Letter carriers as spies? Soldiers as cops?

The Bush administration is moving ahead so fast in its attacks on the Bill of Rights in the name of the “war on terrorism” that it is keeping the people off balance and on the defensive. The latest proposal is Bush’s new volunteer Citizen Corp called “Operation TIPS” (Terrorist Information and Prevention System), in which one million letter carriers, utility workers and others whose jobs allow them access to homes would be recruited as government informants.

The American Civil Liberties Union assails it as a scheme to turn these workers into “peeping Toms.” The plan is a threat to the 4th Amendment protection against “unreasonable search and seizure.” It promotes the use of spies and stoolpigeons, a climate of hysteria that is certain to sweep thousands of innocent people in a dragnet reminiscent of Cold War McCarthyism.

This scheme could easily be perverted by Bush & Co. to block the people from the exercise of their most fundamental rights of free speech, assembly, their right to petition for redress of grievances, to organize, including into unions.

A day or so later, the Bush administration unveiled another proposal for vast new executive-branch powers, including suggestions that the military be used for domestic law enforcement. Homeland Security Adviser, Tom Ridge, has been drafting this plan in deep secrecy for eight months. The Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 restricts the role of the U.S. Army in law enforcement – and for good reason. It would move our country dangerously in the direction of a garrison state with a soldier on every corner under the command of George W. Bush.

The House and Senate have rushed to give Bush and Attorney General John Ashcroft everything they asked for in the name of fighting terrorism. It is high time that our elected representatives in Washington stop this Bush blitzkrieg. It is an election year and every candidate should be asked: What will you do to protect the Bill of Rights?

*************************************************************Greenspan gets it wrong

Alan Greenspan, chairman of the Federal Reserve, told the Senate Banking Committee that, notwithstanding “infectious greed” on Wall Street, the country’s economic recovery was on track. But, eloquent as he might be, the numbers don’t justify Greenspan’s optimism.

As the Washington Post said, his words were not “reassuring enough” to keep stock prices from falling further. And frankly, they were not reassuring enough to satisfy concerns of working families, either.

True, there are economic indicators that are on the up side, among them industrial production, which is up for the sixth consecutive month, and factory utilization has inched upward.

But there are other numbers that are better indicators of the health of the economy.

Like the fact that 180,000 workers lost their jobs in May, bringing the total number of layoffs since January to 910,009.

Like the fact that the official – and understated – unemployment rate stands at 5.9 percent, with nearly 8.5 million workers wondering when and if they will land a job, and that the rate for minority youth is twice that.

Like the fact that the number of long-term unemployed has climbed by 50 percent over the last year, with more than a million workers exhausting their unemployment benefits.

Like the fact that the number of people applying for Temporary Assistance to Needy Families is growing in almost every state.

And Greenspan’s solution? Keep a stiff upper lip – if we do, he says, unemployment may drop to 5.5 percent by late 2003.

What’s forgotten in all of this is that the unemployment rate for May 2002 is higher than for any month in 2001 except December, when it stood at 6.0 percent.

But there is an even greater difference between then and now: Then there was a demand that Congress act to stimulate the economy and cushion the blows that come with unemployment. Today that demand is missing.

Why can’t it be renewed? What better time than now?