Let down his rich pals? Over his dead body

The president makes a vow to protect America's most wealthy.

Published January 8, 2002 6:35PM (EST)

Talk about the politics of class struggle. George W. Bush now is apparently willing to give his life to make the rich richer. "Over my dead body" was his response to proposals to scale back the $1.35 trillion in tax cuts planned for the next 10 years.

Notice that he didn't say "over my dead body" will the homeless -- many of them actually employed in low-paying jobs -- sleep in the snows of Minneapolis because the "faith-based" as well as government shelters are short on funds. Nor is it "over my dead body" that Enron workers will be left holding the bag emptied by the president's good friend, Kenneth L. "Kenny Boy" Lay. Nor is it "over my dead body" that Boeing will be given a $22 billion Air Force contract as it fires thousands of its workers. The president cannot say that "over my dead body" will he forget his pledge to assist seniors with prescription medical costs, save Social Security and revive public education, when in fact his tax cut has made it impossible to deliver on any such promises.

Nope, his is the manifesto of a true son of the superrich who has never known a nanosecond of economic insecurity and genuinely believes that the truly burdened are those with enormous wealth. The truly needy in the Bush lexicon are the very wealthy folks who must be given tax breaks so they may more easily invest in the economy. The rest of us are told it is our patriotic duty to buy things we cannot afford, but the rich can only be expected to invest if it does not cost them anything in after-tax dollars.

With blase arrogance, the president now insists that his skewed tax cut be amplified in the years to come. This is a cheerleader who doesn't know the game is lost: Unemployment is at a decade high, the huge Clinton budget surplus is now going into deficit and eight years of buoyant prosperity and growth have been turned into a sour recession.

The fact that none of this gives President Bush pause is the purest indication that he does not, in the least, grasp the suffering engendered by his policies.

It does not have to be this way. The rich can indeed "get it," as Franklin Delano Roosevelt and many other wealthy American leaders have demonstrated. However, it does take a bit of work to wedge one's feet into the pinched shoes of the less fortunate -- work that the president (like his father before him) has not been inspired to perform.

Perhaps if the media and the Democrats had challenged Bush's nostrums more forthrightly he could have moved beyond the ingrained smugness of a rich brat.

That did not happen, however, and instead the failure of this administration's economic policies has been ignored, particularly in the aftermath of Sept. 11. Indeed, that tragedy is turned to the most shameful of partisan political purpose to explain away a recession that began in earnest in March, half a year before the terrorist attack.

It is Bush and not Osama bin Laden who is responsible for subverting the fiscally conservative policies of the Clinton years. A true conservative would say that "over my dead body" would the government siphon the surplus created by Social Security taxes to the pockets of the rich, putting the nation further into the red.

Bush may be the hero of the moment, but it won't be so when future generations try to collect their Social Security checks. If Bush keeps it up he will be remembered as another Herbert Hoover, a president who let the unemployment lines grow while the government went broke catering to the wealthy.

By Robert Scheer

Robert Scheer is a syndicated columnist.

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