George W. Bush attempted to win backing for his agenda of tax cuts for the rich and war on Iraq in his Jan. 28 State of the Union Speech. But mayors, governors, members of Congress and leaders of mass organizations sharply rejected his policies.
Bush was somber as he admitted to the grim state of the nation while arguing that peace and prosperity will trickle down if Congress approves permanent tax cuts for the wealthy. “To boost investor confidence,” he intoned, “I ask you to end the unfair double taxation of dividends.”
Bush scorned “a nationalized health care system that dictates coverage and rations care.” He offered a prescription drug benefit for senior citizens – but only if they opt out of Medicare.
Echoing his father’s “Thousand Points of Light” cliché, Bush touted his faith-based initiative as a substitute for government action to aid the poor, calling it the “wonder-working power in the goodness and idealism and faith of the American people.”
Bush’s speech was denounced even before he delivered it. Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.), ranking Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, said, “It is clear that President Bush intends to privatize Medicare. He’s cleverly using the promise of a meager drug benefit to push Medicare beneficiaries into second rate, low-quality health plans, putting seniors at the mercy of HMOs and the big drug companies.” Already, 2.4 million recipients lured out of Medicare by the siren song of “choice” have been dumped by HMOs.
Cleveland Mayor Jane Campbell, in Washington for the annual Mayor’s Conference, said, “All this conversation about homeland security and not a dollar [for] first responders. When 911 rings it doesn’t ring at the White House or at [Homeland Security chief] Tom Ridge’s office. It rings in our local police office.”
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Asked about Bush’s agenda, Columbus, Ohio, Mayor Michael B. Coleman said on National Public Radio’s Tavis Smiley show, “What we need is work, not war.” The mayors adopted a program calling for a federally financed job-creation program constructing schools, bridges, water mains and sewerage systems.
In the Democratic response to Bush’s speech, Washington State Gov. Gary Locke called the Bush plan “upside-down economics” that ignores millions of unemployed and uninsured as well as combined state and local deficits of $85 billion while giving a $674 tax cut to the rich.
“It will create huge permanent deficits that will raise interest rates and stifle growth, hinder homeownership,” Locke said. “Low and middle-income people should get the tax relief,” he said.
Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization for Women (NOW), said, “We know Bush’s war on Iraq is wrong. We also know that Bush’s economic and tax policies are inequitable and disastrous for the economy.”
She blasted the administration for attacking women’s rights, civil rights and individual rights in the name of a “war on terrorism,” concluding, “We’re not fooled and we’re fighting back.”
Sam Webb, national chair of the Communist Party USA, blasted Bush for his silence on racism. “After the Trent Lott affair,” Webb said, “it is mind boggling that Bush said nothing about the struggle for racial equality. Put it together with Bush’s attack on affirmative action at the University of Michigan and it proves they are as wedded as ever to the racist ‘Southern Strategy.’”
Webb added, “Bush provided no justification for war on Iraq. The rest of the world remains convinced that time should be given for the UN inspections to proceed, that this situation should be resolved peacefully. I’m convinced that war can be averted.”
Webb said Bush had “absolutely nothing” to offer the 10 million unemployed, or 43 million without health insurance.
AFL-CIO President John Sweeney charged that Bush’s State of the Union “was long on broad promises … but short on real proposals to help working families.” He added, “America is rightfully worried about a possible war on Iraq … But working families are also worried that the 40 states facing deficits will have to go further than cancelling one day of school per week, cutting public health and slowing new spending on homeland security to balance budgets.”
Sweeney added, “President Bush’s domestic agenda from the last two years, which he endorsed again last night, has yielded a disappointing scorecard with losses on every important economic marker for working families.”
Robert MacIntyre, director of Citizens for Tax Justice, said, “It doesn’t matter what side of the bed he gets out of, Bush is always for a tax cut for the rich. His plan will do little to stimulate the economy in the short run and makes the economy perform less well in the long run by pushing up interest rates and deficits.”
MacIntyre said the $140 billion economic stimulus plan unveiled by Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), “looks pretty intelligent. His plan would send money to the state governments so they don’t have to raise taxes. It cuts taxes for low-and middle-income people. It puts money in the pockets of those who need it so they can go out and spend it for things they need. That’s the best way to stimulate the economy and create jobs.”
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