Steady leadership in times of pocket change

Will the economy really commit scary Kerry?


Joyce McGreevy
April 5, 2004 11:30PM (UTC)

I'm a nervous wreck. Just look at this terrifying headline from the New York Times: "At Rally in Vital State, Bush Attacks Kerry on Economy."

As far as the president is concerned, I didn't think there was a vital state. Which one is it? Gee, I hope he picks ours. With 7 percent unemployment and 13 percent of households not getting enough food, people in Oregon know a lot about what's vital.

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But what really concerns me is the second half of that headline -- Bush Attacks Kerry on Economy. Now there's an unexpected syntax for you. Yes, President Bush has alerted us to a danger that's right up there with T-ball players on steroids -- the horrifying prospect of living under a Kerry economy.

A recent TV attack ad offered cogent analysis. "Kerry's record on the economy?" queried the announcer in the folksy voice of the Anytown insurance agent that you wouldn't mind sleeping with if giant insects carried off all other men and most of the women on earth. Then he answered his own question: "Troubling."

Heaven help us, but after hearing that damning indictment, some of my neighbors were so panicked they nearly choked on their food stamps, slipped on their pink slips, and tripped over their mounting medical bills.

It's a nightmare, all right. I shudder to think what will become of us if we lose the collective lifestyle made possible by rising foreclosures, record credit-card delinquency, taxpayer-subsidized outsourcing, and the decline in wages. Gosh, I'd miss all that.

Not to mention investing thousands of our loved ones and billions of dollars to rebuild a country we destroyed on the basis of a lie in order to fight terrorism by ensuring there'll be a lot more of it. I guess that's what you call maintaining a diversified portfolio of foreign interests.

And what rotten timing -- just when the president had alluded vaguely to a mysterious plan for slightly reducing the largest deficit in U.S. history. Who better to inch us ever so imperceptibly out of that projected $5 trillion mess than the man who plunged us into it?

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After all, he has scads of experience at getting out of things. The National Guard. The Harken Oil scandal. Testifying. And around them. Congress, the Constitution.

Dodging risk, dodging jail, dodging obstacles. That's consistency of leadership.

How can Kerry compete with skills like that? Bush is the leader who has made America more secure -- by about $8 million in tax cuts -- for 400 of its wealthiest citizens.

Under Bush's leadership we recently witnessed the liberation of 1.1 million workers who exhausted their regular unemployment benefits without receiving additional aid. Now that's just sound economic strategy. After all, if you're going to take 25,000 police officers off the street, you should always increase the number of people on the street. Keeps things "spare and balanced."

Under Bush, economic policy has never been so easy to understand -- or to implement. As he said in 2002, "My economic security plan can be summed up in one word: jobs." And he was right. That one word -- "Jobs" -- suddenly began appearing on backdrops all over the country, with the president standing in front summing it all up.

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Soon one word led to more words. Earlier this month at a "conversation on the economy" one manufacturer got so excited he said that he might actually hire a few people some day. Then Bush got really, really excited and said, "A lot of people are feeling confident and optimistic about our future so they can say, 'I'm going to hire two more.' They can sit here and tell the president in front of all the cameras, 'I'm going to hire two more people.' That's confidence!"

Confidence, ladies and gentlemen -- that's really all you need when 49 states haven't created enough jobs to keep up with the natural growth in the number of potential workers. And Bush is nothing if not a confidence man. Like, when the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reported that fewer than 4 percent of small businesses benefited from the top rate tax cut that made up the bulk of the president's "Wealth Care," did he waver in his tax-cut zeal? No, he did not.

"Small businesses benefit," he assured small business owners at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce March 17 where he shared many of what he called "fantastic statistics." He also urged dreamers to keep taking risks and following their hearts -- code for "Make the check out for $2,000."

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And now that the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 308,000 new jobs flashed into the economic pan in March, this means in terms of real recovery -- beginning with at a return to pre-recession levels and aiming for the creation of enough jobs to absorb normal population growth were only short by, lets see now, 2 to 5 million jobs.

Under the Bush budget for education, we've seen more initiative and creativity. When Congress did not approve his push for school vouchers, the Bush administration used the Education Department to go around it and gave $77 million in taxpayer money to conservative campaign contributors. This helped them privatize public education for fun, faith and profit. Say, kids, don't have a science lab, new textbooks, or a school lunch? Here, have a glossy brochure!

And as part of its educational "outreach," the Bush administration is working hard to see that 84,000 students have no Pell grants and hundreds of thousands of children will lose childcare assistance, even though former welfare recipients with young children are 82 percent more likely to be employed after two years if they receive help with childcare expenses. Ah, but only if real jobs exist, as the president has clearly taken into account.

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Not any president could let the cost of education and healthcare keep rising in the face of job loss. Not any president could challenge overtime pay with the dollar down 30 percent in one year. Not any president could praise a social service program for the cameras and then slash it for the coffers. Not any president could fund the arts -- paying Ahmad Chalabi $340,000 a month to produce fiction about Iraq -- while denying $400 earned income tax credits for the nation's poorest families. Not any president could serve hollow turkey to soldiers while carving up veterans' healthcare. Not any president would be as adept at shoring up debt. That's got to be worth some credit, right?

But with Kerry all this would change. That beatnik from Boston has already proposed reforming international corporate taxes to give companies a huge incentive to invest more money domestically. By giving them a one-year 10-percent tax rate on billions of corporate dollars gathering dust in other countries, Kerry's economic plan would create a windfall.

I don't want a lot of dusty dollars landing on my nice clean domestic surfaces, thank you. And a windfall! That would only spread the monetary mulch around more! Wait, it gets worse. If Kerry is elected, he's threatened to blow that windfall on a two-year tax credit for companies that create jobs here at home. Even if his evil scheme succeeded only halfway, it would still unleash 5 million jobs upon the land in four years, cluttering up the economic landscape with twice the number of jobs tidied away by Bush.

The horror! And all so a bunch of spoiled unemployed people can indulge their lust for survival. They should find something to occupy their time.

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I -- I'm frightened. If we lose Bush and gain Kerry, such as in a landslide brought about by a reinvigorated, unified party supported by a grass-roots determination to get out the vote, what will happen to all this?

I guess we'll just have to live in the moment -- savoring the icing on the economic yellowcake -- while we wait and see.


Joyce McGreevy

Joyce McGreevy is a writer in Portland, Ore.

MORE FROM Joyce McGreevy

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