Bush’s well-scripted safari

The Bush administration would have us believe that Bush’s trip to five African countries with $70 million in tow this week shows his compassionate agenda.

But most Africans are unimpressed with Bush’s newfound interest in the continent, as are we. Proposed U.S. monies to fight the spread of AIDS in Africa are too little too late, plus the money is tied to Bush’s discredited abstinence-only sex education agenda. Bush goes with petty gifts but wants to take home exclusive and profitable trade agreements. No wonder Johannesburg’s Business Day calls the tour a “well-scripted safari.”

Bush’s African trip is also a thinly-veiled attempt to sway the African American vote in next year’s presidential elections. His demagogic speech in Senegal was full of praise for pan-African leaders like Senghor and Kenyatta, and Black liberation figures like Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. DuBois and Sojourner Truth.

Bush called slavery “one of greatest crimes of history,” but he offers nothing to those struggling for racial justice and equality in the U.S. As governor of Texas and as president he has made clear his opposition to affirmative action programs as a remedy for historical wrongs or for current discrimination.

Likewise, Bush offers nothing to African countries in the way of no-strings-attached aid for development or fair trade. .

U.S. foreign policy has historically neglected Africa. But the attention Bush is giving now is a show with no substance. Plus he is eager to draw international attention away from Iraq. It is just more evidence of the Bush administration’s multi-faceted attempt to ensure U.S. world dominance.

If the U.S. really wants to begin to repay Africa for the legacy of slavery, for starters, it should trade with Africa on terms defined by African nations, and should follow through with its existing and still unmet financial commitments to address the AIDS pandemic.

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Head Start under attack

The right-wingers who control the White House and Congress are at it again. First it was “welfare reform.” Then block grants for Medicaid. After that they opened the door to privatizing Medicare with a phoney-baloney prescription drug program.

Now they’ve decided to “improve” Head Start, the program that provides early education supports and other important developmental services to nearly a million 3- to 5-year-old children of low-income families. In the years since it was established as part of the War on Poverty in 1965, Head Start has provided high-quality early education, health care nutrition and social services to more than 20 million children.

Like so many of the “improvements” that Bush has proposed for social programs affecting working families, the White House proposals for Head Start would allow the federal government to abandon its obligation to provide a head start for the nation’s children, just as it is abandoning Medicaid, foster care and Section 8 housing. If Congress goes along, Head Start will be handed over to the states without federal standards for quality or requirements for comprehensive services, and without funding.

Studies show that children who participate in Head Start are more likely to graduate from high school. And, because children in Head Start require less special education in school, the program saves between two and four federal tax dollars for every dollar invested in the program.

But despite its proven success, Head Start now covers but 60 percent of eligible children at an annual cost of $6.7 billion. Reliable estimates say that every eligible child – some 1.5 million – could be enrolled in Head Start for about $10 billion, less than 3 percent of the recently passed military budget.

Congress has not yet acted, thus giving people time to act. Email, fax or phone your representatives and senators and make a reality out of the slogan: “Leave no child behind.”