Bush's Energy Fraud
George W. Bush recently said in response to the energy calamity in California that he was "deeply concerned." Memo to George W.: Try to avoid applying the term "deep" to any of your thoughts or actions.
In fact, in the California case, Bush's thoughts and actions were so shallow you could see right through them. He used the real harm that is being done to real people out there as an excuse to do what he does best: carry water for the oil industry. Bush kissed off the people of California, saying that they had to take care of their own problems and not expect the President of the United States to do anything for them. But he jumped at the chance to exploit their energy problems as a rationale for lending a presidential helping hand to BP Amoco, ARCO, Exxon, and the other oil giants who had run a pipeline of cash into his presidential campaign. Bush declared that California's electrical crunch pointed up "a long-term issue as well, and that is, how do we find more energy supplies?"
He answered his own question by tearing a page right out of the oil lobby's Washington wish list: let the corporations rip into the ecologically sensitive Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, setting aside environmental restrictions so Bush's oil buddies can roll in there with their big rigs, punch holes wherever they want, then build some pipelines across the refuge to haul their bounty out. Little George then said he would act "boldly and swiftly" to enact his plan. His plan, of course, is a fraud. Piping oil out of the Alaskan wilderness will have zero impact on electric supplies in California or elsewhere, though it will have an explosive impact on oil company profits.
To try to pull off this fraud, George appointed a new energy "task force" to serve as a PR front for the industry's agenda. Guess who chairs the task force? Dick Cheney, the president-in-fact, who was an oil-industry CEO before taking over at the White House.
Inauguration week in Washington-a time of great pomp . . . and hypocrisy, Bush the Younger was elected to the throne amid a flurry of rhetoric about new beginnings, a new ethical tone, an end to business as usual! If you looked closely at the scene, however, you would've seen a horde of corporate executives and lobbyists just beyond the spotlight, winking at each other and grinning gleefully.
These are the Fat Cats that funded Bush's presidential run and now are lining up to cash in on their investment. In addition to getting private sessions and candlelight dinners with the incoming president, the inauguration itself afforded another opportunity for the moneyed powers to cozy up to Bush.
Even as he spoke of bringing a new moral climate to the Capital City, his own inaugural extravaganza was being paid for by these special interest practitioners of the old morality. Some fifty donors put up more than half of the $9 million Bush's committee raised for the festivities, including $100,000 each from top executives of Conoco Oil, Union Pacific, Coca-Cola, Enron, Reliant Energy, Chiquita Banana, and MBNA Bank.
I'm sure it won't surprise you to know that each of them has legislation and regulatory favors pending before the new administration and Congress. MBNA, for example, is among the largest credit card issuers in America, and it is lobbying hard to push a new, anti-consumer bankruptcy law through Congress. Likewise, two Enron executives gave $100,000 each to Bush's inaugural, and they just happen to want the president to support their plan for national deregulation of electric power, which would raise utility rates and enrich Enron. Then there's Chiquita Banana, which wants Bush to wage a trade war to makeEuropean consumers buy more of their bananas.
CEOs are buying. George W. rhetoric aside, Bush is going to replace business-as-usual with a policy of business way more than usual.
Our New Environmental Protectors
The official motto of Washington, DC is: "Say one thing, do another." Take the new regime of Bush the Second, for example. The two top officials appointed to oversee our environment have loudly said that they'll protect our air, water, and other natural resources, but if you look at their records, you'll see that putting them in charge is like hiring Bonnie and Clyde to be bank guards. As interior secretary, Gale Norton is supposed to be the steward of our national lands, forests, and waterways, shooing off the spoilers and speculators that constantly scheme to pollute these invaluable resources. But Norton comes to the job not as some tireless conservationist, but as a tenacious corporatist, including having been a Washington lobbyist for the likes of NL Industries Inc., a notorious polluter responsible for 75 superfund and other toxic waste sites.
Norton also was national chairwoman for Republican Environmental Advocates, a front group funded and controlled by oil, chemical, mining, and timber companies. She even gave a speech asserting that a corp;poration's property rights include the "right to pollute."
How about Christie Whitman, the New Jersey governor appointed by Bush to lead the Environmental Protection Agency? Some protector. As governor, she slashed her state's environmental enforcement budget by 30 percent, eliminated the position of environmental prosecutor, abolished the office of public advocate in the state environmental agency, weakened state oversight of pesticide use, eliminated the state's hazardous waste program, tried to eliminate the clean water enforcement act, failed to implement farm-worker health protections, and allowed polluters to monitor their own air and water emissions, letting them comply with regulations on a voluntary basis.
Excluded From Bush's "Inclusiveness"
George W. Bush keeps telling us that he's all about inclusiveness. He got his first chance to do more than talk about how inclusive he is on January 2nd and 3rd, when he held a big national pow-wow to review his administration's plans for the economy. Since the economy is all of us, you'd think he'd want all of us to be part of this policy meeting. Well . . . were you included? Not unless you are either the CEO or a Washington lobbyist for a major corporation.
The CEOs of Boeing, Caterpillar, Credit Suisse, Enron, General Electric, General Motors, Merck & Co., Union Pacific, Verizon, and Wal-Mart were among the corporate honchos huddled for several hours with the incoming president in this extraordinary closed-door session to plot economic policy. The second day belonged to the barons of high tech, with Intel, Dell, CISCO, and others getting their own private confab with the new president.
Here's an interesting tid-bit. Two-thirds of the attendees at Bush's economic forum had been major contributors and fundraisers for his presidential campaign. Now, of course, he's in a position to return those favors in spades. Specifically not included in this presidential summit were the great majority of Americans--the working men and women, the family farmers, the people concerned about industrial pollution, the ordinary taxpayers, and others who will pay the price for the governmental favors that Bush will now do for his corporate contributors.
The CEOs and lobbyists meeting behind closed doors with Bush have special legislative and regulatory favors they want the White House to do for them, including the weakening of our anti-pollution laws, shifting more of the tax burden from the wealthy to the middle class, undermining labor protections, and strengthening the power of agribusiness over small farmers.
These favors will produce billions of dollars worth of benefits for them . . . at your and my expense. The January forum was a perfect snapshot of who Bush really includes in his "inclusiveness."
Welcome to Bushworld
George W. is at it again, promising everyone a seven-course dinner in the form of a magic, fix-all tax cut. But, while the wealthiest Americans truly would feast on Bush's $1.6 trillion tax-whack, the seven-course dinner for the vast majority of us will turn out to be a possum and a six-pack. Meanwhile, after giving away billions to billionaires, things that we Americans really need--such as health care for all--will go begging because, Bush will say with a shrug, "The money is just not there."
This is a shell game that he's good at, for he practiced it as governor of Texas. In 1997 and '99, he backed massive tax cuts for businesses and home-owners, declaring that "everyone" would benefit. Those who didn't own a home, of course, were left out entirely, but even us home-owners soon learned that Bush's cut in property taxes was a fraud. Yes, a billion bucks a year were allocated to school districts to allow them to lower property taxes. But Bush also backed other legislation that required the schools to undertake new tasks, at the same time the schools have had many more kids flooding in, so very few districts could cut their tax income at all. Indeed, most Texans have had an increase in school taxes under George W.
Having used his phantom tax cut as a campaign credential to help him get to the White House, Bush has left Texas--but he left a fiscal mess behind him. While we home-owners never saw any benefits, the tax money he shifted to school districts and the real tax breaks he gave to corporations have taken $2.5 billion out of the state budget, meaning that this year there are no funds to meet some of our state's many crying needs. For example, teachers desperately need an affordable health plan, but it would cost $2 billion--so Bush conservatives shrug and say, "The money is just not there."
--This is Jim Hightower saying . . . Welcome to BushWorld, where the rich get richer . . . and the rest of us get taken.