When George W. Bush was promoting his third round of tax cuts for the rich this past July, he promised that it would result in 1.8 million new jobs by the end of 2003, leading to 5.5 million jobs by the end of 2004. The Bureau of Labor Statistics on Jan. 9 issued its employment report for December and the results were not so good. The number crunchers, who had predicted 150,000 new jobs in December, could scrape up only 1,000, despite a much-touted economic recovery on Wall Street. (Manufacturing lost 26,000 jobs, extending its losing streak to 41 months.) That left a total of 221,000 new jobs during the second half of 2003 -- or a net growth for the year of minus 232,000, according to populist economist Max Sawicky. He notes at maxspeak.org/mt that the current direction is positive, but that is as far as his charity goes. "The only problem with this sunny view," he writes, "is that THE RECESSION ENDED IN NOVEMBER OF 2001. At that time, the Establishment Survey showed total employment of 130,900,000 (total non-farm, all employees). At the beginning of 2003, it was 130,356,000. Now here we are wrapping up 2003 &endash;- surrounded by Bushist triumphalism &endash;- it is 130,124,000. We have fewer jobs now than when the recession ended. In a proper recovery, job growth accelerates. It doesn't stagger along like a drunken Yale undergraduate."
The unemployment rate actually dropped 0.2 points in December, to 5.7%, which Bush called "a positive sign that the economy is getting better." Apparently nobody told our MBA president the rate declined because 309,000 jobless Americans became so discouraged that they no longer are looking for work. Congress busted the morale of many jobless in December when it cut off unemployment benefits for 90,000. Bush is bidding to become the first president since Herbert Hoover to rack up a net loss of jobs during his presidency.
The unemployment rate also probably reflects more people who are counted as employed but are working part-time. BLS figures 9.9% of the potential workforce is "underutilized." That's down 0.2 points from November but it's unchanged from December 2002.
Doug Henwood of the Left Business Observer (leftbusinessobserver.com) noted that in the last three months of 2003, Canada created 173,000 new jobs while the US, with a workforce eight times as large, created just 144,000. "If we had done as well as our northern neighbor last month, we'd have added 443,000 jobs (instead of 1,000)," he wrote.
WHITE HOUSE SPRINGS INTO ACTION. It took the Justice Department 10 weeks to start an investigation of senior White House aides who leaked word to journalists that Valerie Plame was an undercover CIA spy, in apparent retaliation for her husband's criticism of the Bush administration's handling of faulty "intelligence." But one day after ex-Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill appeared on 60 Minutes on Jan. 11 to blow the lid off Bush's obsession with Saddam Hussein from the day he entered the Oval Office, the Treasury Department asked for an investigation into whether classified information was used in the TV interview. Meanwhile, Lloyd Grove noted in the Jan. 12 New York Daily News that he didn't free the slaves, rid the world of Hitler or even preside over the destruction of the Berlin Wall, yet George W. Bush told New Yorker writer Ken Auletta, "No president has ever done more for human rights than I have," prompting Grove to add, "With stunners like that, no wonder he spends so little time with journalists."
'NET MAKES POLITICAL WAVES. The Internet has surpassed newsmagazines as a political news source for Americans, a Pew Research Center survey found, as 33% of adults reported getting political news online, with 13% getting most of their campaign news from the 'Net. Howard Dean's supporters were more likely than others to go online, as 26% get their news from the Web. The survey found a significant decline in Americans who regularly get their campaign news from local television (42%, down from 48% in 2000), nightly network news (35%, down from 45%), newspapers (31%, down from 40%) and newsmagazines (10%, down from 15%). Cable news networks, showed growth, being regularly consulted by 38% (up from 34%). Those most knowledgeable about campaign issues were Internet users, National Public Radio listeners and newsmagazine readers. Least informed were those who get their political news from late night TV, morning TV shows, local TV and comedy shows.
VP UNDER FIRE. French authorities are investigating Vice President Dick Cheney's role in a massive bribery scandal during his time as CEO of Halliburton. You won't see much reported on it stateside, TomPaine.com notes, but Le Figaro, one of France's biggest (and most conservative) newspapers, reports "an investigative judge is looking into allegations of corruption during construction of a natural gas complex in Nigeria by Halliburton and" a French oil company. "If he were charged, it would be under one of the international laws in one of the rare international treaties we still belong to, meaning the consequences could be very real," TomPaine.com added.
BUSH GETS GOP CHALLENGE. George W. Bush is not quite unopposed in the Republican primary this year. Miami Beach, Fla., journalist John Buchanan is challenging Bush in the New Hampshire primary. Buchanan in September 2003 delved into the National Archives and Library of Congress to write about the Bush family's ties to Nazi industrialists for the New Hampshire Gazette [see "Bush family's Nazi ties revealed," Dispatches, 11/15/03 TPP]. In a Jan. 7 speech in Manchester, Buchanan said, "The message I bear is simple and stark. We have all been lied to about 9/11, the country is in mortal danger and only you can make it right. If you need a label, I stand here as a 9/11 Truth Candidate and some may thus dismiss me as a single-issue candidate and in a narrow sense that is true. But if you consider that 9/11 has led us into fiscal ruin, endless war and constitutional twilight, my issue is the mother issue of our age." See johnbuchanan.org.
TIE WAGE TO CONGRESSIONAL PAY. Howard Dean proposes an increase in the minimum wage to $7 per hour, which Kevin Drum of calpundit.com said is a good idea, but Drum also thinks the wage should be indexed to congressional salaries. The minimum wage in 1968 was worth about $8 an hour in present-day terms. "Assuming a normal 2000-hour work year, congressmen make about $75 an hour right now. How about simply making the minimum wage equal to 10% of that? Congress can then increase their own salaries anytime they want, but only if they're willing to help out the working poor at the same time. Seems fair to me."
FACTORY FARM HEALTH THREAT AIRED. The American Public Health Association (APHA) is calling for a "precautionary moratorium" on the construction of concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) because of health concerns. It also urges immediate funding of new research to better understand the exposures of communities, particularly children, to pollutants from CAFOs. See www.apha.org. An estimated 54% of US livestock are now confined on only 5% of livestock farms. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, CAFOs are defined as more than 1,000 beef cattle, 2,500 hogs, and 100,000 broiler hens. CAFOs generate an estimated 575 billion pounds of manure annually. "CAFO environments make workers sick, and pose public health risks to children and other vulnerable people living nearby," said David Wallinga, M.D., director of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy's Food and Health Program. "This landmark policy says that we shouldn't add to the problems by building more CAFOs." In November, the Institute for Agriculture and Trade and the Global Resource Action Center for the Environment (GRACE) launched a web site (www.eatwellguide.org) that connects consumers with sources of meat and poultry that has been raised by non-confinement and without routine antibiotic use.
9/11 WIDOW SUES BUSH. Ellen Mariani of Derry, N.H., whose husband died Sept. 11, 2001, when United Airlines Flight 175 was flown into the World Trade Center, has filed suit in US District Court in Philadelphia alleging Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Attorney General John Ashcroft, Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld and other co-defendants had warning of the terrorist attacks but failed to either warn or protect the public. The suit was filed under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. A website publicizing the lawsuit, www.911forthetruth.com, noted that Thomas Kean, chairman of the commission investigating 9/1, said the attacks could have and should have been prevented. "There are people that, if I was doing the job, would certainly not be in the position they were in at that time because they failed. They simply failed," Kean said Dec. 17, although Kean later said, "We have no evidence that anybody high in the Clinton administration or the Bush administration did anything wrong." The Bush administration has resisted some of the commission's efforts to find answers. Its report is due May 27.
BIG TALK, LITTLE TO SHOW. The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace reported Jan. 8 that hawks in the Bush administration "systematically misrepresented the threat from Iraq's WMD and ballistic missile programmes." The critique followed a mid-December report that David Kay was planning to leave as early as the end of January. Kay, a former UN inspector who had long charged Hussein with holding vast supplies of WMD, submitted an interim report last October that no weapons had been found. "I think it's pretty clear by now that they don't expect to find anything at all," said one administration official. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell conceded Jan. 9 that despite his assertions to the UN last year, he had no "smoking gun" proof of a link between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda terrorists. President Bush asked ABC's Diane Sawyer what the difference was if Hussein had WMDs or not?
PBS CRITICS GET BOARD SEATS. George W. Bush has appointed two major Republican donors who are critics of public broadcasting to the nine-member board of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB). Cheryl Halpern and Gay Hart Gaines and their families have given over $800,000 to GOP causes in recent years, Common Cause noted. Halpern, in her confirmation hearings, indicated that CPB board members should intervene in program content when they felt a program was biased. And, Gaines was an ardent supporter of Representative Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) who, as House Speaker in 1994, proposed cutting all federal assistance to public television. See www.commoncause.org.
US HEALTH CARE LAGS. We are often told that our health care system is second to none. Unfortunately, Max Sawicky at maxspeak.org/mt notes, "by a number of stats the US ranks well below second." According to 2001 statistics from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the US leads the world in health care spending with 13.9% of its gross domestic product, but it ranks below Canada, France and Sweden (to name a few nations with socialized medicine) in life expectancy at birth and at age 65.
ARMY RUNNING OUT OF AMMO. The US military's only plant making small-arms ammunition is running at near capacity, 4 million rounds a day, but the Pentagon must look overseas and to the recreational industry to buy bullets for troops in Afghanistan and Iraq and those training to deploy there soon, Knight Ridder reported Jan. 11.
DIEBOLD PLANS E-PRINTER GOUGING? An email from Diebold Elections Systems' internal database recommends charging Maryland "out the yin-yang" if the state requires Diebold to add paper printouts to the $73 million voting system it purchased. The email from "Ken," dated Jan. 3, 2003, discusses a Baltimore Sun article about a University of Maryland study critical of the Diebold system: "There is an important point that seems to be missed by all these articles: they already bought the system. At this point they are just closing the barn door. Let's just hope that as a company we are smart enough to charge out the yin if they try to change the rules now and legislate voter receipts" Gazette newspapers of Maryland reported Dec. 10. "Ken" later clarified that he meant "out the yin-yang," adding, "any after-sale changes should be prohibitively expensive." The email has been cited by advocates of voter-verified receipts, who say estimates of the cost of adding printers -- as much as $20 million statewide -- have been bloated.
'SMALL BIZ' IN EYES OF BEHOLDER. When GOP fact-twisters claim 80% of the tax relief given to the rich goes to job-creating small businesses, such as Republican National Chairman Ed Gillespie claimed Dec. 3, don't believe it. FactCheck.org noted that while 79% of upper-income taxpayers have some income from business, but Gillespie's definition of "small" business includes big accounting firms, law firms and real-estate partnerships as well as "businesses" that are really only sidelines &endash;- such as occasional rental income from a corporate chief's ski condo. An analysis by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center for FactCheck.org showed business income accounts for just over 22% of the income that will be reported this year by the most affluent American households. FactCheck.org, a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, monitors the factual accuracy of what is said by major US political players in the form of TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews, and news releases.
CITIZENS DEBATE COMMISSION. Civic leaders from the left, right, and center of the political spectrum have formed the nonpartisan Citizens' Debate Commission (www.citizensdebate.org) to sponsor debates that address pressing national issues, feature innovative formats, and include the candidates the American people want to see. It hopes to replace the bipartisan Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD), which has sponsored presidential debates since 1988 and secretly awards control of the presidential debates to the Republican and Democratic candidates, limiting voter choice and restricting subject matters of political discourse. Citizens' Debate Commission members include John B. Anderson, former congressman and chair of the Center for Voting and Democracy; Angela "Bay" Buchanan, president of The American Cause; Veronica De La Garza, executive director of the Youth Vote Coalition; Norman Dean, executive director of Friends of the Earth; George Farah, executive director of Open Debates and author of the forthcoming book No Debate; Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch; Tom Gerety, executive director of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law; Jehmu Greene, executive director of Rock the Vote; Ambassador Alan Keyes; Jeff Milchen, executive director of ReclaimDemocracy.org; Larry Noble, former general counsel of the Federal Election Commission; Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council; Chellie Pingree, president and CEO of Common Cause; Randall Robinson, founder of TransAfrica Forum; Dan Stein, executive director of the Federation for American Immigration Reform; Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research; and Paul Weyrich, chair and CEO of the Free Congress Foundation. Contact (202) 628-9195.
MISERY INDEX. Wages are barely rising, while the cost of living is skyrocketing, TomPaine.com noted. The average increase in income under Clinton was 6.3% yearly; under Bush it is 1.7%. The number of personal bankruptcy filings has doubled since 1993. For more evidence of why Americans are "running harder to stay in place" economically, see Campaign For America's Future end-of-year "Hardship Index" at www.ourfuture.org.
BUSH BASHING 101. "Comparing President Bush to Adolf Hitler is lazy rhetoric. Period," TomPaine.com commented after MoveOn.org under Republican criticism removed an ad comparing Bush to Hitler from their "Bush In 30 Seconds" contest. "There are smarter and more effective ways to demonize US leadership -- as the five anti-Bush ad finalists chosen by MoveOn voters show at www.bushin30seconds.org. Also see "Thanks For The Memories" at www.bushflash.com/thanks.html. Set to a crooning Sinatra, the ad exposes the hypocrisy of George W. Bush's sudden concern for victims of Saddam Hussein's brutality.