to-day necessities for their families. It’s time to go back to responsible economic policies that are fair for all Americans, not just corporate interests.