The Bush administration called the tax cut package, which took effect in July 2003, its "Jobs and Growth Plan." The Economic Policy Institute noted that the president's Council of Economic Advisers projected that the plan would result in the creation of 5.5 million jobs by the end of 2004 -- in other words, 306,000 new jobs in each of the 18 months from June 2003 to December 2004. Even without passage of Bush's tax cut plan, the CEA projected that the economy would generate 228,000 jobs a month. With the payroll employment data for December 2004, released 1/7/05, EPI reported, "it is now possible to assess whether the administration's tax cut strategy produced the employment growth that was projected. The final verdict is grim. Job growth over the last 18 months has fallen short by 1,703,000 -- more than one-third less than the number of jobs the administration said would be created without the tax cuts. Given that the economy failed to produce the number of jobs expected with no policy change, it seems hard to argue that the tax cuts were a successful strategy in adding any jobs -- the promised 1.4 million additional jobs never materialized. The announced revisions (up 236,000 in March 2004) to the payroll employment series do not materially change this assessment."
MAD ABOUT COW IMPORTS. Mabel Dobbs, an Idaho rancher and chair of the Western Organization of Resource Councils' Livestock Committee, on 1/4/05 criticized as "the height of irresponsibility" the USDA's plans to reopen the US border to imports of live Canadian cattle, despite the confirmation of BSE (or mad cow disease) in a third Canadian cow. "USDA's plan is not based on sound science. It puts US consumers at risk, threatens to delay resumption of US beef exports to Asia, and would devastate US cattle markets. These problems are aggravated by the fact that USDA, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, and the beef packers who would benefit from resumption of live cattle imports, have been the primary forces behind delayed implementation of country of origin labeling. Labeling beef by its country of origin would allow consumers to choose whether or not to buy beef from cattle of Canadian origin, if the borders are reopened."
David McKay, executive director of an association of Canadian mail-order pharmacies, said Bush demanded that Canada shut down mail-order drug sales, possibly in exchange for US concessions in lifting the ban on imports of Canadian beef, in a Nov. 30 meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin, the Washington Post reported 1/7/05.
PAY TO PLAY. The Bush administration paid prominent black pundit Armstrong Williams $240,000 to promote the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law on his nationally syndicated television show and to urge other black journalists to do the same, USA Today reported 1/7/05. Williams was required "to regularly comment on NCLB during the course of his broadcasts," and to interview Education Secretary Rod Paige for TV and radio spots that aired in 2004. Williams said he understands that critics could find the arrangement unethical, but "I wanted to do it because it's something I believe in." The top Democrat on the House Education Committee, Rep. George Miller of California, called the contract "a very questionable use of taxpayers' money" that is "probably illegal."
This isn't the first time the Bush administration has produced such propaganda, Salon.com noted. Last year, the Government Accountability Office slapped the administration for making bogus "video news releases" featuring fake TV reporters singing the praises of the GOP Medicare prescription drug plan (the one the pharmaceutical industry loves so much). Similar fake news stories were produced promoting No Child Left Behind. The GAO called those news releases an illegal use of taxpayers' dollars.
At TheNation.com 1/10/05, David Corn wrote that Williams told him, "This happens all the time. There are others." Asked for names, Williams told Corn, "I'm not going to defend myself that way," he said, explaining that the issue right now was his own mistake. Salon.com noted that on Meet the Press, Al Hunt said he suspects more cases of advertorial pundit-izing. "Listen, I'll tell you this," Hunt said. "I'll bet that there will be a great market for Freedom of Information requests in the next couple weeks because I suspect Armstrong Williams is not alone. There have been other people who've been doing this."
[For the record, The Progressive Populist does not accept payments for placement of editorial columns or endorsements. When we sell ads -- and we obviously don't sell many -- we try to label them as such.]
OHIO VOTE CHIEF SEEKS ILLEGAL FUNDS. Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell, who has been embroiled in controversy since serving a dual role as chair of the Bush-Cheney reelection campaign and overseer of the Ohio elections, recently sent out pledge cards to a list of potential donors stating that "corporate & personal checks are welcome," even though corporate donations are illegal in Ohio. Blackwell's spokesman blamed the mistake on a printing error and claims that all such donations would be returned.
STRENGTHENING THE UNION MOVEMENT. Responding to the National Unity Partnership challenge, the AFL-CIO labor federation has a new page at its aflcio.org website, "Strengthening Our Union Movement For The Future," to seek input about the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats facing today's union movement. The goal is for unions, central labor councils, state federations and other groups to prepare proposals in time for the the AFL-CIO executive council to consider them at its winter meeting, which begins March 1.
The council will then formulate recommendations to be presented for action by the AFL-CIO convention, scheduled for July 25-29 in Chicago.
GOSS CANCELS DAILY TERRORISM MEETING: Since Porter J. Goss, former chairman of the House intelligence committee, became the new director of the CIA, about 20 senior CIA officials have resigned or retired as a result of what many have seen as personnel moves that were partisan in nature. Now Goss has jettisoned the director's daily 5 o'clock meeting with senior CIA, FBI, Pentagon and Homeland Security Department officials. The daily meetings were created by Goss's predecessor in reaction to the failure of intelligence agencies to coordinate their tactical counterterrorism operations before the 9/11 attacks. The meetings are now being held only three times a week, the Washington Post reported, but a CIA official assures that "They are still very much focused on terrorist issues. If something exploded, [Goss] would get briefed right away."
MORE DETAINEES HELD OUTSIDE GENEVA CONVENTIONS: Roughly 325 foreign fighters are currently in US custody in Iraq and "have been deemed by the Justice Department not to be entitled to protections of the Geneva Conventions," the *New York Times* reported. The foreign detainees, whose numbers swelled by more than 140 after US troops entered Fallujah in early November, may soon "be transferred out of the country for indefinite detention elsewhere." White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales appeared to approve of these Justice Department policies during his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week. Describing how members of al Qaeda were "flooding" into Iraq, Gonzales said, "the question was legitimately raised, in my judgment, as to whether or not -&endash; what were the legal limits about how to deal with these terrorists." The decision to ship detainees to other countries (particularly those with weaker prohibitions on torture) has become a "principle weapon in the CIA's arsenal" against prisoners.
US MULLS DEATH SQUADS IN IRAQ. Newsweek reports that the Pentagon is considering an option that dates back to a still-secret strategy in the Reagan administration's battle against the leftist guerrilla insurgency in El Salvador in the early 1980s. "Then, faced with a losing war against Salvadoran rebels, the US government funded or supported 'nationalist' forces that allegedly included so-called death squads directed to hunt down and kill rebel leaders and sympathizers."
DESPITE PROMISES, FIRMS KEEP DRUG STUDIES SECRET: Drug companies have publicly posted unpublished trial results for just five drugs, despite their promise six months ago to make their clinical trials more transparent, a *Boston Globe* analysis found. At the height of the industry's political crisis last fall, major drug firms said they would use a common website to offer Americans ''unprecedented access" to clinical studies "both good and bad." Yet, of the more than 10,800 prescription medications and dosages sold in the US, the website has posted information on only 26 drugs, the *Globe* found, and only five of those studies include data that have been previously unpublished. The site also lacks any information about the "unpublished, large-scale clinical trial of Vioxx performed in 2000 that showed a six-fold increase in cardiovascular risk." ''It's pathetic," said Dr. Drummond Rennie, associate editor of the *Journal of the American Medical Association*. ''They get all the publicity from saying they will do it, and then they don't."
FACING UP TO THE NUMBERS: Fabiola Quitiaquez suffers from high blood pressure and cholesterol; her daughter uses a screwdriver to change gears in her car. However, Quitiaquez realizes that car mechanics and doctors visits are unaffordable luxuries. Unfortunately, her case is not a unique one. About one in five unemployed workers have been jobless for more than six months &endash; "the point at which most state benefits run out." These 3.6 million American workers living without unemployment benefits are faced with what psychology professor Richard Price has dubbed a "chain of adversity," a life full of personal and psychological stresses. Despite the Bush administration's constant ravings about the overall drop in unemployment numbers, admits Kevin Hassett, economic director at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, "It's not a partisan issue, it's a fact. The labor market is worse than in the typical recovery."
VETERANS HOME BUT HOMELESS: The Department of Veteran Affairs is facing an old problem much sooner than expected; veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are already showing up in homeless shelters. According to a nationwide survey released by the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, nearly 70 veterans from the two active military campaigns have spent time in shelters over the past year. Though the number may seem small in comparison to the number of soldiers discharged so far, veterans' groups see these individuals as the first trickle of what is expected to be a deluge of returning soldiers psychologically scarred by these emotionally taxing wars.
VETS LEFT OUT IN COLD. A veterans' group criticized GOP proposals to freeze spending on veterans' programs. The top budget adviser to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist told Bloomberg News he was picking up the signal for an "absolute freeze'' for programs not mandated by law. "With growing numbers of American soldiers seeing action overseas and coming home severely wounded, cutting monies for and services to veterans is a particularly malicious act on the part of the Bush administration," said William Pate II, president of the Defending America's Integrity Alliance. The alliance urged President Bush and Congressional leaders to increase funding to veterans programs in anticipation of widespread use of the VA system by returning troops.
NADER DREW VOTES FROM BUSH. The Democratic Party took legal action to keep Ralph Nader off the ballot in 18 states, but the Ballot Access News, in its 1/1/05 issue, noted that a) voters in "battleground states" were smart enough on their own to vote for Kerry, not Nader, if they wanted Kerry to win; b) people who voted for Nader were just as likely to prefer Bush as to prefer Kerry, so keeping Nader off the ballot didn't help Kerry; and c) the Democratic efforts to keep Nader off the ballot were mostly failures -- and they were unpopular.
BAN also noted that although Dems won only 14 of 34 Senate seats, Dems won 51.04% of the total vote cast in Senate races.
In other "third party" news, Adam Tondowsky reported to MyDD.com 1/8/05 that 145 Libertarian Party candidates received 1,056,582 votes. That's down from 2002, when 217 candidates got 1,165,618 votes. The Green Party ran 45 candidates and one write-in candidate this past fall and got 361,394 votes -- an improvement over 2002, when 58 candidates got 306,819 votes. The Constitution Party got 182,849 votes in 2004. They ran under the American Independant Party in California, the Concerned Citizens Party in Connecticut, The U.S Taxpayer's Party in Michigan, the Nebraska Party, The Independent American Party in Nevada, and the Constitution Party everywhere else.