The Bush administration seems to operate on a need-to-know basis. They’ve got the information, so the public doesn’t need to know — about Iraqi wmd, the national energy plan, the 9/11 intelligence failings, the list goes on. Indeed, it’s the policy of the Ashcroft Justice Department to stymie every Freedom of Information Act request that comes in. But the tight lid on information extends well beyond sensitive intelligence into routine matters of public policy. Herewith: a survey of news the Bush administration didn’t want you to know.
By Tim Dickinson
|THE BAD NEWS||THE BUSH REACTION||THE FALLOUT…|
|From the time Bush took office through November 2002, there were 39,266 mass layoffs, involving more than 4.9 million jobs.||The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ mass-layoff tracking was killed on Christmas Eve, 2002.||Although Democrats eventually restored funding for the study in February 2003, 6,148 additional mass layoffs, involving 614,167 jobs, went unannounced.|
|In April 2002, the EPA Office of Prevention, Pesticides, and Toxic Substances was about to issue a public warning that Zonolite insulation — produced from vermiculite mined in Libby, Montana — contains deadly asbestos fibers and may be found in as many as 35 million American homes.||The finding was suppressed by the White House for more than a year. A senior EPA staffer told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “It wasn’t that [the White House] ordered us not to make the declaration — they just really, really strongly suggested against it.”||Senator Orrin Hatch has submitted legislation to end asbestos-related lawsuits, creating a $108 billion asbestos trust to compensate victims. An AFL-CIO spokesman called the bill “a vehicle to relieve businesses and insurers of hundreds of billions of dollars of liability while significantly shortchanging the asbestos victims.”|
|A 2002 Treasury study of unfunded Social Security and Medicare commitments projected a $44 trillion budget shortfall in perpetuity, which would require an immediate and permanent 66 percent income-tax hike to fix.||Originally slated to appear in Bush’s February 2003 budget, the study was shelved after Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill was ousted.||The Financial Times reported news of the study one day after Bush signed his latest $350 billion tax cut into law in May. Taken together, the two Bush tax cuts will produce 17 percent of the projected shortfall.|
|The EPA Office of Children’s Health Protection concluded in May 2002 that 8 percent of childbearing-age women have elevated blood levels of mercury — a neurotoxin that can cause developmental deficits in their kids. The main culprit? Smokestack emissions.||The EPA data were suppressed by the White House Office of Management and Budget for nine months; the findings were leaked to the Wall Street Journal in February 2003.||During the news blackout, in July 2002 the administration introduced its “Clear Skies” initiative, which would give most polluters 15 years to curtail mercury emissions, while allowing some of the dirtiest plants to pay for the right to pollute.|
|An EPA state-of-the-environment report slated for release in June said that global warming is real and is caused by human industrial activity and auto pollution.||The White House edited the document, eliminating links between global warming and smokestack and tailpipe emissions. It also substituted climate research financed in part by the American Petroleum Institute.||Rather than publish compromised data, the EPA dropped the climate-change section altogether. “Political staff are becoming increasingly bold in forcing agency officials to endorse junk science,” said Jeremy Symons, a climate policy expert at the National Wildlife Federation. “This is like the White House directing the secretary of Labor to alter unemployment data to paint a rosy economic picture.”|