There will be a presidential election in a year, and it will come as no surprise that we hope Election Night 2004 ends early with the defeat of George W. Bush. Yes, there are fourteen months left in Bush’s term. But he is beyond redemption. He has caused damage that will take years to undo: damage to the environment, damage to the fiscal security of the nation, damage to America’s standing in the world. He sabotaged the international regimen established to protect nations from the harmful consequences of global warming. He put the finances of the United States at risk in order to dole out supersized tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans. He misled the United States into an elective war that has turned this country into an occupying power (that plans rather poorly) and a symbol of arrogance around the globe. At the same time, he has not acted to address key homeland security needs–such as security at chemical plants and ports–out of an apparent unwillingness to impose regulations on private industry.
Bush claims that the war on terrorism is being won (although according to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, there are no “metrics” for measuring success or failure). But it will be hard–though not impossible–for the White House and the Bush campaign, which will have about $200 million at its disposal, to deploy rhetoric to counter the reality on the ground. Even if Bush (prompted by Karl Rove) decides on accelerated troop withdrawals from Iraq, attacks on Americans, both in that country and elsewhere, are certain to continue, fueled by anger that the invasion of Iraq has exacerbated rather than diminished.
Perhaps less visible will be the long-term harm Bush has done to America’s economic security. The President recently hailed the good-news reports of 7.2 percent growth in the gross domestic product. He and others pointed to his tax cuts as the cause. But the tax cuts–coupled with a burst in mortgage refinancing–created a one-time spurt that has yet to produce new jobs. The nation has lost almost 3 million jobs on Bush’s watch, most of them in manufacturing, and many are not coming back. Bush has offered nothing to address this structural shift. To keep pace with population growth–put aside recovering lost jobs–the country has to create 150,000 or so new jobs a month. Bush’s tax cuts are not up to this task. In fact, mainstream economic analysts predicted that his tax cuts–even if they caused a short-term growth in jobs–would lead to a decline in jobs over time. That’s because of the massive debt Bush is bequeathing the nation. Recent analyses conducted by various outfits–the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the Concord Coalition, the Brookings Institution, Goldman Sachs–have projected deficits totaling $5 trillion or more in the next ten years. This debt will put enormous pressure on the federal budget, squeezing out money for needed social programs and exacerbating the fiscal challenges posed by Social Security and Medicare. Bush and his aides argue that economic growth will neutralize this debt. But this is the same bunch that said their first round of tax cuts would not lead to a deficit–which was precisely what happened. As with matters of national security, the Bush crowd, which has repeatedly misrepresented the details and benefits of the tax cuts, deserves no trust.
Bush flaunts American might overseas. He recklessly misguides the economy at home. All those Americans who are aghast at what he has already done to the nation (and the world) and who fear what he might do in another term have less than a year to mount an effective opposition. It is truly a fight for the future of the United States.