It is truly time to change the way we speak about this administration’s economic policies. The old words — conservative, liberal, Keynesian, stimulus, supply side, job creation, deficits, deficit reduction and so on — just swirl around and help them hide the truth in the fog.
Bushenomics is something different. It is also very simple.
Bushenomics is the use of the government to take regular people’s money and give it to rich people and corporations.
The genius of Bushenomics has been selling it to the voters as something that’s good for them.
Any appearance of benefits to low and middle income people — or for that matter to the country as a whole — is only there to sell the programs. Any actual benefits will be more than offset by increases in other taxes, the loss of services and by the accumulation of debts.
The story that tax cuts for the rich will stimulate the economy so much that it will solve all problems is bogus. It was originally called Trickle Down economics, an inadvertently apt right wing euphemism for piss on everyone else. It was changed to Supply Side Economics. The old Bush called it voodoo economics. The current Bush calls each tax cut a “jobs and stimulus” package.
This Bush even maintains that it works. In the words of the White House website, in bold face and using title case, “the president’s policies have helped create jobs, growth, and opportunity.”
Compared to what? The president would like us to compare it to an imaginary alternative world called how-much-worse-it-would-have-been-without-my-initiatives. But it makes more sense to look for some real world comparison. The closest thing in time and kind is the previous administration.
Under Clinton, 18,000,000 new jobs were created. The Dow Jones average was 320% higher when he left office than it was when he came in. The budget had gone from a record deficit to the first surplus since 1969.
Under Bush the only increase in jobs has come from government expansion. There has actually been a decrease in the number of private sector jobs. Adjusted for inflation, the Dow Jones has gone down about 8.6%.
Ronald Reagan changed course after one year. Bush’s policies have failed to fulfill their promises year after year for five years.
Why does this administration persist? If we use their language — stimulus and jobs and tax cuts lead to deficit reduction — or the standard language of economics, the discussion disintegrates into a food fight, except that it’s statistics and buzz words being thrown around the lunch room.
If we forget all that, just look at what they’ve done, then make up our own description, it’s clear and simple.
The tax policies unarguably favor the wealthy. They especially favor unearned income, dividends, capitol gains and inheritances, money that accrues as you sip Campari on the veranda of the Splendido in Portofino.
Their spending also favors the rich. Also at the expense of the rest of us. The Medicare package has the bizarre requirement that the government has to buy pharmaceuticals from the drug companies at the highest possible price. That means it is requiring us to pay the highest possible price. The $12.3 billion energy bill was a triumph for special interests and was followed, shortly thereafter, by $3 a gallon gas at the pump and record profits for the oil industry. If the privatization of Social Security had been successful, it would have taken money that now goes from people to people through the government and sent it off to corporations. The process would have incurred gigantic interim debts that taxpayers would have had to pay for. The reconstruction fund for Iraq originally had neither oversight nor controls and the people who handled the money were specifically exempted from ever being prosecuted. Funds for the reconstruction of the Gulf Coast were original offered as no-bid contracts with guaranteed profits. They argued that it was a matter of urgency, but they had time to try to break the rule that requires contractors to pay the prevailing wage. The privatization of the armed forces means that about 30% of the cost of military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan goes directly to private contractors.
It is, of course, hard to believe that our elected leaders would be cynical enough to use the government primarily to enrich the rich, without really caring of it creates social benefits. Especially if it’s true that they will leave huge debts behind, a mess for others to clean up or to suffer with. It’s hard to believe unless we are familiar with the private careers of George Bush and Dick Cheney.
Bush ran a series of companies. He, personally, always made money. They all went bankrupt. He never seems to have had any regrets and could always find more money to lose.
Then he organized the purchase of the Texas Rangers baseball team. His group got the city of Arlington to pass a special tax to build a stadium for the team. When the group sold the team — with the stadium included — Bush’s $600,000 investment turned into $13,000,0000. The increase in value came entirely from the taxpayer financed stadium.
In short, Bush had used government to collect money from ordinary taxpayers and pass it through a stadium project as a way to give it to him and his friends. That’s how he got rich.
Dick Cheney spent most of his life working for the government. As Secretary of Defense he initiated the privatization of the military. He gave the contracts, without bids and with guaranteed profits, to Halliburton. They were worth billions. When Cheney briefly left government, Halliburton hired him as their CEO. In turn, they gave him a seven-figure salary, stock and options. A lot of stock and options. Now he’s worth around $45,000,000.
Cheney was not a good CEO. His decisions brought Halliburton to the verge of bankruptcy. He sold his stock while he was in a position to know that but before the information became public.
When Bush and Cheney were outside government, that’s what government was — a instrument to take money from taxpayers, then give it to companies, who then gave a generous share to Bush and Cheney.
Why should they think of government differently now that they are the government? To them, that’s what government if for and that’s what they’re doing with it. They left their companies bankrupt or nearly so. And life kept on going just fine, better than ever. Someone else took the loss, someone else picked up the pieces. So it will be with the country. No worry.
Larry Beinhart is the author of Wag the Dog, The Librarian, and Fog Facts: Searching for Truth in the Land of Spin. All available at nationbooks.org.
This piece first appeared at Huffingtonpost.com.