John Kerry accused George Bush of "another broken promise" to take care of seniors after the White House, late on the Friday afternoon of Labor Day weekend, announced a 17.5% increase in Medicare premiums, the largest percentage jump in 15 years. "The president has raised, one day after he said he was going to protect Medicare, historically the price of Medicare for seniors," Kerry told the Des Moines Register (9/5/04). "I attribute it to another broken promise by President Bush and to the bad policies of this administration because they haven't dealt with Medicare costs." The Bush administration announced that monthly premiums for Medicare Part B, the federal supplemental health-insurance program for 42 million elderly and disabled Americans, will increase by $11.60 -- $140 a year -- in 2005. The increase will be particularly painful because Social Security payments are expected to rise by less than 3%. Bush campaign aides accused Kerry of contributing to higher health-care costs by opposing medical liability reform.
But Texas patients have not seen lower health costs a year after the state put limits on medical liability of the sort Bush is proposing nationally. With limits on damages injured patients could recover from doctors and hospitals in state courts, a precipitous drop in medical lawsuits has resulted in lower costs for hospitals and insurance companies, but the Austin Chronicle (auschron.com, 9/3/04) reported that those savings have gone to higher profits for corporations will doctors have seen little of the savings and victims of malpractice can't find lawyers to take their cases. Reporter Michael King wrote of Austin lawyer Oscar San Miguel, who specializes in medical malpractice but has turned away half a dozen potential clients this year not because of lack of evidence, but because even had they won their lawsuits, he couldn't assure them sufficient recovery to make the effort worthwhile when total liability for "noneconomic damages" for an incident cannot exceed $750,000. That might sound like a lot, but it can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to develop a complicated malpractice case, with no assurance that the attorney will recover those costs. "Talking about it in objective economic terms sounds really cold," San Miguel said. "But I can't get to a jury without research or medical experts, and that can cost $100,000 to $200,000 a case. If I can't show future economic damages, and the noneconomic damages are capped, I've got to look at whether my client is going to receive anything at their end."
MODEST JOB GROWTH STILL FALLS SHORT. The Bush administration, desperate for good economic news, expressed pride that 144,000 jobs were added in August after two months of very weak growth -- 73,000 in July and 96,000 in June. The August jobs kept pace with the growth in the labor force but it was still far below the number promised when Bush promoted tax breaks for the wealthy last year. The official unemployment rate dropped to 5.4%, from 5.5% in July, mainly because many people stopped looking for work. The president's Council of Economic Advisers had predicted that the tax cuts would result in the creation of 5.5 million jobs by the end of 2004 -- 306,000 new jobs each month, starting in July 2003. In reality, the tax cuts have fallen 2,668,000 jobs short over the past 14 months. The job recovery from the recession that started in March 2001 is the weakest since the 1930s, the Economic Policy Institute reported, as one million jobs have disappeared from the US economy. If job growth had been at the pace of other post-war business cycles (a 5.5% growth by the 41st month), then over 7 million new jobs would have been created by now.
An EPI analysis of new census data showed employer-provided health insurance coverage fell between 2002 and 2003, continuing its decline since 2000. In 2003, 56.4% of workers who worked at least 20 hours per week and 26 weeks per year received employer-provided health insurance, down from 57.3% the year before and down 2.5 percentage points since 2000. Workers earning lower wages are significantly less likely to have employer-provided health coverage than workers earning higher wages. In 2003, 77.8% of workers in the highest quintile of income had employer-provided health insurance, whereas only 24.9% of workers in the lowest quintile did. See EPI's Jobwatch.org.
REVISIONIST ECONOMICS. Republican convention speakers tried to excuse Bush's poor economic record by suggesting that the president "inherited" an economy in shambles, a "Clinton recession." California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared that "under President Bush and Vice President Cheney, America's economy is moving ahead in spite of a recession they inherited and in spite of the attack on our homeland." Rep. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, sounded the same theme: "Let's remember where we have been," he told the delegates. "This president inherited an economy spiraling into recession, and already losing jobs in states like Ohio." Donald Evans, the secretary of commerce, held a press conference on Sept. 1, at which he, too, blamed Clinton. "The president inherited a Clinton recession and turned it into the early stages of Bush prosperity," Evans said. But Farhad Manjoo of Salon.com noted that many of us remember the Clinton years as a time of unparalleled prosperity when 22 million people found new jobs and the federal government took in record surpluses in tax revenue.
Citing the National Bureau of Economic Research, the private, nonpartisan research group responsible for tracking the official peaks and troughs of the US economy, Manjoo noted that the economy began to contract in March of 2001, two months after Bush was inaugurated; the recession marked the end of the longest period of economic expansion in US history. Under Clinton, in 1999 alone more than 3 million new jobs were added to the economy. In 2000, the year in which Portman says the country was "spiraling into recession," almost 2 million new jobs were created in America. "Most would consider those numbers a fairly robust inheritance," Manjoo wrote. "And contrast those numbers with employment data during Bush's presidency: About 1.8 million jobs were lost in 2001. Five hundred thousand jobs were lost in 2002. And 61,000 jobs were lost in 2003. It's true that since then, about a million people have found new jobs -- but during the Clinton years, there were a million new jobs added every couple months."
ODD MEMORIES. In the fantasy world that was Madison Square Guardian during GOP week, Arnold Schwarzenegger praised Richard Nixon and called Hubert Humphrey a socialist. He claimed that as a kid he "saw the socialist country that Austria became after the Soviets left" in 1955, although Austria was occupied by US, British, French and Soviet forces after the war and Austria was ruled by conservatives from 1945 until 1970, well after he moved to the USA.
Rudy Giuliani, known as a petty tyrant during his first 7-3/4 years as mayor, achieved hero status in the rubble of the World Trade Center when he showed up while Bush was flying around the country looking for a place to hide. But at the convention, Giuliani got the most applause when he improbably claimed that, in the chaos, "spontaneously, I grabbed the arm of then-police commissioner Bernard Kerik and said to Bernie, 'Thank God George Bush is our president.'" Later on CNN's Larry King Live, Giuliani insisted the quote wasn't created for the convention and said he'd told the stories many times before. But a check of the Nexis electronic database for 2001-2003 shows no newspapers or magazines reporting the anecdote or Giuliani ever telling the story on a TV show. The first time the anecdote was reported was this spring ... at a Bush fundraiser, Eric Boehlert reported at Salon.com. Bob Somerby from Dailyhowler.com noted that Giuliani told a similar "Thank God" story on the Dec. 23, 2001, Meet the Press. But in that exchange, Giuliani suggested he told Kerik, "Thank God [Bush] is here" on Sept. 14, not Sept. 11.
GOP MOCKS WOUNDED VETS. Vietnam Veterans of American complained that delegates to the Republican National Convention who passed out and wore "Purple Heart" band-aids mocked veterans who were wounded in service to their country. "To demean the decoration and the sacrifice it symbolizes demeans all veterans and the patriots who honor them," said Thomas H. Corey, national president of the group. "With our nation's sons and daughters at war to protect global freedom, demeaning military service in this way is especially hurtful. Vietnam Veterans of America urges all Americans to decry this type of outrageous, disrespectful, and infantile behavior." See vva.org.
IN-LAW: W SNORTED COKE AT CAMP DAVID. Muckraking author Kitty Kelley writes that George W. Bush snorted cocaine at Camp David when his father was president. According to the London Mirror, Kelley says in her new biography The Family: The Real Story of the Bush Dynasty, that Bush first used coke at university in the mid-1960s, but former sister-in-law Sharon Bush claimed: "Bush did coke at Camp David when his father was president, and not just once either." The elder Bush was president from 1989 to 1993. Other acquaintances told Kelley that as a 26-year-old National Guard pilot, Bush "liked to sneak out back for a joint [of marijuana] or into the bathroom for a line of cocaine." Bush has admitted being an alcoholic but, asked before the 2000 election if he did drugs, he said: "I've told the American people that years ago I made some mistakes. I've learned from my mistakes and should I be fortunate enough to become president I will bring dignity and honor to the office." An aide later clarified Bush's remarks saying Bush hadn't taken illegal drugs in the past 25 years.
Susan Estrich, Michael Dukakis' campaign manager in 1988, wrote in a syndicated column that many of her Democratic friends have had it with the lies told about Kerry and are putting together their own independent money to fight fire with fire. George Bush could find himself confronted with "Former Female Friends for Truth," among other possibilities, she said, adding that Kelley's book also "raises questions about whether Bush has practiced what he preaches on abortion. As Larry Flynt discovered, a million dollars loosens lips. Are there others to be loosened?" Flynt claimed in October 2000 that Bush was "involved in an abortion in Texas" in the early 1970s -- when abortions were still illegal. The woman for whom Bush allegedly arranged the abortion reportedly won't talk, but Flynt claimed he had affidavits from four of her former girlfriends. "It could be a long and ugly road to November," Estrich warned.
SENATOR: 9/11-SAUDI PROBE BLOCKED. Two of the 9/11 hijackers had a support network in the US that included agents of the Saudi government, but the Bush administration and FBI blocked a congressional investigation into that relationship, Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla., writes in a new book. The discovery of the financial backing of the two hijackers ''would draw a direct line between the terrorists and the government of Saudi Arabia, and trigger an attempted coverup by the Bush administration,'' Graham wrote in Intelligence Matters, the Miami Herald reported Sept. 5. Some details of that financial support from Saudi Arabia were in the 27 pages of the congressional inquiry's final report that were blocked from release by the administration, despite the pleas of leaders of both parties on the House and Senate intelligence committees.
Graham also revealed that Gen. Tommy Franks told him on Feb. 19, 2002, just four months after the invasion of Afghanistan, that many important resources -- including Predator drone aircraft crucial to the search for Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda leaders -- were being shifted to prepare for a war against Iraq. Graham recalled a conversation at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa when Franks, then head of Central Command, told him, "Senator, we are not engaged in a war in Afghanistan. ... Military and intelligence personnel are being redeployed to prepare for an action in Iraq.'' Graham concluded: "Gen. Franks' mission -- which, as a good soldier, he was loyally carrying out -- was being downgraded from a war to a manhunt.'' Graham was chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee from June 2001 through the buildup to the Iraq war. He voted against the war resolution because he saw Iraq as a diversion that would hinder the fight against al-Qaeda terrorism.
BUSH ABUSES CHILD? George Bush thinks of the US as if it were a 10-year-old child, White House chief of staff Andy Card told delegates to the RNC. "''It struck me as I was speaking to people in Bangor, Maine, that this president sees America as we think about a 10-year-old child," Card said. ''I know as a parent I would sacrifice all for my children." Kerry's campaign criticized Card's remark as condescending. "Any parent that ran a household the way George W. Bush runs the country would find themselves in bankruptcy court on the way to family court," said Phil Singer, a Kerry spokesman.
BUSH GUARD FILE MISSING RECORDS. Documents that should have been written to explain gaps in George Bush's Texas Air National Guard service are missing from the military records released about his service in 1972 and 1973, the Associated Press reported Sept. 5. For example, Air National Guard regulations required commanders to write an investigative report for the Air Force when Bush missed his annual medical exam in 1972. Commanders also were required to confirm in writing that Bush received counseling after missing five months of drills. No such records have been made public and the government told The Associated Press in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit that it has released all records it can find. AP identified five categories of records that should have been generated after Bush skipped his pilot's physical and missed five months of training. "Each of these actions by any member of the National Guard should have generated the creation of many documents that have yet to be produced," AP lawyer David Schulz wrote the Justice Department Aug. 26.
GOP THINS VOTER ROLLS. A nationwide survey by In These Times (inthesetimes.com, 9/20/04) shows a pattern of Republican election officials erecting barriers against young and minority voters who tend to vote Democratic. Minnesota Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer ordered that every would-be voter in the state show an ID reflecting an "exact match" to the file of names, driver's license numbers and dates of birth circulated by her office, barring voters who encounter errors in the information about them on Kiffmeyer's official list. A judge rejected Kiffmeyer's ID match requirement in a July 22 ruling but let stand a cumbersome voter-registration form that deters would-be applicants. In St. Paul's Ramsey County, more than a third of 6,500 completed forms submitted earlier this year contained errors and were rejected. In Missouri, US Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., who had pushed for provisions in the federal Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA) that stiffened ID requirements involving new registrants and voters across the nation, found his name was struck from records in the aggressive purging of state voter lists. Bond had to produce a photo ID and voter ID card in order to vote in the August primary. New Hampshire Republicans suppressed student turnout in 2002, took full control of state government and in the next session, on strict party-line votes, pushed through a sweeping bill to limit access to voting and toughen sanctions for fraud. "It is simply not right to allow college students to have any say in our elections in New Hampshire," Republican House Speaker Gene Chandler said. A similar law in Michigan cut voter rolls by 10% in East Lansing and 8% in Ann Arbor and already claimed one high-profile casualty: Democrat Dianne Byrum lost her race for Congress to conservative Mike Rogers by 88 votes in a district that included the liberal college town of East Lansing. And in Florida, following in the footsteps of predecessor Katherine Harris, Secretary of State Glenda Hood wanted to pare 47,000 supposed felons from the state voter lists but tried to keep the list secret. After a judge ordered the list to be made public, newspapers disclosed that Hood's list wrongly excluded hundreds of Latino felons, who in Florida often back GOP candidates, while it included hundreds of African-American felons who had won restoration of their voting rights. Gov. Jeb Bush retracted the list.
BUSH DONORS TIED TO SWIFT BOAT DEBACLE. Five Bush donor-appointees have ties to the $40-million federal contract that one of John Kerry's Swift Boat critics helped land from the Bush administration this year. The Washington Post reported Aug. 31 that a key critic of Kerry's war record, Rear Admiral William L. Schachte Jr., was one of the Blank Rome lobbyists who helped FastShip land a $40 million federal contract this year. Schachte countered official accounts of the incident that resulted in one of Kerry's three Purple Heart awards. Schachte said Kerry was not wounded by enemy fire that day in 1968 and that Schachte, not Kerry, commanded the Swift Boat in question. Three of Schachte's Blank Rome colleagues are elite donors who have raised $100,000 or more for Bush's reelection campaign. Bush has rewarded all three of these elite donors with federal appointments. Another Bush donor, Manuel Stamatakis, spearheaded Philadelphia's efforts to raise funds for a FastShip terminal as chair of the Delaware River Port Authority until last year. FastShip has asked the US Department of Transportation's Maritime Administration (MARAD), headed by elite Bush donor William Schubert, to guarantee $751 million in loans to that company. The agency is notorious for spending millions of tax dollars on shipping boondoggles, Texans for Public Justice reported. For example, MARAD subsidies to Enron -- where Schubert once served as a paid consultant -- cost taxpayers more than $120 million. See profiles of elite Bush donors see tpj.org.
BUSH TWINS STIFF HELP. The New York Post's Page Six reported that after the notorious Bush twins spoke at the RNC they spent all night Wednesday drinking at the Manhattan club Avalon, and then stiffed the help. As the Post reports, "They [and their entourage of about 25] drank $4,500 dollars worth of drinks -- bottles and bottles of vodka,' says a club insider. 'Then, having been comped all the alcohol, they left a $48 tip. We thought 1% was kind of outrageous, considering they are the president's daughters.'"
POLL TACKS. After the RNC, Time and Newsweek came out with polls showing Bush with a double-digit lead over Kerry, although critics noted that both polls "appeared to be heavily weighted toward Republicans, which makes the survey analysis more of an art than a science. Other polls showed Bush with a more nominal lead of a few percentage points. However, Rasmussen, whose daily tracking poll showed Bush leading Kerry 49-45 after the convention, also found that only 21% of Americans believe that the UN is an ally of the US in the war on terror and 27% believe that France is an enemy in the war on terror. France, by the way, is among the NATO countries that are providing troops to support the US in Afghanistan, which unlike Iraq actually provided support for al Qaeda before 9/11.
OWNERSHIP SOCIETY did better under Bill Clinton, Salon.com found (9/2/04). Republicans "talked up a storm about rising home ownership rates under the Bush administration. Bush was half right when he said in his acceptance speech that, 'thanks to our policies, home ownership in America is at an all-time high.' While it's true that the percentage of Americans who own their own homes (69.2%) is at a record high, it's hard to attribute that to the current Republican leadership -- the rate has increased every year since 1993, and in fact, grew faster on average during the Clinton administration. According to the US Census Bureau, When Clinton came into office, homeownership stood at 63.7%. Clinton left office with home ownership up 3.8% to 67.5%. Under Bush, it's gone up 1.7%. In fact, since the mid 1960s, home ownership has typically gone up no matter who's in office, though a couple of presidents -- both Republican -- proved an exception: During the 12 years Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush were in office, ownership rates dropped 1.2%."
LABOR BRITS SUPPORT KERRY. Remember when Republicans ridiculed John Kerry for suggesting that some of America's key allies were hoping he would beat Bush? It seemed self-evident at the time, but the London Guardian reported Sept. 1 that, despite the government's official neutrality, Kerry supporters in the US have been told by Peter Hain, who sits in Tony Blair's cabinet as leader of the House of Commons, that the Labor prime minister is hoping the Democrat wins the presidential election.