was not the kind of picture the Bush crowd likes to see. There was
South African President Thabo Mbeki, yukking it up with Cuba's Fidel
Castro, standing near Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez, all celebrating
the inauguration of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva -
"Lula" - leader of Brazil's Workers Party.
to the side, U.S. trade representative Robert Zoellick conveyed
by his lowly diplomatic presence the Bush administration's disdain
for the whole affair. No matter. 175 million people in a country
the size of the continental United States, including the largest
African-descended population outside of Nigeria, were definitively
ending the dark days begun in 1964, when the U.S. supported a military
coup that crushed Brazilian democracy for 21 years. Various conservative
parties held Brazil in Washington's orbit from 1985 until Lula's
decisive victory, in October.
Chavez felt secure enough to leave Venezuela for the inaugural festivities,
a sign of confidence that his government can ride out the rebellion
of the nation's white oligarchy, oil company executives, and some
sectors of organized labor. Chavez enjoys the fervent support of
Venezuela's poor, non-white majority, who foiled a U.S.-supported
coup against him in April. Washington has made its desire for a
"regime change" clear ever since, but found itself, not
Chavez, isolated in the Organization of American States, which affirmed
its support for the constitutional order in Venezuela.
did better than that. At the urging of incoming President da Silva,
the Brazilian government sent a tanker of gasoline to relieve shortages
caused by the "strike." Chavez proposed that he, da Silva
and Castro form an "axis of goodwill" - an obvious dig
at Bush's "axis of evil" rhetoric.
Years Day is also of great significance to Fidel Castro. On January
1, 1959, the guerilla leader stepped onto a second floor balcony
in Santiago, in the heart of Cuba's largely Black Oriente Province,
to proclaim the triumph of the revolution. 44 years later, Castro
is a star at the inauguration of a working class president of Latin
America's economic powerhouse and most populous country, flanked
by another President who is a hero to the poor of the Western Hemisphere's
biggest oil producer, bantering with the leader of Black Africa's
industrial giant whose African National Congress enjoyed close ties
with Cuba during the long struggle against white rule.
this is not the picture that George Bush wanted to see.
Congressman Charles Rangel's New Year's Eve statement on a revived
draft is certain to start the argument rolling, after three decades
of a volunteer Army. We thought it best to publish Rep. Rangel's
Op/Ed article in full, so that we can all begin the conversation
on the same page:
Bush and his administration have declared a war against terrorism
that may soon involve sending thousands of American troops into
combat in Iraq. I voted against the Congressional resolution giving
the president authority to carry out this war -- an engagement
that would dwarf our military efforts to find Osama bin Laden
and bring him to justice.
as a combat veteran of the Korean conflict, I believe that if
we are going to send our children to war, the governing principle
must be that of shared sacrifice. Throughout much of our history,
Americans have been asked to shoulder the burden of war equally.
why I will ask Congress next week to consider and support legislation
I will introduce to resume the military draft.
out the administration's policy toward Iraq will require long-term
sacrifices by the American people, particularly those who have
sons and daughters in the military. Yet the Congress that voted
overwhelmingly to allow the use of force in Iraq includes only
one member who has a child in the enlisted ranks of the military
-- just a few more have children who are officers.
believe that if those calling for war knew that their children
were likely to be required to serve -- and to be placed in harm's
way -- there would be more caution and a greater willingness to
work with the international community in dealing with Iraq. A
renewed draft will help bring a greater appreciation of the consequences
of decisions to go to war.
in our nation's armed forces is no longer a common experience.
A disproportionate number of the poor and members of minority
groups make up the enlisted ranks of the military, while the most
privileged Americans are underrepresented or absent.
need to return to the tradition of the citizen soldier -- with
alternative national service required for those who cannot serve
because of physical limitations or reasons of conscience.
is no doubt that going to war against Iraq will severely strain
military resources already burdened by a growing number of obligations.
There are daunting challenges facing the 1.4 million men and women
in active military service and those in our National Guard and
Reserve. The Pentagon has said that up to 250,000 troops may be
mobilized for the invasion of Iraq. An additional 265,000 members
of the National Guard and Reserve, roughly as many as were called
up during the Persian Gulf War in 1991, may also be activated.
we have long-term troop commitments in Europe and the Pacific,
with an estimated 116,000 troops in Europe, 90,000 in the Pacific
(nearly 40,000 in Japan and 38,000 in Korea) and additional troop
commitments to operations in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo and elsewhere.
There are also military trainers in countries across the world,
including the Philippines, Colombia and Yemen.
can expect the evolving global war on terrorism to drain our military
resources even more, stretching them to the limit.
administration has yet to address the question of whether our
military is of sufficient strength and size to meet present and
future commitments. Those who would lead us into war have the
obligation to support an all-out mobilization of Americans for
the war effort, including mandatory national service that asks
something of us all.
Charles B. Rangel (D-NY), New York Times, December 31, 2002
House budget chief Mitchell Daniels Jr. predicts war with Iraq will
cost the U.S. treasury between $50 and $60 billion, far less than
the $100 to $200 billion reluctantly accepted by his former colleague,
Lawrence Lindsey, and nowhere near the long-term, worst-case scenario
forecast by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences: $1.9 trillion
over ten years.
White House would prefer to say nothing about war costs, but must
present a budget to the new Congress on February 3. When the Washington
Post first circulated the $100 - $200 billion figure, December 1,
an unidentified White House spokesperson called the matter "premature"
since "President Bush has not decided on the use of military
force." Former chief economic advisor Lindsey also avoided
the issue at first, finally going along with the Washington Post
number shortly before he was fired.
American Academy of Arts and Sciences study's high-range figure
of almost $2 trillion dollars factors in an oil crisis-induced U.S.
economic recession. The Academy's rock bottom estimate for a short,
sweet, non-disruptive war is $99 billion.
1991 Gulf War cost $61 billion, but the U.S. convinced its allies
to cough up all but $7 billion of that. This time around, the U.S.
will be on its own, finance-wise. ($61 billion in 1991 dollars equals
about $80 billion in today's money.)
our December 5 commentary, "Rule
of the Pirates: The $200 billion payday," we attempted
to bring some perspective to all those zeros. Using the same approach,
the Bush men's bargain basement, $50 - $60 billion war equals every
federal dime spent on education in 1999 - 2000 ($55 billion), or
the value of all U.S. agricultural exports to the world in fiscal
2000 ($50.9 billion).
Academy of Sciences' cheapest war would consume both yearly federal
education spending and annual U.S. crop exports. The Academy's most
pessimistic projection eats up the entire U.S. budget for a year.
consider this: Senate Democrats propose spending $4.8 billion to
extend emergency unemployment benefits. Republicans in the House
offer only $1 billion. The entire federal unemployment insurance
trust fund contains about $24 billion - less than half the cost
of the cheap Iraqi war projected by the White House.
can be expressed in numbers.
thinking - which is usually just a bunch of lies and banalities
repeated over and over - credits 9-11 for George Bush's ascension
to near-absolute dominance over the congress and the media. This
is a misperception fostered by corporate media, who confuse the
date they started snapping salutes and goose-stepping on cue, with
more substantial measurements of dominance such as, Who gets the
Bush seized and parceled out the U.S. treasury, plus the incomes
of future American governments, during his first four months in
office. In May 2001, by lopsided majorities, Congress passed a "compromise,"
$1.35 trillion tax cut that shifted societal burdens from
the rich to everyone else, incrementally, for the next 11 years.
Not since the Confederates overran the Union Army at the First Battle
of Bull Run had the undeserving rich won such a stunning victory
on U.S. soil.
too much is never enough for the class George Bush belongs to and
serves. Like their deal-making but socially useless President, the
Powers That Have spend their lives maneuvering numbers from one
column to another. Legions of accountants are employed in the quest
for a more perfect advantage, an all-consuming obsession that the
rich truly believe is the highest expression of human civilization.
When accounting trickery fails to yield sufficient dividends, the
rich order up new legislation - and immediately begin to conspire
against the replacement regulations written by their own political
millionaire one percent of households got 40 percent of the tax
breaks. Put another way, Bush's actual constituency (the one percent)
received as big a break as the bottom 80 percent of Americans, combined.
Superficial observers kept calling Bush a buffoon, but the jerk
had a right to smirk. He had emptied the national vault and was
busy dispensing the spoils to his crew. That is what political
supremacy is all about. George Bush was already King of the Mountain
when the World Trade Center came tumbling down.
bitches like the rich - who must be crazy, since they feel perpetually
abused by people with absolutely no power to hurt them. The Hard
Right spent its years in the wilderness - pre-Reagan - claiming
to be victimized by "double-taxation" through the levy
on stock profits. In reality, the tax codes contain so many loopholes
that rich coupon clippers pay only a fraction of what they are assessed.
Conventional wisdom maintained that the public would never tolerate
repeal of the tax on stock dividends.
Bush can repeal it. And he would like to, having railed against
such injustices to his class ever since he stopped drinking. The
problem is, Bush has been so fantastically successful in stomping
his way through a Congress of jellyfish, that there is very little
left to steal. The cost of eliminating all taxes on corporate dividends
is estimated at $300 billion over ten years which, under the present
general tax framework, would leave no room for the raft of other
tax breaks Bush has promised to his friends. What is a mega-crook
the assumption that half a theft is better than none, the White
House is studying a 50 percent cut in the stock dividends tax. Nearly
all of the boon will go to the very wealthiest Americans. The only
justification offered by the administration is that fast-growing
companies like Microsoft are making out like bandits under the present
structure, and so it is time for the other bandits to catch up.
office less than two years, Bush has pushed the envelop to its extremes.
As a thief, beholden to a piratical class of thieves, he has no
choice but to find new pockets to pick. A consensus has been reached
within the administration and among rightwing think tanks, that
dramatic tax hikes must be imposed on middle and lower income groups
to make up the revenues once paid by the rich. As we discussed in
19 Briefs, the Bush men are preparing to unleash a propaganda
campaign to explain to working people why the FICA payroll deduction
is not really a tax, and that additional, real taxes are
necessary. The millionaire talking heads and newsreaders of corporate
media will interpret this Orwellian Newspeak for the masses, so
that they will comprehend the new arrangement, and be still.
current crisis can only be understood in the context of Bush's breathtaking
revenue diversions, past and planned. It is a crime-in-progress.
Bodies are dropping all over the place.
the corporate circles Bush travels in need no excuse for withholding
any benefit to average people, his revenue giveaways have eliminated
even the option of throwing the little man a bone. If his own constituency
is to feast, the rest must be put on short rations or none at all.
The states are compelled to do the same, as Bush's Washington sheds
layer after layer of responsibility for the general welfare.
Bush was willing to be perceived as Scrooge when 800,000 people
lost their unemployment benefits during the Christmas holidays,
with 95,000 more cut adrift each week, thereafter. (Most unemployed
persons never receive benefits - only 40 percent got a check in
2000, according to the Department of Labor.) There will be no more
than token relief for the jobless in the next Congress; Bush's lawmakers
will see to it, not because they are evil (does it matter?) but
because the tax and spending regime they have put in place cannot
accommodate substantial relief for the jobless. Thanks to two years
of Bush, it has come to that.
Republican leadership will not lift a finger to aid the minority
and less-skilled workers most affected by the economic spiral. However,
most of the 8.5 million people officially out of work are white,
and the GOP cannot see its way clear to help them, either. The current
crisis is general and structural. Bush built the latest additions
to those structures, and he will not disassemble them.
York Times columnist Paul Krugman provides excellent near-term economic
analysis - so good, one wonders how he slipped through the corporate
filter. Krugman encapsulates the "desperate plight of the states."
estimates by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities show that
state governments are facing their worst fiscal crisis since the
1930's. Since Washington shows no interest in helping, states
will be forced into desperate expedients. Taxes, mainly taxes
that fall most heavily on the poor and the middle class, will
go up. Spending on education and, especially, health care will
be slashed, with the heaviest toll falling on struggling low-wage
workers and their children. (Leave no child behind!)
to the Center, "The budget deficits now looming over state
governments will likely reach $60 billion to $85 billion in state
fiscal year 2004 and constitute the largest state budget gaps in
half a century." One million people in 11 states are expected
to lose their health insurance.
living governor has seen such an unraveling of basic state functions,
and no state has been spared. In a December 29 overview, the Los
Angeles Times reported:
governors prepare to release their budgets next month for the
upcoming fiscal year, many find themselves needing to cut the
equivalent of an entire year's spending on prisons, welfare and
transportation combined. And that's after 18 months of frantic
cost-cutting to bring the 2001 and 2002 budgets in line.
were also in deep trouble, last year. A record 186 public firms
with $368 billion in assets sought protection in 2002, including
five of the ten costliest bankruptcies in history. Accounting scandals
figured in all but one of the five biggest failures.
credit card lobby has mounted a major push for legislation that
would make it far more difficult for ordinary folks to escape debt
through bankruptcy. The entering congressional class of 2003 will
have to strain to understand Joe Public's problem. Of the 63 House
and Senate freshmen, 27 are millionaires.
faces make happy talk and call it news. The corporation triumphs
over civil society, pretending to be a citizen. But it cannot tell
the truth, even to save itself.