Another one-term Bush?

George W. Bush’s approval rating – 71 percent only six weeks ago – is now 50 percent, and headed down. The 2004 elections are only 15 months off and the drumbeat of bad news, on both the Iraq war front and the economic front, surely has caught Karl Rove’s attention.

Bush & Co. are desperate for some good news. Bush went to the United Nations hoping to get help for his Iraq debacle. He met with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and sought to bask in a photo-op session claiming differences with Germany are over. But Bush’s arrogant speech to the General Assembly, in which he defended his unilateral preemptive war doctrine, got a cold reception from the world community. French President Jacques Chirac followed with a strongly worded speech condemning the Bush administration’s unilateralism.

The White House would like to isolate France. New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman recently accused the French government of acting as an “enemy” of the United States, wanting the Bush administration to “fail” in Iraq. But France’s views on Iraq are shared by most of the world.

The “enemy” refrain is also directed at the opposition here at home, as the occupation of Iraq and Bush’s economic policies are exposed as a failure. Attorney General John Ashcroft, for example, routinely accuses critics of the administration of giving aid and comfort to “terrorists.”

When Sen. Edward Kennedy said the administration’s case for war was a “fraud … made up in Texas,” Bush complained that Kennedy was being “uncivil,” and House Majority Leader Tom DeLay labeled Kennedy’s remarks “hateful.” But Kennedy stood his ground, saying they were avoiding questions about Bush’s policies “by attacking the patriotism of those who question them.”

The efforts to silence opposition are falling flat. The frontrunners among the Democratic presidential contenders are those who hammer Bush the hardest on his anti-people policies. The elections are still more than a year off. But if current trends persist, Bush may suffer the same fate as his one-term dad.

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Grasso’s inglorious exit

Dick Grasso, the high-flying former chairman and CEO of the New York Stock Exchange, is gone. He was forced to resign after it emerged that he got a lump sum payment of $140 million from the Stock Exchange in “deferred compensation.” This was on top of his regular pay of up to $30 million per year.

Grasso’s excesses came to light while U.S. workers are facing the most devastating job losses since the Great Depression, brutal cuts in public education and social services, and growing homelessness and hunger. Against such a backdrop, this grotesque display of uninhibited greed was too blatant even for Wall Street. Grasso had to go.

Grasso now joins a rogues’ gallery of greedy corporate executives – including those from Enron, WorldCom, and Tyco – who have gotten caught with their fingers in the cookie jar. The big-business media would have us believe that these executives are just a few bad apples. But in fact they are all too typical of “business as usual” under capitalism.

CEO salaries are now at least 400 times what the average worker earns. Executive pay increased by 571 percent in the 1990s, while workers’ pay during those years increased by only 37 percent. Income inequality is growing by leaps and bounds. The rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer. Bill Gates’ net worth is now pegged at $46 billion. And the Bush administration’s policies have only accelerated this process.

U.S. society is saddled with a super-rich, criminal, parasitic class of exploiters that will stop at nothing to amass still greater wealth and power, by hook or by crook.

Big-business pundits have nervously remarked that, if left unchecked, blatant displays of greed like Grasso’s can undermine people’s confidence in the capitalist system as a whole. Their worries are justified. More and more workers are drawing radical conclusions about U.S. society, and growing numbers are recognizing that capitalism, itself, must go.