Third-quarter GDP grew by 8.2 percent, October unemployment dropped to 6 percent, manufacturing orders are soaring, the stock market is up–as are profits, the value of stock options and CEO salaries. The President boasts that his tax cuts are working and we’re on the right track. But is it time to celebrate?
Before boasting too loudly, shouldn’t the Bush Administration pay attention to what Robert Borosage of the Campaign for America’s Future has called “economics for real people”? More than 3 million private-sector jobs have been lost since Bush took office. Nine million people are out of work, wages and salaries are stagnant or down, healthcare costs have increased to staggering double-digit rates, retirement savings have been ravaged by the stock-market meltdown, school budgets are taking severe hits, tuition at public universities is soaring and personal bankruptcies and debt are at an all-time high.
Headlines like the New York Times‘s Bloom Is on the Economy, or the Washington Post‘s Tough Times Over? seem foolish, even meanspirited, when families, communities and whole states are struggling to survive. Consider that in Bush’s home state of Texas, according to the Houston Chronicle, 54,000 children have been dropped from the federal-state health insurance program because of budget cuts. Texas and other states are also cutting back on subsidies for healthcare, further increasing the number of people with no coverage–now conservatively estimated at 43 million, with the number rapidly increasing. And paying for health insurance is becoming a problem for more than just people living on low or fixed incomes, with many hospitals and neighborhood clinics saying that middle-class people are now joining the poor in seeking their care.
More than 12 million American children live in poverty, and indeed, the United States has the worst child-poverty rate of all the industrialized countries. Last year alone, another 1.7 million Americans slipped below the poverty line, bringing the total to 34.6 million–one in eight of the population–up from 31.6 million in 2000.
And as Trudy Lieberman reported in our pages this past July, the ranks of the hungry are also increasing. About 33 million are now considered “food insecure” (they literally do not know where their next meal is coming from). Hunger is epidemic in Ohio, which has lost 1 in 7 manufacturing jobs since Bush won there in the 2000 election. According to the Guardian, 2 million of the state’s 11 million people used food charities last year, an increase of more than 18 percent from 2001.
Economic realities on Main Street, not Wall Street, haven’t stopped the White House from trumpeting “mission accomplished” when it comes to our supposed economic recovery. Nor has it stopped the Administration’s hucksters at the Heritage Foundation from using faulty numbers to “prove” that Bush’s tax cuts are working. But according to the Center for American Progress, the White House Council of Economic Advisers projected that the most recent round of tax cuts would lead to an economy that produces 306,000 jobs a month. That means that even in the past two months of purportedly “strong economic growth,” which produced about 125,000 jobs per month, the economy has produced around 180,000 fewer jobs than the White House promised. A report by the center notes that just to keep pace with population growth, the economy would have to produce 140,000 jobs per month. The real “bottom line,” taking into account the 3.4 percent gain in population since March 2001, shows that the economy is 6.9 million jobs short of where it would be if payroll levels had remained steady. And, according to Treasury Secretary John Snow’s own projection, Bush will end his term with the worst jobs record since Herbert Hoover in the Great Depression.
“The economic policies of the Bush Administration,” economist Jeff Madrick observes, “have been about as crude and destructive a cocktail of stimulants–lavish income and estate tax cuts for upper-income Americans, elimination of taxes on dividends, stepped-up military and homeland security spending–as we have ever seen. The result is short-term growth and long-term damage…the administration’s policies will weaken the economy over time, fall particularly harshly on its working middle- and low-income citizens, and fail to prepare the nation for a century of far more intense global competition.”
“The test of our progress,” said Franklin Roosevelt, “is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.” But does this current President care that there are tens of millions in this country, many of them children, who have too little? And if Bush does care, is it conceivable that he believes the best way to feed, clothe, educate and care for them is through tax cuts that add to the abundance of the superrich? We may no longer be the country that Roosevelt saw as one-third “ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished,” but this holiday season Bush’s boast that America is on the right track rings hollow.