Desperate to turn Social Security into an entitlement program for corporations, President Bush and his right-wing cronies have been making ever more wild and bizarre statements in the face of massive opposition. Bush recently stated that “African American males die sooner than other males do, which means the system is inherently unfair.” This jumble of logic was supposed to convert millions of African Americans into supporters of social security for financial corporations.
Time to take a big breath, exhale slowly, and look closely at a critical aspect of this extraordinarily duplicitous comment. It is true that African American males die earlier than white males. From the Bush point of view, the logical question that follows is, “How can we capitalize on this fact and turn it to our advantage?” From our point of view, the critical question is, “What is the reason for this inequity?” The ironic answer is that African American males continue to suffer from a shorter lifespan in large part because of what Bush and his right-wing corporate cabal have “accomplished” in the last couple of decades:
• The Bush administration has consistently pushed for weaker standards for the cleanliness and safety of air and water. In light of the fact that low-income minorities tend to live in or near industrial areas, this has resulted in an assault on the health of African Americans and other minorities who are more likely to have low incomes.
• The Bush administration has supported tax breaks and other incentives that have encourage the growth of for-profit hospitals, and at the same time starved support for public hospitals in urban and rural areas. As a result, public hospitals that used to serve low-income urban and rural minorities have closed, leaving in their place for-profit hospitals which reduce community services, and discourage use by those without private health insurance.
• The Bush administration has diverted the nation’s collective wealth to tax breaks for the rich, and imperialist wars around the world. This diversion of hundreds of billions of dollars to the likes of Halliburton and Bechtel, results in massive cuts to important Medicare, Medicaid, and programs that provide low-cost housing for low-income families. The relationship between good housing and good health is widely understood.
• The Bush administration has led an assault on affirmative action, which has deprived African Americans and other minorities from getting higher education, and entering the health professions in adequate numbers. Minority health providers are more likely to stay in their own communities and provide health care in underserved areas, to low-income people.
• The Bush administration has proposed changes in health care financing in the United States, such as health savings accounts (HSAs), which would provide unparalleled tax breaks for the rich, and at the same time result in a more rapid decline of accessibility of health care for working families. At the same time, Bush and his drug and hospital industry allies fight to keep a national health program completely off the radar. This is an extraordinary accomplishment since most of the rest of the industrialized world has publicly operated health care systems that serve all the people.
• The Bush administration, and corporate profiteers before him, have viciously fought against job safety and health improvements for decades. African Americans (and other minorities) tend to work in the most dangerous jobs. Consequently, African American and other minority workers are killed, poisoned, and injured on the job more often than their white, non-Hispanic coworkers.
The Bush administration’s record of helping African American males, minorities in general, and low- and middle-income families is deplorable. Attempting to turn the deadly consequences of his negligence to his advantage is despicable.