Economic consequences of the elections

During the election campaign, the Bush administration and its allies may have set a new record for lying about their economic agenda. Tax cuts for the rich are cited as “economic stimulus.” Privatizing social security (and cutting benefits) is called “individual choice.” A bill written by the drug industry is called “prescription drugs for seniors.”

The major media gave very little coverage to the actual issues in the elections, and almost never challenged the Enron-style economics advanced by the Republicans. The only source of information for most voters was the misleading, almost fraudulent ads with which they saturated the airwaves.

The headline in The New York Times (11/7/2002) summed up the congressional elections: “GOP victory sets stage for pro-business agenda.” They will try to do as much permanent damage as possible over the next two years, with their control of all three branches of the government. But the Democrats’ election of Nancy Pelosi as House minority leader, and work by the AFL-CIO and others to develop a pro-worker economic agenda, are encouraging signs. A militant mass movement can slow the right-wing offensive, and lay the groundwork to roll it back in the future.

Some of the major items in the “pro-business” agenda include:

Taxes – The huge tax cuts for the rich will be made permanent. Cuts scheduled for 2004 and 2006 may be moved up. New tax cuts for corporations and big investors may be added. Bob Herbert summed it up neatly in the Times (11/11/2002): “There is a method in the GOP’s tax cut madness, beyond the obvious benefits to the very rich. Conservatives have long reasoned that the only way to destroy popular programs that actually help ordinary Americans (Social Security, Medicare and so on) is to starve the government of the money needed to pay for them. “

Privatization and Subcontracting – Bush wants to contract out 850,000 government jobs. This will destroy union wages and benefits, decrease accountability, and reduce services. State and local governments will be encouraged to do the same.

Social Security – Wall Street is unlikely to pass up this opportunity to try to privatize part of social security (though they will call it something else). This will result in lower benefits for current and/or future retirees.

Unemployment compensation – Extended benefits expire on Dec. 28, while 1.8 million will have exhausted their benefits by Feb. 2. Even if the extension is renewed, it is likely to be temporary and even more full of holes than the last one. The Republican congress won’t even consider sorely-needed reforms to broaden, extend and increase unemployment insurance.

Welfare – Reduced funding and strict new eligibility requirements to force millions of women into jobs paying minimum wage or below. African American, Latino and all communities of color will be hit especially hard.

Bankruptcy – With millions of Americans staggering under record consumer debt, a top corporate goal is to change bankruptcy laws so that workers are kept in a condition of permanent peonage. There will likely be loopholes to allow many of the richest corporate criminals to declare bankruptcy and still protect much of their wealth.

And much more – Allowing states to “opt out” of the minimum wage. New “free trade” pacts aimed at boosting profits, destroying jobs in the U.S., and further impoverishing people in developing countries. Increased burdens on shrinking city and state governments. Continued deregulation, allowing crony capitalists to profit at the expense of ordinary stockholders, pension funds, government bodies, workers and consumers. A huge buildup in the military budget, along with vast new funds for an internal secret police force.

Finally – The Bush administration will be appointing and hiring thousands of judges and regulators. Every day, these bureaucrats will be advancing the corporate agenda and attacking our rights as consumers and as workers.

Do you have other examples of how the administration’s economic policies hurt working people? Send them to the author at arthur.perlo@pobox.com