The numbers are in, and the president's own Bureau of Labor Statistics confirmed that George W. Bush will be the first chief exec since Herbert Hoover to end his term with fewer people working than when he took office. With a mere 96,000 jobs added in September, short of the 150,000 needed just to keep up with population growth and far short of the 306,000 a month that Bush promised his tax cuts would generate, he goes into the election having lost a net 940,000 jobs since the recession started in March 2001. Ironically, if government jobs are excluded from the totals, the record is even worse: Private-sector jobs are down 1.6 million since January 2001. The typical family has lost about $1,500 in real income since Bush's term began, Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) noted. In the past year, average wages have declined to the lowest share of gross domestic product since 1929. Increase in national debt during the Bush administration will require the average middle-class taxpayer to pay $21,068 more in taxes from 2001 to 2006, ADA figured. (See adaction.com.)
US planned job cuts also soared to an eight-month high, Reuters reported Oct. 5, as employment consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. said employers announced 107,863 layoffs in September, 41% more than in September 2003 and 45% more than in August of this year, when 74,150 were laid off. "Historically, the period from September 1 through December 31 is when we see the heaviest downsizing and this year appears to be on track to repeat that trend," said John Challenger, chief executive officer of the firm.
The survey of households, an alternative job count, offered no help for Bush partisans, as Max Sawicky noted that it actually showed a net loss of 200,000 jobs for September. The Economic Policy Institute (jobwatch.org) noted that the employment-to-population ratio in September 2004 (62.3%) was still lagging behind the 2001 pre-recession level (64.3%), as reported by the Cleveland Federal Reserve Board.
"The Bush administration called the tax cut package, which took effect in July 2003, its 'Jobs and Growth Plan,'" EPI noted. "The president's economics staff, the Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) ... projected that the plan 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. The CEA projected that the economy would generate 228,000 jobs a month without a tax cut and 306,000 jobs a month with the tax cut. Thus, it projected that 4,590,000 jobs would be created over the last 15 months. In reality, since the tax cuts took effect there are 2,882,000 fewer jobs than the administration projected would be created by enactment of its tax cuts. The September job growth of 96,000 fell 210,000 jobs short of the administration's projection. As can be seen ... job creation failed to meet the administration's projections in 13 of the past 15 months."
Sawicky acknowledged that the recession can't be blamed entirely on Bush, since factors making for the slowdown existed prior to his selection. "The real rap on Bush is what he did not do to reduce the severity of the employment slump. He did not focus tax relief on working people, and he did not ramp up domestic spending," Sawicky wrote. "The Bushies point to some good job growth numbers over the past year. This is like thanking someone for not hitting you over the head with a hammer, after pounding for a week. The president's job is to alleviate employment downturns, not take credit for inevitable business cycle recoveries that would happen in any event."
HARDBALL ON CORPORATE TAX BREAKS. Congress stayed in D.C. just long enough to pass a $137 billion corporate tax break bill, finally approved by the Senate Oct. 11 after wearing down a Democratic filibuster. The bill started as a repeal of $5 billion export subsidies that were ruled illegal by the World Trade Organization. But instead of simply repealing those subsidies, Congress larded the bill with new corporate tax breaks, despite record-high federal deficits and low corporate tax payments, for an array of special interests including General Electric, makers of bows and arrows and fishing tackle boxes, oil drillers, NASCAR track owners, cruise ship operators, brewers and distillers, foreign gamblers and importers of Chinese ceiling fans, plus expansion of the definition of "manufacturing activity" eligible for tax breaks. (See www.fairtaxes4all.org.) By the time the bill emerged from a conference committee it kept a $10 billion buyout of tobacco growers but lost a provision to regulate the tobacco industry that was part of the Senate compromise that let the bill originally be passed. Also stripped was an amendment by Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, to overturn the president's edict limiting overtime pay and $2 billion in tax credits for companies that keep paying employees who are called to active duty from military reserves and the National Guard. GOP leaders also reportedly stripped $1 billion in tax credits to movie studios in retaliation for the Motion Picture Association of America's recent hiring of Democrat Dan Glickman as president (although movie studios still got tax deductions worth $336 million). "All in all, the bill's a real collector's item of hard-ass Republican legislative tactics," wrote Sam Rosenfeld for Prospect.org.
BIZ FILES MORE 'FRIVOLOUS' LAWSUITS THAN CIVILIANS. George W. Bush says "frivolous lawsuits" and "trial lawyers" are a "threat to our economy" because they weigh down American businesses. But Public Citizen reports that, in fact, "American businesses file four times as many lawsuits as do individuals represented by trial attorneys, and they are penalized by judges much more often for pursuing frivolous litigation." A survey in four different states found that in 2001, businesses were 3.3 to 5.8 times more likely to file lawsuits than were individuals. The findings come as "businesses and politicians are campaigning to limit citizens' rights to sue over everything from medical malpractice damages to defective products. By way of comparison, the number of American consumers (281 million) outnumbers the number of businesses in America (7 million) by 40 times." (See www.citizen.org.)
YOUTH STILL FEEL DRAFTY. Republican leaders Oct 5 rushed a bill to the House floor without committee hearings or debate in an attempt to end speculation that the government plans a new military draft next year to back up its power play in the Middle East. The House overwhelmingly voted down "The Universal National Service Act," which would require Americans aged 18 to 26 to perform two years of national service in a military or civilian capacity, but Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., voted against his own bill because it had not been given serious consideration. The vote was denounced as a cynical stunt to provide political cover for Republicans but it shouldn't put to rest fears that a draft will be enacted next year. If anything it shows how a draft could be back in business practically overnight if the White House and congressional leadership back it. And as long as nearly 150,000 US troops are tied down in Iraq, a draft is inevitable. "[T]he draft &endash;- which will include both boys and girls this time around -- is a no-brainer in '05 and '06," retired Col. David Hackworth wrote in his syndicated column. And if Republicans are still in control of Congress, the next draft won't have the good elements of Rangel's plan. Young Americans already must register for the draft but there has been no callup since 1973.
'PATRIOT 2' ADDED TO INTEL 'REFORM.' The House on Oct. 8 passed an intelligence "reform" bill that threatens more civil liberties. According to the Center for Democracy and Technology (cdt.org), HR 10 would expand intelligence wiretaps of individuals; steps toward creation of a massive travel history database on all citizens; allows no fewer than three intelligence and law enforcement information to share systems, without privacy protections; removes limits on CIA domestic spying; allows grand jury testimony to be shared with foreign governments; and gives private employer access to FBI criminal history databases without privacy safeguards. The American Civil Liberties Union (aclu.org) noted that the bill also would authorize indefinite, and potentially lifelong, detention of terror suspects who might be sent to foreign countries for torture. The bill also would weaken judicial review for immigrants and explicitly forbids, in some cases, access to the constitutionally-mandated "Great Writ" of habeas corpus. Drawn up by House Republicans with little input from Democrats, the bill was approved on 282-134 vote after an amendment offered by Rep. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) that would have removed many of the civil liberties concerns was rejected on a vote of 213 to 203. The House bill differs greatly from the bipartisan Senate version (S 2845), adopted 96-2 on Oct. 6. The Senate bill would provide an independent Civil Liberties Board with subpoena power and public reporting responsibilities; a requirement of privacy guidelines before the administration can launch an information sharing network; and an inspector general to keep tabs on the new national intelligence director. The ACLU noted that several commissioners and the Family Steering Committee of 9/11 victims had raised serious concerns about many of the superfluous law enforcement and immigration provisions in the House bill.
TV EXECS ORDER ANTI-KERRY PROPAGANDA. Bush-backing Sinclair Broadcast Group, whose 62 TV stations reach nearly a quarter of the nation's homes, is ordering its stations to pre-empt regular programming days before the Nov. 2 election to air a film, Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal, that attacks Sen. John Kerry's activism against the war, the Los Angeles Times reported Oct. 9. The company owns stations in swing states such as Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin. Some liberals suggested a boycott of advertisers on Sinclair stations. Steve Soto of TheLeftCoaster.com suggests that Democrats also protest Sinclair license renewals at the Federal Communications Commission. Soto noted that anyone who has an interest in the renewal of a TV license may file an informal objection or a more formal petition. Upcoming deadlines to file objections or petitions are Nov. 1 for Sinclair stations in Asheville, Greensboro and Raleigh, N.C., and Charleston, S.C., Jan. 1 for stations in Pensacola, Tallahassee and Tampa, Fla., and March 1 for Birmingham, Ala. (For more on boycotts, license objections and other responses to Sinclair, see this Dispatch at www.populist.com.
D'S SEEK DELAY PROBE. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on Oct. 8 called for a special counsel to look into Majority Leader Tom DeLay's role in a Texas political action committee whose leaders were charged with illegally funneling corporate money into Texas legislative campaigns. Republicans immediately set the resolution aside on a party-line vote. The House ethics committee issued four admonishments of DeLay but deferred action on allegations regarding the Texans for a Republican Majority Political Action Committee. A state grand jury in Austin recently indicted three men associated with TRMPAC and with DeLay, but the majority leader has said he played no role in the PAC's daily operations. However, the Houston Chronicle on Oct. 7 reported that "a newly obtained memo indicates" that DeLay had "personal involvement" in some of TRMPAC's key decisions. A new grand jury in Austin is said to be continuing that investigation.
RIGHTEOUS BUT UNCHURCHED. George W. Bush holds himself forth as a devout man of faith. But Amy Sullivan writes in the Oct. 11 The New Republic that Bush does not go to church regularly. "[E]very so often, he drops in on the little Episcopal church across Lafayette Park from the White House. But the president who has staked much of his domestic agenda on the argument that religious communities hold the key to solving social problems doesn't belong to a congregation." During Jimmy Carter's four years in the White House, she noted, he found time not only to attend a Baptist church in the Washington, D.C., area, but taught Sunday school there as well. The Clintons were members of the same Foundry United Methodist Church that Sullivan attended during the late 1990s when Bill Clinton was president. "The only imposition was the extra ten seconds it took to walk through a metal detector," she wrote. "For a presidential delegator like Bush -- who has freed up enough time to spend approximately one-third of his presidency on vacation -- finding a few hours for church should be a snap." She finds it remarkable that political reporters have scrutinized the churchgoing habits of John Kerry, a devout Roman Catholic, but leave Bush's lack of churchgoing unreported.
DIEBOLD LOSES COPYRIGHT COVERUP. College students who called the bluff of Diebold Election Systems in a copyright case won their lawsuit against the voting machine maker on Sept. 30. A California judge ruled that the company had misused the Digital Millennium Copyright Act last year when it claimed that posting Diebold internal memos discussing problems with electronic voting machines infringed the company's copyright. The judge ruled that the company knowingly misrepresented that students infringed the company's copyright. He ordered the company to pay damages and fees to two students and a nonprofit internet service provider, Online Policy Group. Last October, students at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania posted copies and links to some 13,000 internal Diebold company memos that an anonymous source had leaked to Wired.com. The memos suggested that Diebold was aware of security flaws in its voting system when it sold the system to states. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, which took on the case for the Online Policy Group, argued that the memos were an important part of the public debate on e-vote systems.
NO CASH FOR YOU! The Center for Strategic and International Studies' Postconflict Reconstruction Project analyzed where Iraqi reconstruction money goes and why so little of it seems to reach Iraqi hands, Matthew Yglesias noted at Prospect.org. Congress has appropriated $18.4 billion in reconstruction money, of which about 95% is unspent. Of the remaining $1 billion that has been spent, 30% goes to security, 15% to "corruption/fraud/mismanagement," 12% to "other" costs, 10% to the Coalition Provisional Authority and US embassy overhead, and 6% to profit for subcontractors. "A mere 27% -- $270 million out of an $18.4 billion appropriation -- actually gets into Iraqi hands," Yglesias writes. "And for some reason the whole 'hearts and minds' thing isn't going so well. It's hard to imagine why."
REVISED CASUALTY COUNT. Sam Smith, editor of *Progressive Review (prorev.com), was "deeply moved" when Dick Cheney lectured John Edwards during the recent vice presidential debate that the casualties of Iraqi allies should be recognized as part of the "coalition." Smith wrote: "We agree that not only has Edwards been deficient in this regard but so have we. We shall henceforth operate on the Cheney principle and count not just the casualties of America and its invading allies, but those of the Iraqi people, both military and civilian, as well. We trust other media will follow suit and that readers, out of respect towards the vice president, will urge them to do so." The current count of coalition casualties, Smith wrote, using the lower estimates in case of conflicting calculations: Deaths (military and civilian): 19,068; wounded: 47,413.
AFL-CIO TRACKS OFFSHORING. The AFL-CIO labor federation has created a new database to track companies that move jobs offshore or that have to lay-off workers for trade-related reasons. The "Job Tracker" is searchable by zip code, company or industry. The site also provides a means for visitors to write the president and congressional representatives to encourage them to stop the offshoring of American jobs. See www.workingamerica.org.