“The economy is strong, and getting stronger,” says President Bush, but an AP poll reports that only 10 percent of households making less than $50,000 a year think their economic situation is strong. Jobs are still hard to come by, real wages are falling, health care costs more and covers less, and airline workers are only the latest group to see their pensions disappear.

At the end of July, when he talked about the economy, Bush said, “We are turning the corner, and we’re not turning back.” We should ask, “What corner is he turning, and what’s waiting for us if we follow him?”

The last time the question came up Herbert Hoover was president. “Prosperity is just around the corner,” he said, as the country sank into the Great Depression of the 1930s. Hoover was the last president to oversee a net loss of jobs — until now. There are a million fewer jobs today than when Bush took office. If job growth had kept up with the growth in the workforce, there would be about 7 million more jobs today.

In 1932, when unemployed veterans demanded relief, Hoover met them with tear gas and bullets. The voters kicked him out and elected Franklin D. Roosevelt. It was the beginning of a great social upheaval, when the working class demanded and won job programs, unemployment insurance, Social Security, the 8-hour day with overtime pay, and the right to organize unions.

I can’t predict what will happen if the voters kick Bush out this year — a lot depends, as it did 70 years ago, on the strength and unity of the labor, civil rights, environment, women’s and other people’s movements. But I know what’s waiting around the corner if Bush wins or steals this election. Starting with continued destruction of everything that was won in the Roosevelt administration.

Jobs. The Roosevelt New Deal employed millions, building parks and schools, highways and bridges. Much of our public infrastructure is from that time, and needs renewing, but Bush refuses funds for this kind of work.

Unemployment insurance. This recession has seen record numbers of long-term unemployed. But the Bush administration only allowed 13 weeks of extra benefits, and allowed even that extension to expire last January. As a result, millions have exhausted their unemployment insurance before they could find new jobs.

Social Security. Bush has long supported turning Social Security over to Wall Street, and despite Republican denials, there are signs they are moving toward cutting benefits for current or future retirees.

8-hour day and overtime pay. Bush’s Labor Department changed the rules so 6 million workers can be forced to work overtime without extra pay. Now, Bush wants to do the same to the rest of us, under the guise of promoting “flex time.”

Right to organize unions. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), dominated by Bush appointments, is considering plans to restrict workers’ ability to form a union when a majority signs authorization cards.

Taxes. During World War II, Roosevelt raised income taxes on the richest Americans to 94 percent and imposed an excess profits tax on corporations. But Bush cut taxes for the rich. Now, he is moving toward completely eliminating taxes on the interest and dividend payments that feed the bank accounts of the wealthy, so that only labor income is taxed.

Early this month, President Bush said that our enemies “never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we.” Most commentators think he simply misspoke. Others think that, for once, he was telling the truth. We report, you decide.

The author can be reached at economics@cpusa.org.


Art Perlo
Art Perlo

Art Perlo lived in New Haven, Conn., where he was active in labor and community struggles. He did research and writing on economic issues in Connecticut, including work with the Coalition to End Child Poverty in Connecticut which helped pave the way for the movement for progressive tax reform in the state. He wrote on national economic issues for the People's World and was a member of the CPUSA Economic Commission.