AUSTIN, Texas—Oh, goody. According to the White House press office, President Bush will spend much of the next two weeks discussing what a swell economy we have. Did you know that the Dow Jones industrial average is at its highest point EVER? And the NASDAQ, ditto. Wow, breathtaking, huh? But the Dow is not a good indicator of how thing are really going for the majority of Americans.
I just love listening to the Bushies play with numbers. When Bush took over in 2001, he predicted a surplus of $516 billion for fiscal year 2006. Last week, the administration announced a 2006 deficit of $248 billion, missing its projection for this year by $764 billion. Bush said the numbers are “proof that pro-growth economic policies work” and are “an example of sound fiscal policies here in Washington.”
This is highly reminiscent of Dick Cheney’s recent observation about the Iraqi government, “If you look at the general, overall situation, they’re doing remarkably well.”
Bush’s main talking point on the budget is that he “cut the deficit in half”—that would be from 2004, the year the White House inflated the projected deficit for political reasons. Even conservatives disagree. Brian Riedl of the Heritage Foundation said, “The White House has a track record of projecting budget numbers to be a lot worse than they end up, which therefore helps them defeat the gloomy expectations and declare victory.” If Bush does manage to make the tax cuts permanent, he will add more than $3 trillion to the deficit over the next 10 years. The federal budget would be virtually in balance if there had been no tax cuts.
Bush’s version of “doing remarkably well” includes a trade gap—now a record $69.9 billion—up 2.7 percent since July. “Short of a big correction in consumer spending, the best we can hope for is that the trade deficit stabilizes,” Stephen Stanley, chief economist at RBS Greenwich Capital, told Bloomberg.com.
Meanwhile, what we see in the economy as a whole is an immense shift of wealth from the poor and middle class to the very rich. It seems a little painful to have to point this out yet again after six solid years of it, but these are lies, damn lies and statistics.
Just to give you an idea of how dependable the Bush numbers are, the Department of Health and Human Services put out a press release a few weeks ago telling senior citizens they will have “new options with low costs” and that monthly premiums in ‘07 will be the same as in ‘06.
“The Medicare prescription drug benefit ... just keeps getting better,” burbled HHS. They seem to have been taking too much in the way of prescription drugs. Rep. Henry Waxman, one of the most singularly useful members of Congress, found that average premiums will actually increase by over 10 percent next year. And for the lowest-priced plans, average premiums will be up over 44 percent. “It is not merely confusing arithmetic, it is deceptive advertising,” said Waxman.
While lightening the tax burden for the rich, other parts of the Bush economic program continue to undermine the middle class in this country. As you may recall, in 2005 the credit industry successfully rammed a disgraceful bankruptcy reform bill through Congress. It’s working out just the way we expected it to: Middle-class families are borrowing more than ever to make ends meet. Most families go under if: (a) they lose a job or (b) they have a health emergency crisis.
One attorney sums up the legislation’s impact: “It’s designed to make life miserable for anybody who owes money. It’s a help-the-banks, squish-the-little-guy law.”
Bush’s remarkably good economy is good only for the richest; for the rest of us, incomes are stagnant and education and healthcare costs are skyrocketing. The Republican Congress blindly rubber-stamps policies designed to help only a few. Are you better off than you were six years ago?
To find out more about Molly Ivins and see works by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.