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Straight, No Chaser

B.J. Strew | Monday, September 1, 2003

Having uniquely irregular and unshakable sleeping problems is no Swiss picnic. I’m awake at the wrong times: I’m asleep at the wrong times. It’s all wrong.

But it forces you into solitude, into reflection – if not into Reckers for a meatball sub – only before 4 a.m., that is.

What is the focus of all this reflection? It’s the whole of American politics. And these days, in light of who’s running the show from Pennsylvania Avenue, I’m now acutely aware that politics is more than show business for ugly people.

Nowadays, it’s show business for those of “the neoconservative persuasion.” All right, it’s more than that, but recently, it does seem dangerously one-sided. Media bias swings undeniably right: think FOX, Limbaugh, O’Reilly, Clear Channel, WSJ, Hoover, Cato and so on. With the media so openly slanted, it is no wonder that the question isn’t being asked: “Where’s the outrage?”

That was a rallying cry of the right during Zippergate. But in the hallucinatory three-ring circus we call the Reagan, I mean, the Bush administration, there are heaps of issues that merit far more fury than a president’s sex life. How about unchecked media consolidation, erosion of civil liberties, Weaponsgate, harmful environmental deregulation and Ann Coulter, for starters? Perhaps foremost among the countless concerns, though, is economic inequality here in the United States.

So call me a class warrior. Name-calling is the quick way, the hard right sidelines, the grim reality. Funny how often it’s an upper-class, right-winger who plays the class-warfare card, too. However, students at a first-tier university, with a claim to some measure of sympathy, should find it a bit harder to turn their backs on the truth.

The truth is bleak. The U.N.’s Gini Index places the United States as fourth in the world in income inequality. Not only is inequality waxing, but mobility is waning. Not only is the economy faltering, but the Bush administration is sparing no effort to hide what should be public, nonpartisan facts about the extent to which it is faltering. President George Bush seems to be making war on the working class, upholding trends already working against them.

Exhibit A: That slick new tax-cut plan. Warren Buffet, showing scruples uncommon among moguls, denounced the plan. It’s because, rather than despite, the “main beneficiaries” are people like him – that is, the world’s second richest man. But that’s how Bush prefers it. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

While inequality has risen, mobility – the mainstay of the so-called American Dream – has fallen, according to economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston. The effect is social stratification. In other words, the rich stay richer and the poor stay poorer. Tax cuts do not equal prosperity for everyone.

We don’t need tax cuts – we need tax reform. The lopsided Bush plan aims to relieve the wealthy and deepen the deficit indefinitely. His plan to end the dividend tax heavily favors the highest income class. In fact, in a telling contrast, tax cuts for the rich trump requested education spending 50 times over. Now that the earned-income tax credit, which has long helped buoy the working poor above the poverty line, is under attack, President Bush sees fit to sit back as the EITC courts extinction at the hands of right-wing lawmakers. All of this during a moribund economy.

Our economy just finished its sixth consecutive month of job losses. Poverty is increasing for the first time in a decade. The National Governors Association claims states that are in “the worst fiscal crisis since World War II.” The economy’s in a worse state than Bush’s septum. Everyone knows this.

But does everyone know that, trying to cover up mass layoffs, the Bush administration stopped issuing its monthly Bureau of Labor Statistics report on mass layoffs last year, until the Washington Post called them on it, and the report was reinstated? The would-be beneficiary – Bush-Cheney ’04.

Or that, in both 2001 and 2002, until the threat of litigation forced them to publish it, the Department of Labor kept roughly 50,000 agricultural “guest workers” in the H2A Program from receiving a better minimum wage by withholding the report that would allow an increase? The would-be beneficiary: big agricultural firms.

This is the tip of the iceberg. Misdirection and pandering to Big Business is business as usual for the Bush administration. The rich are first priority. Worse still, the chances of an about-face on Bush’s policies approach the chances of Anne Coulter speaking without distorting the positions of and slandering less than two groups of people.

With the chasm widening between the rich and poor, with an economy rolling downhill faster than the White House would have us believe, with policies consistently favoring the rich, with the government’s eye distressingly blind to the hardships of the working class and with President Bush as putative ring-leader, isn’t it high time we ask ourselves, seriously: Where’s the outrage?

BJ Strew: Sometimes he’s sad, sometimes he’s glad, but he’s always bad, bad, superbad BJ Strew. And mad at Bush. Contact him at wstrew@nd.edu.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.