President Bush has a tough year ahead of him. The situation in Iraq is going from bad to worse, and the Administrationís gung-ho, go-it-alone hawks are finding it difficult to woo allies they dismissed as "old Europe" just a few short months ago. In Afghanistan, the Taliban is still making trouble and infrastructure costs are soaring. These problems are not what has Bush worried, however; most Americans will never personally experience the chaos of these war zones, nor will they ever get a good idea of it from the timid American news media. No, the real problem for the President will be the economy.
Since Bush took office, 2.7 million jobs have gone up in smoke. Itís certainly wrong to say this is all his fault, but the tax cuts and other so-called "stimulus" measures enacted by Bush have done nothing to slow this downward spiral. Last month alone, 93,000 jobs disappeared. This puts quite a bit of pressure on Bushís promise from earlier this year that his next round of tax cuts would generate 1 million jobs within twelve months. Three of those months are already gone, and weíre down by more than two hundred thousand; does anyone expect 130,000 jobs to be produced each month now through May of 2004? Not likely.
Now Bush has unveiled his new economic plan with six main points of attack; the first order of business is affordable health care for everyone. This is a very worthy goal, and certainly we could all use to pay less for health care, employee and employer alike. Still, this is hardly a means of creating new jobs and stimulating growth; the money will still come from somewhere, in this case from the pockets of big drug companies. Thatís fine by me, but thatís not growth, itís just a redistribution of existing money.
Another point in the plan is the infamous Administration energy plan, forged in secret meetings between former oil boss Dick Cheney and all his former oil and gas friends. If thereís anyone who seriously believes that this energy plan will do anything for the economy other than funneling huge sums of cash into the pockets of oil and gas barons, please let me know. Drilling in the Alaskan Wildlife Refuge might run the country for a few more polluting years, but thereís a certain point where itís better to sacrifice ten or twenty percent of our wasteful energy use rather then mortgage our future and doom our children to live in a blasted wasteland devoid of natural beauty to buy a few more years of cheap gas for our SUVs and the many cars that guzzle nearly as much fuel.
Bush also plans to foster more fair international trade practices. To the rest of the world, when the US says this it usually means we want things to be fair in our favor, not really fair. Take, for example, the Presidentís illegal trade protectionism benefiting the steel manufacturers of America. Hardly a glowing example of fair trade. If itís in our favor to ignore international trade standards, that is our prerogative; perhaps itís even a good idea. We should not be surprised, however, when other countries do the same thing, nor when they tell us to take a hike when we complain about it.
It all adds up to nothing. Bush and his team have taken a disparate bunch of policies that they were planning on enacting anyway and cobbled together a "plan" for the economy. The truth is that they have no plan; Bush and his allies are not concerned with the economy as it affects the country or the millions of Americans who are struggling to get by or have already lost the battle. As long as his rich buddies and corporate cronies stay in power, Bush thinks he doesnít have to worry about the rest of us. Letís prove him wrong next November.