The smug, well-fed GOP

More than 500,000 anti-Bush protesters marched past the Republican Party’s convention site Aug. 29, chanting, “Four more months!” It was hardly an auspicious start for the GOP’s highly scripted coronation of George W. Bush. Even events within their control did not go according to cue. Take Bush himself. On the way to the convention he told a crowd the war in Iraq is a “catastrophic success.” Later, an NBC News interviewer asked him if the war on terrorism is winnable. “I don’t think you can win it,” Bush replied blandly, sending his handlers into frantic damage control.

A parade of GOP bigwigs trumpeted Bush as a war president in the mold of Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, claims so ludicrous that they are material for Comedy Central.

The Republicans had to whip up fear and war jingoism. They had to lie about Democrat John Kerry’s Vietnam War record. Why? To silence the growing chorus of criticism of Bush’s failed presidency.

Preemptive war on Iraq has left the U.S. virtually isolated and far less safe. It has exposed Bush as a liar and a war criminal. The occupation has cost 1,000 dead and 10,000 wounded American soldiers as well as nearly $200 billion in tax dollars. Iraqi casualties are in the many tens of thousands. A high level report charges that top officials were responsible for the torture of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison.

On the eve of the GOP convention, the Census Bureau reported that 1 million more people fell into poverty and the number without health insurance soared above 45 million during Bush’s first three years in office. Millions of workers in our heartland have lost jobs, pensions, and health benefits.

The smug, well-fed Republicans keep singing, “Happy Days Are Here Again,” but the cruel truth breaks through. The Republicans trotted out so-called moderate California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger: “To those who are so pessimistic about our economy, I say, ‘don’t be economic girly men,’” he cracked. The smug, well-fed crowd gave The Groper a standing ovation.

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Social Security threat

George W. Bush has recklessly drained the public treasury with his tax cuts for the rich, the bloody, senseless Iraq war, and plush Pentagon contracts for well-connected corporations. Now Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan has the nerve to call for cutting Social Security and Medicare benefits for the 77 million baby boomers who are nearing retirement age.

Greenspan also suggested further increasing the retirement age for full Social Security benefits. (An increase from 65 to 67 is already phasing in.) And he proposed trimming the annual cost-of-living adjustment.

Greenspan says the government has “promised more than our economy has the ability to deliver.” But the Bush administration has delivered, and then some, to corporate America.

Take Vice President Dick Cheney and his Halliburton Corp. Last year Halliburton got a no-bid contract of $7 billion for Iraq reconstruction — which hasn’t happened. The same year, Cheney received $178,437 in deferred compensation from Halliburton. Meanwhile Halliburton is under investigation for overcharging the government to the tune of $186 million.

And what about our economy’s ability to deliver? The AFL-CIO reports that the average corporate CEO’s pay package is now 301 times bigger than the average worker’s paycheck. The latest economic reports show rising inequality, with the rich getting richer while the rest of us struggle to make ends meet. Clearly, there’s plenty of money available. The question is, what are our nation’s priorities?

The Greenspan proposals aren’t new. In 2000, candidate Bush proposed privatization schemes that would drain the Social Security fund. The gap would be made up through cutting benefits and raising the retirement age. A Century Foundation study estimated that Bush’s plan would require benefit cuts of 25-46 percent.

John Kerry says, “I will never privatize Social Security. I will not cut Social Security benefits. And I will not raise the retirement age.”

The stakes are high and the choice is clear for working families.