Elephant Memory, or,
The Most Evil, Deceitful Administration in American History

Jay Michaelson

Did you notice during the last election that liberals couldn't quite remember exactly what made Bush Senior, and the entire Republican machine, so odious?  How we couldn't quite come up with examples for the Naderites to prove that, yes, there really are important differences between the parties? Let's not let that happen again!

Here are a few of the actions taken by the Bush Jr. administration that show it to be the most pro-corporatist, greedy, deceitful, pro-rich and anti-environmental administration in history. It's not comprehensive, but it might help us remember in 2004 that there is a difference, even between the two major parties. OK, here we go.

Steal from the Poor, Give to the Rich

1.    Corporate Greed and Theft

Bush and Cheney are not just allowing corporate theft and crime to continue.  THEY ARE CORPORATE CRIMINALS THEMSELVES.  (See "Enrongate", #7, below).
- Bush's primary theme in his July, 2002, speeches about corporate reform has been "moral responsibility" - "ethical behavior" and "integrity"  (See NY Times, July 10, 2002, C1)  This is a code word for no regulations!  Is it any wonder his "major speech" o the subject was "widely praised" by CEOs?  When Bush talks about personal morality instead of government rules, he is getting himself off the hook and blaming corporate misdeeds not on a permissive structure that allows them but, you guessed it, on "evildoers."
- His meagre proposals were limited to increasing SEC budgets, increasing jail time for fraud (but not expanding how fraud can be proven, so none of the Enron criminals would be affected), and "calling on stock markets" to require shareholder approval (which means government doing nothing).  In other words, Bush's proposal would do absolutely nothing to affect the current situation.
- SEC Chairman Richard Grasso estimates that there are "1 to 15" corporations that are guilty of fraud and deceit.  Amazing that five of that club -- Enron, Halliburton, Andersen, KMPG, and Merrill Lynch -- have direct ties to the Bush administration.  (Frank Rich, All the President's Enrons, NY Times, July 6, 2002, at A13)  Some examples: Thomas White, VP of Enron Energy Services when it hid $500mil in losses and caused the California energy crisis - Secreatary of the Army.  Alberto Gonzales, partner in Enron's law firm: White House counsel.
- Bush himself is an Insider Trader.  While the tabloids focus on Martha Stewart, Bush sold thousands of shares in Harken Energy (where he was a director) just before it tanked, and was eight months late on filing his disclosures of those sales!  (NY Times, July 6, 2002, A13)
- Bush also received huge loans from corporations of which he was a director - a type of loan he now recommends outlawing because of the potential for abuse.
- Dick Cheney's Halliburton is also being investigated by the SEC, with Cheney personally under suspicion for Enron-like accounting practices.

2.    The Bush Income Tax Cut
40% of Bush's tax cut goes to the richest 1% of families.  The $1.35 trillion tax cut has already erased the budget surplus and further increases in spending (such as Bush's $18 billion more for defense) will have to come from the Social Security surplus.
(Treasury Department tables, reproduced in NY Times, Mar 01)  Now we're already back into deficit, and this before the war expenses came along.

3.    The Estate Tax Repeal
The Estate Tax taxes inheritances over $750,000.  Bush & the GOP Congress repealed the estate tax, thus depriving the government of millions in revenue in the most regressive way possible.  The rhetoric was that the estate tax hurt 'family farms' and so on, but no exemption was proposed for such entities; instead, the entire thing was repealed.  Then, in a twist, the full repeal was postponed for ten years -- so the impact of it wouldn't appear on any budget forecasts.  Here are facts about the estate tax and the cost of its repeal.  Talk about 'fuzzy math'...

4.   The "Emergency Economic Stimulus Bill"
The Bush folks told corporate lobbyists back in January, 2001, "Just you wait."  Now, in November 2001, the wait seems to be over.  No one paid much attention to this "Emergency Economic Stimulus," but here are some of the choice features of the new round of tax break (courtesy NY Times, Oct 27, 01, at C1) passed by the House:
- 64% goes to corporations, 32% to individuals.  (And of the individuals, 19% is "upper income", 13% lower and mid income.)
- $25 billion is tax rebates to large corporations: $1.4bil to IBM, $781mil to GE, for example.  These companies are doing quite well notwithstanding September 11.
- A repeal of the Corporate Minimum Tax, which ensures businesses can't use loopholes to pay no tax at all.
- A potpourri of other corporate tax breaks, again, skewed to the largest, biggest businesses.

5.  Bush's junior appointments are destroying regulations that affect big business
All this from Stephen Labaton, Bush is Putting Team in Place fora Full-Bore Assault on Regulation (NY Times, May 23, 2001, at D1).
-  The new head of the Consumer Products Safety Commission has a decade-long track record of voting against proposed safety rules.  She has criticized the commission for creating a 'federal nanny state.'
- The new head of the Federal Trade Commission has said that the Clinton administration restricted too many big corporate mergers.
- John D. Graham, the new head of Bush's budget review process, is a Harvard professor whose studies on risk said that many environmental regulations (including limits on dioxin) have costs that outweigh the benefits.  The 'costs', of course, are borne almost entirely by industry; the 'benefits' by people who don't get cancer.
- Michael Powell, the new chair of the FCC, has opposed every action to limit the size and scope of cable and phone companies.
- Two of the three new service secretaries in the Defense Department come from military contractors.

6.  Campaign Finance Reform is not really a bipartisan issue, and the Republicans get much more corporate $ than Democrats
People identify campaign finance reform with John McCain, and he deserves a lot of the credit.  But in the February 14, 2002, House vote on the Shays-Meehan bill, which would eliminate soft money, the vote was 240-189, with 198 out of 210 Democrats in favor, and 176 out of 217 Republicans opposed.  Is this really bipartisan?  It shouldn't be surprising tha it's this way.  Compare these stats (from Common Cause, and the NY Times, Feb. 15, 2002)
"Hard Money":Republicans, 132.3 million - Democrats 54.6mil
"Soft Money": Republicans, 87.8 million - Democrats 61.9mil
The Republicans win elections because Big Business buys them!

7.  Enrongate
What did the Enron bosses do?
- Embezzled hundreds of millions of dollars in phony partnerships which siphoned money from Enron to their own personal bank accounts.
- Sold stock worth hundreds of millions of dollars while telling everybody the company was getting better & better.  Meanwhile, Enron employees couldn't sell the Enron stock in their retirement plans.
- Knowingly overinflated revenue numbers, lied to analysts, and covered up all evidence of the wrongdoing until the company tanked.  Meanwhile, individual investors got soaked because of the misleading information.

What does it have to do with Bush & the Republicans?
- Enron=The Bush Administration.  Enron is one of the largest corporate contributors of Bush & the Republicans.  But that understates it.  Really, they are the same people - rich Texas oilmen who run the GOP.  One of Enron's former chief lobbyists is now Secretary of the Army!  Ken Lay hand-picked the head of the government agency that regulates Enron's business.
- Enron executives repeatedly met with Cheney, Bush, Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, and countless White House aides in the final months of the company's existence.  What did they talk about?  We don't know.
- Bush and Cheney have repeatedly lied about their Enron contacts.  Bush said he only got to know Ken Lay in 1994; actually, it was at least 1992.  He said Enron supported Ann Richards; actually, they supported Bush.  (NY Times, Jan. 19, 2002, at A19)  Cheney's spokespeople said Enron got "not one thing" from the energy plan, but actually they got billions of dollars in tax breaks, incentives, and 'investment', not to mention $254 million in corporate tax "rebates" from the Bush "stimulus" plan -- even though Enron hadn't paid any taxes at ALL in the last five years.  (Id.)
- Enron executives (the same guys who stole millions of dollars) were on Cheney's "Energy Task Force."  Now Cheney won't release the records of what they talked about.  Why not?  Maybe because Enron basically wrote the White House 'Energy Plan'?
- Kenneth Lay and other Enron execs are best friends with Bush.  Are we really supposed to believe he knew nothing of any of Enron's shenanigans?  Does he bear no responsibility?  Why won't he even return Enron's campaign contributions?
- Some people say this is a bipartisan scandal, but that's like comparing a pothead to a smack addict.  The Democrats also took Enron money, but in trivial amounts compared with Republican leaders.  Enron and the Bush/Cheney oil crowd -- the SAME PEOPLE.

Where's the special prosecutor to investigate the theft of billions of dollars?  Nowhere.  We're too busy chasing the "American Taliban."  Ask ex-Enron employees, who are now left with nothing in their retirement accounts, if they care about that guy.  Compare this:
Whitewater - Clintons lost about $50,000 due to 2 land deals with shady characters.  $30,000,000 taxpayer dollars to investigate.
Enron - Bush's best friends stole hundreds of millions of dollars in a cascade of ponzi schemes, while defrauding thousands of investors and employees out of their life savings.  No special prosecutor, no independent investigation.

8.   Farm Subsidies
Not many people think of farm subsidies as corporate welfare, but they are.  Most US farm subsidies go to a dozen huge corporations.  The Republicans have refused, time and again, to limit the size of recipients of farm subsidies, which would exclude the big conglomerates and help family farmers.  At the same time, the Bush Administration's massive increase in farm subsidies hurt ordinary farmers worldwide.  (NY Times, June 15, 2002, at A3)  Poor countries can't afford to prop up their farmers like the U.S. can, which means the price of U.S. corn, soybeans, etc., stays artificially lower than other countries'.  So, if you're some farmer in Guyana, your grain can cost three times as much as grain shipped in from Missouri -- because the Missouri guy (actually a huge corporation) is on massive government welfare.  How are you supposed to sell your goods and survive?

Next page: Screw the Environment

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August 2002

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