The nation's MBA president bragged March 6 that "the economy is getting stronger," but you couldn't tell it from the previous day's Labor Department report, which showed only 21,000 new jobs were created in February instead of the 300,000 forecast by the White House. And the job gains were entirely due to government hiring. The Labor Department also downgraded job gains previously stated for January, from 112,000 to 97,000.
More than 2.2M jobs have been lost since Bush took office, the greatest sustained job loss since the Great Depression. Since the official end of the recession in November 2001, total jobs have shrunk by 700,000 and private-sector jobs have dropped by 900,000. But the official jobless rate stayed at 5.6% in February because 392,000 became discouraged and joined the 2.4M people who have stopped looking for work. If those missing workers are taken into account, the unemployment rate is 7.4% (see jobwatch.org). According to the Economic Policy Institute and National Employment Law Project, 22.1% of unemployed US workers have been out of work for more than six months. And many of them are highly skilled; college graduates represent 15.3% of the unemployed and 19.1% of long-term unemployed. Workers in manufacturing are the largest share of the long-term unemployed (19%) as it increasingly looks as if Bush's tax cuts to the rich have gone to finance outsourcing of factory jobs to the Far East.
Sen. Hillary Clinton, at the annual Gridiron Club dinner in D.C., joked at how the White House could spin the depressing news: "In the Clinton administration, we used to say in eight years, we've added more than 22 million new jobs," she said. "You guys could say: 'Since 1993, our country has created 19 million new jobs.'"
The Brookings Institute and the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities detailed the failure of the current round of tax cuts to provide true economic stimulus, and warned that extending the tax cuts through 2014 could destabilize the economy. Data shows that the tax cuts now in place played only a modest role in the current economic recovery, which is reflected mainly in the stock markets as corporations profit from outsourcing of jobs to low-wage factories overseas. In fact, just eight days after its Council of Economic Advisors announced that robust job growth was "just around the corner" and promised 3.6M new jobs by the end of the year, the White House distanced Bush from that forecast. Analysts are also concerned that interest rates will rise as a result of the huge projected deficits due to the new round of tax cuts, but that didn't stop Fed Chairman Al Greenspan from advising homeowners to switch their mortgages to variable-rates, a move that could prove disastrous if those rates start going up.
"Americans everywhere are coming to the realization that the extension of the Bush tax cuts will benefit a few at the expense of many," MovingIdeas.org reported. "The huge revenue shortfall that would be caused by a new round of tax cuts threatens a wide range of government programs -- in areas ranging from education to health care and social security to the environmental protection. And there is fear that the economy will be crippled by deficits for generation to come. As a result, some are taking action." The Fair Taxes For All Coalition (FTFA), an organization of over 325 national, state, and local groups dedicated to tax justice, recently began a nationwide resolution campaign that calls on state and local governments, as well as organizations such as unions, parent-teacher associations, churches and universities, to pass resolutions demanding a halt to local budget cuts and "no more tax breaks for millionaires." Resolutions condemning further tax breaks for the very wealthy have already passed in Detroit, Mich., Ithaca, N.Y., and Berkeley, Calif. On Feb. 17-18, the FTFA worked with community and labor leaders in Spokane, Portland, and Eugene, Ore., to respond to visits to the Pacific Northwest by three Bush Cabinet members. The FTFA plans to organize other such "rapid responses" to challenge traveling administration officials and their proposed solutions to our economic woes -- tax cuts, tax cuts, and more tax cuts. See www.fairtaxesforall.org
ELECTORAL MAP FAVORS KERRY. John Kerry's election prospects look good, pollster John Zogby tells Barrons magazine's Howard Gold. Kerry is ahead in 18 of the "Blue states" that Gore won in 2000 (including D.C.), representing 226 electoral votes, while George Bush "eads in 21 "Red states," with 176 electoral votes." Bush does not lead in any of the states Gore won in 2000. Twelve states, with 136 electoral votes, are considered "in play." They are Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, Ohio, Oregon, Tennessee, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. If Zogby's current estimate holds, all Kerry needs to do is take Ohio and Florida to pass the 270-vote threshold and win the presidency. (A Miami Herald/St. Petersburg Times poll published March 7 showed Kerry leading there 49%-43%.) Bush "would seem to have an uphill battle here, if things continue as they are now," Gold wrote, "Because only four of the states that we list as 'in play' (Minnesota, Wisconsin, Oregon and Washington) were Blue states in 2000 ... That suggests the Democratic presidential candidate is holding his base of support better than the president is, allowing Senator Kerry to peel off a couple of the paler Red states from the president's column."
'SASSY' DASCHLE GETS TOUGH. Republicans planned to pull Sen. John Kerry and vulnerable Democrats into cultural wars over gay rights, abortion and guns, envisioning a series of debates and votes that would highlight the candidates' positions on divisive issues, GOP officials told the Washington Post March 2, but the first outing didn't go so well. Senate Republicans were set to pass a controversial bill excluding gun manufacturers and sellers from liability lawsuits March 2 until Democrats and moderate Republicans loaded down the bill with amendments to extend the assault-weapons ban and close the gun show loophole. That caused Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, to turn around and call for the bill's defeat, which occurred 90-8. Freshman Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-Tenn., blamed Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., for his handling of the voting. "I've found myself in awkward positions before, but it's awkward to vote your own bill down," Graham told Roll Call magazine March 4. Sponsor Craig blamed Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., for not working to get a clean bill passed. Craig attributed the problematic amendments to "presidential politics." Other Republicans told Roll Call they feared that the election campaign will make it difficult for the Senate GOP majority to get anything done. Daschle, who was called "sassy and spanky" by a GOP aide, has been refusing to let the Senate send legislation to conference committees with the House to protest being excluded from conference committees in GOP power plays last year.
BUSH EYES '05 DRAFT? As Bush turns increasingly to National Guard and Reserves and involuntarily extends enlistments to maintain troop levels in Iraq, Afghanistan and other hot spots, critics fear that Bush, if re-elected, will turn to a military draft next year. The Selective Service already has allocated $28M to reduce activation time from the current 8 months to 75 days by March 31, 2005, a democraticunderground.com poster notes. If Bush asks Congress next April 1 to reinstate conscription, the first draft lottery could be June 15, 2005. Also activated would be a medical draft and special skills draft, which would allow induction of men and women up to age 44 if they have skills such as computer expertise, engineering or languages. John Kerry has stated he would increase the army by two divisions -- 40,000 soldiers -- without a draft. See democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=view_all&address=104x1184247 for citations.
ROOTS OF 'NEW GILDED AGE.' Fellow Alabama National Guardsmen might not remember young George Bush, but Yoshi Tsurumi, recalls teaching Bush at Harvard Business School 30 years ago. Now professor of international business at Baruch College, City University of New York, he writes in the essay "President George Bush and the Gilded Age" at glocom.org, "In my class, he declared that 'people are poor because they are lazy. He was opposed to labor unions, social security, environmental protection, Medicare and public schools. To him, the antitrust watch dog, the Federal Trade Commission, and the Securities Exchange Commission were unnecessary hindrances to 'free market competition.' To him, Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal was 'socialism.' Recently, President Bush's federal appeals court nominee, California's Supreme Court Justice Janice Brown, repeated the same broadside at her Senate hearing. She knew that her pronouncement would please President Bush and Karl Rove and their senators. President Bush and his brain, Karl Rove, are leading a radical revolution of destroying all the democratic political, social, judiciary and economic institutions that both Democrats and moderate Republicans had built together since Roosevelt's New Deal."
MORE E-VOTE GLITCHES. Nearly 10 million people are voting via computer this primary season and one in five US voters will pick the president this November by electronic means, but MotherJones.com reported that some of the six million Californians who tried it for the March 2 primary found machines that didn't boot up and coding software that failed to match votes with those who cast them. Problems plagued 10% of e-vote machines in San Diego County and faulty machines in the Bay Area's Alameda County drove one in six voters away. Poll workers found programs they were called upon to administer weren't the ones they'd been trained for and encoding problems omitted propositions from some ballots. And the Los Angeles Times reported March 9 that thousands of Orange County voters were given wrong ballots and in at least 21 precincts more ballots were recorded than there were registered voters. Because of steps taken to ensure voter secrecy, and the lack of a paper trail, an exact account of miscast ballots is impossible.
Congress pledged $3.9 billion through the Help America Vote Act in 2002 for states to phase out punch-cards and lever voting booths and make voting easier for the elderly and disabled, but MotherJones.com noted that electronic voting systems have proven no more more reliable than paper ballots. Touch-screen machines used in a Florida county election failed to register 134 votes in a race won by just 12 ballots. E-vote kinks were encountered in Georgia and Maryland. And several recent studies have found security flaws that could allow hackers to break into machines and alter voting data undetected. California is demanding that within two years all voting kiosks print a paper receipt. US Rep. Rush Holt's bill demanding the same nationwide has strong support from Democrats and a few Republicans but is bottled up by the GOP leadership in the House of Representatives.
ONE LIB NETWORK ON, ANOTHER OUT. A new liberal talk radio network will take the air March 31 with talk shows featuring Al Franken, Janeane Garofalo, South Florida phenom Randi Rhodes and possibly Robert Kennedy Jr. New York City's WLIB-AM 1190 is flagship for Air America, as the network will be known. Centralairmedia.com, Air America's website, said the network will be up and running March 31 but offers few other details. Backers hope it will play a role in the presidential elections, the New York Post reported March 3. The network has also leased WNTD AM 950 in Chicago, Radio Ink magazine reported, and it is negotiating with stations in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Philadelphia and Boston, the Boston Globe reported.
Meanwhile, United Auto Workers on Feb. 27 shut down I.E. America Radio, which offered liberal talk in about 100 smaller markets. UAW officials declined to talk about the demise of the Detroit-based network, but the Detroit Free Press reported in December that approximately 20 full- and part-time workers were to lose their jobs as union officials tired of losing a reported $75,000 a month. The UAW effort started in 1996, when the union, led by the late Stephen Yokich, bought part of the United Broadcasting Network for $5 million. The network at its peak had approximately 100 affiliates nationwide but they were mostly AM stations in small and mid-sized markets as media corporations that control big-city radio stations refused to air the liberal talkers. The Free Press reported that current UAW President Ton Gettelfiner shut down the operation because of its operating losses.
HOUSE DEADLOCK SCENARIO. If the Electoral College deadlocks at 269-269 (say, Kerry holds the Gore states plus N.H. and W.V.), the election is thrown to the House of Representatives, where each delegation gets a single vote, Dailykos.com notes. Currently, 30 states have Republican-majority delegations, 15 have Democratic-led delegations, four deadlocked and S.D. vacant. If split delegations vote their state's presidential vote, D's win in MN and WI and Texas is Republican-dominated, as expected after redistricting, the tally will be 32-17.
A Stephanie Herseth win in SD would put Dems at 32-18. Taking Billy Tauzin's LA seat in a special election following his resignation would give Dems the Louisiana delegation; the score is then 31-19. Colorado already had two top-40 races targeting Republican incumbents before Sen. Ben Campbell announced his retirement, which not only gives Dems a takeover opportunity in the Senate but might draw Republican congress members into the Senate race. "We get those, and it's 30-20." Connecticut has one targeted GOP incumbent, Georgia has 2-3 targeted Republicans, Indiana has at least two at-risk Republicans, New Mexico has two targeted races. Win all those, and the difference is 26-24. Pick up an improbable seat in Illinois to take over that delegation and the House is deadlocked 25-25.
"So if the impossible happened and everything broke the Dems' way, we'd whittle down a 30-15 disadvantage to parity," Kos wrote. "And all hell would break loose in the House. At that point, in-district dynamics would play a large role in determining the president. But as noted, nearly every targeted race in CO, CT, GA, IL, IN, LA, NM and SD would have to break our way just to deadlock the House down partisan lines." So the moral of the story? "Let's win those seats to at least make things interesting in the House. But realistically? Kerry better get more than 269."
STERN REBUKE FOR BUSH BASHING. Officials at Clear Channel Communications were shocked to learn that Howard Stern's syndicated morning show was "vulgar, offensive and insulting," so they yanked his show off their far-flung radio network Feb. 26 -- just a few days after he started trashing Bush. "I gotta tell you something," Stern told his listeners on non-Clear Channel stations, after getting the heave-ho, according to Salon.com. "There's a lot of people saying that the second that I started saying, 'I think we gotta get Bush out of the presidency,' that's when Clear Channel banged my ass outta here. Then I find out that Clear Channel is such a big contributor to President Bush, and in bed with the whole Bush administration, I'm going, 'Maybe that's why I was thrown off: because I don't like the way the country is leaning too much to the religious right.' And then, bam! Let's get rid of Stern. I used to think, 'Oh, I can't believe that.' But that's it! That's what's going on here! I know it! I know it!" Two other talkers -- Roxanne Walker of South Carolina and Charles Boyette of Phoenix, Ariz., also claim Clear Channel fired them last year for criticizing the invasion of Iraq. Clear Channel owns more than 1,200 stations nationwide and its executives have close ties with Bush, but the media company insists it has no political agenda.
FLORIDA ELECTION MONITORS SOUGHT. Pax Christi USA, the national Catholic peace and justice movement, is seeking to bring interntaional election monitors to observe the November elections in Florida in an attempt to make the democratic process transparent and free of the kind of controversy witnessed in the 2000 election. Pax Christi USA Executive Director Dave Robinson said that the purpose of the election monitors is to ensure that every vote and every voter is counted in 2004. "Following the 2000 elections, when so many, especially people of color and the poor, were denied participation in our common life as a nation, when their basic rights were denied and they were treated without respect, we are obligated to assure that such a situation does not repeat itself," Robinson said. "We believe that an election watched by 'the eyes of the world' is an important component in assuring a fair and just election." Pax Christi USA's membership includes over 130 US Catholic bishops, 600 religious communities and 700 churches in the US. See paxchristiusa.org.
TIMBER-FIGHTING DA SURVIVES RECALL. A new prosecutor fighting the timber industry in California redwood country survived a tough recall race March 2. Maxxam Corp./Pacific Lumber funded the recall campaign after Humboldt County District Attorney Paul Gallegos sued the company, claiming it submitted fraudulent environmental impact data that enabled the company to reap millions in profits. The vote was 61.2% against the recall despite a campaign that depicted him as soft on crime and a friend of illegal tree-sitters, rapists and pot growers. "It's a triumph of the people over the influence of money and lies in politics," a jubilant Gallegos, 41, told the Los Angeles Times.
V.A. BUDGET REQUEST DRAWS FIRE. Republicans tend to take veterans' support for granted, but veterans' organizations and a union that represents Veterans Administration workers are criticising Bush's fiscal 2005 budget plan that they assert would worsen the backlog in processing disability claims, reduce the number of VA nursing home beds just as the number of veterans who need long-term care is swelling and force some veterans to pay a fee simply to gain access to the VA health care system. Edward S. Banas Sr., commander in chief of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, called the VA's health care spending proposal "a disgrace and a sham." John Gage, president of the American Federation of Government Employees, said the budget calls for a reduction of 540 full-time jobs in the Veterans Benefits Administration, which handles disability, pension and other claims by veterans. The budget calls for spending $29.5 billion for veterans' health care, a 4.2% increase over current spending, but $2.4 billion of the total would come from fees and other charges collected from third parties and from veterans themselves.
BUSH LET TERRORIST GO. NBC News reported March 2 that the White House in 2002 shelved plans to strike Abu Musab Zarqawi, a Jordanian militant with the Ansar al-Islam terrorist organization, which was thought to have set up a weapons lab at Kirma, in northern Iraq, because the administration feared destroying the terrorist camp could undercut its case for war against Saddam Hussein. Before the war Ansar al-Islam operated in Kurdish territory in northern Iraq, outside of the control of Hussein's military and police. Since then, Ansar al-Islam has been blamed for more than 700 deaths in Iraq, including the pair of suicide bombings in Iraq on March 3 that killed more than 140 people during a Shi'ite Muslim religious observance. The Washington Post reported March 3 that Zarqawi is looking beyond Iraq and wants to assume a leading, independent role in future terrorist operations in other countries. "Now, does that make you feel 'safer and stronger,' as President Bush claims we are in a new campaign ad?" Geraldine Sealey asks at Salon.com.
'THREE STRIKES' STRIKES OUT. Ten years after the signing of California's "Three Strikes and You're Out" law, which has let to similar laws providing for enhanced penalties for repeat offenders in other states, a new report by the Justice Policy Institute shows it has not only contributed to the state's chronic prison growth, but it also disproportionately impacts African Americans, Latinos and people convicted of non-violent offenses. Counties that sent the most people to prison under the Three Strikes law did not experience greater reductions in crime, JPI found. Instead, counties that used Three Strikes less frequently had a decline in crime 22.5% greater than counties using Three Strikes most frequently. States that do not have a Three Strikes law also had a larger average drop in violent crime between 1993 and 2002, JPI found. The African-American incarceration rate for third strikes is 12 times higher than the rate for whites, and the Latino incarceration rate is 45% higher than for whites. Nearly two-thirds (64.5%) of second and third strikers were serving time in prison for a non-violent offense. JPI estimates those prisoners added to the prison system under Three Strikes between March 1994 and September 2003 cost taxpayers an additional $8.1 billion, with $4.7 billion going to imprison non-violent offenders. See justicepolicy.org.
SEEK TO REGISTER 1M DEMS. ReDefeatBush.com on March 2 launched its drive to register one million new Democrats with its first Tuesday Night Democratic Club. "We can have a major impact on the outcome by helping to channel volunteer enthusiasm into politically effective activities," said founder David Lytel, an Internet adviser in the Clinton White House. The ReDefeatBush campaign is a federal PAC whose goal is to engage 20,000 volunteers to register 50 new Democrats each by the close of voter registration in October. Tuesday Night Democratic Clubs are being organized in Maryland, Virginia and other sites nationwide. See www.redefeatbush.com.
STUDENT CAMPAIGN CAM CONTEST. C-SPAN has announced a Campaign Cam Student Documentary Contest for middle and high school students, who can enter a short video (up to 10 minutes) and compete for a chance to win one of 45 awards and $50,000 in prizes. "Express what you think about an issue that matters to you as our country approaches the 2004 elections." Teams or individuals may enter. See c-span.org/classroom/2004vote. Deadline: May 17.
WHO'S FLIPPING NOW? After the Bush campaign started criticizing John Kerry's "flip-flops" a reader submitted a quick list of Bush flip-flops to DailyKos.com:
Bush is against campaign finance reform; then he's for it.
Bush is against a Homeland Security Department; then he's for it.
Bush is against a 9/11 commission; then he's for it.
Bush is against an Iraq WMD investigation; then he's for it.
Bush is against nation building; then he's for it.
Bush is against deficits; then he's for them.
Bush is for free trade; then he's for tariffs on steel; then he's against them again.
Bush is against the US taking a role in the Israeli Palestinian conflict; then he pushes for a "road map" and a Palestinian State.
Bush is for states right to decide on gay marriage, then he is for changing the constitution.
Bush first says he'll provide money for first responders (fire, police, emergency), then he doesn't.
Bush first says that 'help is on the way' to the military ... then he cuts benefits
Bush-"The most important thing is for us to find Osama bin Laden. Bush-"I don't know where he is. I have no idea and I really don't care."
Bush claims to be in favor of the environment and then secretly starts drilling on Padre Island.
Bush talks about helping education and increases mandates while cutting funding.
Bush first says the US won't negotiate with North Korea. Now he will
Bush goes to Bob Jones University. Then say's he shouldn't have.
Bush said he would demand a UN Security Council vote on whether to sanction military action against Iraq. Later Bush announced he would not call for a vote
Bush said the "mission accomplished" banner was put up by the sailors. Bush later admits it was his advance team.
Bush was for fingerprinting and photographing Mexicans who enter the US. After meeting with Mexican President Fox, he's against it.