Budgets and elections

While the Enron hearings are grabbing the headlines, President Bush is running around the country building support for his 2003 budget. At issue is who gets and who pays.

If the stimulus fight is any indicator, Bush has his answer: Tax breaks for those in the top 1 percent and billions to the military-industrial complex, cuts in social programs that benefit the rest of us, be it health care, education, workers’ rights, protection of the environment or programs benefiting low-income children. That’s who gets and who doesn’t.

Then there’s the “who pays” part of the equation. In large measure that will be decided when voters go to the polls Nov. 5.

For now, the challenge is to make Nov. 5 “Payback Day” by building a coalition with enough strength to break the right wing’s control of the House of Representatives and reduce their numbers in the Senate.

Two ingredients are essential to any successful coalition – its breadth and its demands. Neither is a given; both have to be carefully nurtured and developed.

We begin with the elements of the coalition: the labor movement, the civil and immigrant rights movements, the women’s movement, the African-American and Latino communities, the senior and youth movements, the peace movement and environmentalists. Such is the material out of which to build a winning campaign for social justice, equality and peace

If such a coalition is to be developed its program must address common isues that will benefit all the victims and intended victims of the right-wing offensive: Universal health care, a livable wage, improved public education, affirmative action, defense of democracy, preventing further tax giveaways and cutting military spending. We believe it can be done and pledge our best to making it happen.


The Enron-omy, stupid!

The rumbling of what could be a mass rebellion against corporate greed and the buying of government influence seems to be stirring across the country in the wake of the Enron collapse.

Tremors of that political earthquake were felt in widely scattered places in recent days. In Houston, Enron workers, backed by the AFL-CIO, convened a news conference to demand severance pay for 4,000 jobless Enron workers.

In California, state legislators called for the arrest on contempt charges of Enron officials.

On Capitol Hill, American Indian peoples demanded a halt to oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) and the termination of the Bush-Cheney energy ripoff. Welfare recipients crowded a Capitol Hill news conference to blast the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program for leaving millions in poverty while the rich grow richer.

Many now speak of fighting the “enronization” of the economy. Often we hear the charge that Bush and Cheney are using the Sept. 11 tragedy to silence opposition to their “steal from the poor, give to the rich” policies. At the top of that agenda is insuring super-profits for the oil and gas corporations like Enron that put George W. Bush in the White House.

Another den of thieves is military corporations, such as Lockheed Martin, which are reaping untold billions from Bush’s war policy and arms buildup in the spurious name of “national security.”

The best way to address the crisis symbolized by Enron is at the ballot box. We must work to elect legislators in 2002 who are independent, who put people’s need above corporate greed.

Hearings are going on in so many committees on Capitol Hill that your mind could spin. But somehow they aren’t capturing the growing anti-corporate anger. People deserve hearings that will allow a full airing of the system that gave rise to Enron.

Because it’s not the last corporate scandal. We need a people’s committee with full subpoena power to investigate the manipulation of government policy both domestic and foreign to put the corporations on notice.

A people’s committee made up of former Enron employees and other victims of Enron’s policies, trade unionists, environmentalists, retirees, elected officials and community leaders to uncover the history and, even more importantly, to propose the remedies.