In a stunning confirmation of the inadequacy of American “democracy” and the Democratic Party, the most widely unpopular President in U.S. history has been re-elected. Not only was Bush re-elected, he was returned to office by nearly four million votes in the popular election and a comfortable majority in the archaic Electoral College. George W. Bush’s election to a second term, as exit polling indicated, was less the result of any enthusiasm for his policies than the lack of a genuine alternative. Senator Kerry and the Democrats utterly failed to generate any real enthusiasm for their policies, which was the mirror image of their opponents’. Now the American working class will be faced with a Republican Administration and Congress intent on privatizing Social Security, making the Bush tax cuts permanent, and an unimpeded continuation of the imperialist slaughter in Iraq. Although over 20 million people were registered to vote by mostly pro-Democratic organizations such as “Rock the Vote” and the trade unions, millions of these overwhelmingly young voters failed to show up on Election Day. When the primary difference between the two candidates is claiming who can wage the Iraq War more effectively, the reason the electorate stayed at home is obvious. This has greatly boosted the arrogant confidence of Bush and his cabinet.
Speaking to a press conference after Kerry’s official concession, Bush told the audience “I, well, I feel like I’ve earned capital, political capital. And now I’m going to spend it.” Even though roughly only one in four eligible voters supported the Bush / Cheney ticket, the Administration has called its victory a “mandate from the people.” This is completely false. But the Republicans have already indicated that they will use the two year period until the next Congressional elections to sweep in a whole range of reactionary legislation through the Republican-dominated Congress. Bush now has a blank check to attack the living and working standards of the working class at home and abroad.
“Staying the (Rotten) Course”
Immediately after re-election, the Bush Administration announced its desire to use its incumbency to implement Bush’s “vision” for Social Security and the tax codes. The President’s “vision” is one of giving the richest people in the U.S.A a free lunch at the expense of the working class. The Administration’s tax cuts alone represent a shifting of the national financial burden onto the backs of working people on a titanic scale. First instituted in 2001, the Bush tax cuts are scaled to shift the tax burden from the wealthiest 1 percent of families to the tune of 52 percent by 2005. If made permanent, by 2010 the richest families in the world’s wealthiest country will have been given $500 billion in tax “relief.” While the vast majority of the population received a one time $350 per family return in 2002, by 2010 the richest 1 percent will be receiving all of the tax cuts. The Bush tax cuts will effectively shift the vast majority of the national budget, and its massive debts onto the working class within five years! This is the first item on the Republican agenda.
By 2013 the tax cuts taken together with the massive annual spending for the occupation of Iraq and the “War on Terror” will more than triple the government’s debt. Citizens for Tax Justice used Congressional Budget Office data to estimate that by 2013 the annual debt will total $1.1 trillion. This will mean that one third of all government spending will be paid for with borrowed money. The Congressional Budget Office itself estimates that by 2009 the federal government will spend more on servicing its debt than on all domestic expenditures.
The federal and state budgets are already in the deepest crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Bush’s tax agenda and foreign policy add fuel to the fire of a growing crisis that will have long term implications for the U.S. and world economies. If these tax cuts are made permanent, the U.S. capitalists will not only enjoy the dividends of their already tax-free corporations but won’t be paying a dime in property tax either. Not only will the U.S. working class be forced to produce the nation’s wealth for less pay than 25 years ago, we will now also be expected to pay nearly the entire budget of the bosses’ state.
What is more, Bush & Co. have also stated a desire to “reform” the Social Security Administration, the nation’s old age and disability pension plan. Not content with squeezing the working class through taxation, the Republicans want to take our right to a retirement pension away as well. The Bush Social Security plan calls for the conversion of the government-administered pension system to a privately-managed scheme of “personal retirement accounts” – privatization. GW bases his call for “reform” on the prognostications of Federal Reserve chairman, Alan “the Maestro” Greenspan. Since 1996 Mr. Greenspan has been issuing dire warnings about the state of the Social Security system, calling on the government to take “prompt action to rescue the financially threatened Social Security Administration.” These “warnings” are false to the core. Despite Mr. Bush’s and Greenspan’s self-interested worries, Social Security is far from insolvent. Currently, despite the Bush budget, the system brought in a $120 billion surplus in 2002. The SSA’s own accountants have projected that the systems annual budget should continue running with a surplus until 2020. After that, the SSA reserve funds, which now total more than $3 trillion would completely cover any shortfalls. By 2070 the system would again return to surplus. However, Bush thinks that this money is needed more by the billionaire American capitalists than by millions of retired workers!
The Bush Social Security plan is mostly based on the scheme created by the Cato Institute Project, a Wall Street ‘think-tank’. The Cato Institute is financed by American Express, the brokerage firm of Alex Brown & Co. and the finance giant American International Group. Bush’s plan would largely dismantle the Social Security Administration and transfer millions of pensions to these same Wall Street vultures, to the tune of $940 billion over 75 years in “management fees” alone.
At present, every worker in the U.S.A has 6.4 percent deducted from his or her wages to fund their SSA pension, with the employer paying a matching amount. Under the Bush plan, 2 percent of this money would be given to private banks instead. Young workers today would be given the ‘option’ of opening a 401k-like pension account that would be chained to the stock market. At a time when millions of workers have already seen their employer-provided 401k accounts shrink into oblivion this is not a rosy picture! As well as dumping the SSA pension system down the Wall Street toilet, future SSA benefits received would be tied to inflation, not to wage growth as they are now. The plan would also force physically and mentally disabled recipients to re-apply every two years, a scheme to deny these people their rightful pension and put them onto the labor market. The Bush plan would almost immediately create a $2 trillion shortfall. While these people wring their hands over the financial future of a fully solvent pension system it is their so-called “reform” that would lead to crisis! Of course, the dilemma of a public fiscal crisis means very little to the gang of Wall Street capitalists and their servants in the White House and Congress who stand to make a killing.
The Bush Social Security committee that drafted the plan was wholly bi-partisan. Chaired by the late “arch liberal” Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-NY) and AOL-Time-Warner chief Richard Parsons, it includes eight Democrats and eight Republicans. Apparently the “friends of working families” Democrats are not so friendly after all. While decrying Republican policies in public, these representatives of the bosses work very hard to undermine our rights and conditions in private. The plan to strip the U.S. working class of one of its most hard-fought rights is a “bi-partisan” affair, led by Bush and the Republican Party with their trusty Democratic side-kicks. The U.S. capitalists and their chosen representative, George W. Bush are clearly steering a course for even deeper attacks on the working class. They have their sights set on our right to old age retirement. They also intend to make us bear the entire tax burden of their state. The working class is fully under attack at home. Now, with the re-election of Bush the attacks on our class abroad will continue as well.
War in Iraq
The situation in Iraq continues to deteriorate. Most of the country remains without water, electricity and sanitation. Despite the $87 billion supposedly earmarked for reconstruction, the Iraqi working class has seen only its right to a union denied, its living conditions disintegrate and the bloody boot of U.S. occupation. Hiding behind the façade of the Iraqi “provisional government” and the unelected “Prime Minister” Allawi is the U.S. Embassy, residing in the ‘Green Zone’ of Baghdad. Uncounted numbers of Iraqi civilians are killed daily and the U.S. casualty toll continues to mount. As of November 2004, 1,150 U.S. soldiers have been killed and 8,458 wounded. In addition to this are the hundreds or thousands more who have become mentally scarred by the experience of war and occupation. These same soldiers have seen deep cuts in veteran’s mental health benefits. The War in Iraq has not been a war for “democracy” or to find “weapons of mass destruction” as President Bush continues to cling to, but a war against the Iraqi and American working class by the U.S. capitalists.
A great many of the enlisted soldiers returning from Iraq have nothing but bitterness towards Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. This Administration sent them largely unprepared for urban, guerrilla warfare and promised they’d be welcomed with open arms. During the build up to the invasion, the Defense Department cut the rate of combat pay and veteran’s services. This same Administration has forced thousands of National Guard and Reserve soldiers to serve on active duty more than a year and a half past the maximum. Army and Marine Reserve and National Guard forces now comprise roughly 40 percent of U.S. military personnel in Iraq.
The regular and reserve forces are being strained to the breaking point, with near-mutinous results in some cases. As in any guerrilla war, the most exposed and vulnerable occupation troops are those involved in supply and convoys. On October 19, members of an Army Reserve supply company based near Ramadi refused orders to move a supply column through dangerous Anbar province. They refused the assignment, even after a direct order from the company commander’s superior to move the un-armored convoy. All trucks in military usage in Iraq are required (on paper, at least) to be fitted with steel plating to offer some protection from rifle and machine gun fire. The trucks of the convoy in question were unarmored and belonged to a Kuwaiti civilian contractor. Wishing to avoid the bad press, the U.S. generals were forced to acquiesce to the soldier’s demands and armor the trucks.
Even though Bush & Co. have done the utmost to deny rumors of a reinstatement of the draft, the Iraq quagmire speaks to the contrary. The U.S. imperialists can’t hope to maintain the occupation against the growing resistance of the Iraq people with the regular Army and Reserves already strained to the breaking point. The Joint Chiefs of Staff wants to maintain the all volunteer Army. Bush will certainly continue to treat this issue with caution – the memories of youths burning their draft cards and draftees “fragging” their officers thirty years ago are still too fresh. But with a second term and a Republican majority in Congress, Bush would have a free hand to bring back conscription. The Democratic minority, which could only offer token resistance anyway, would not stand in the way of a draft. In fact, the last lawmakers to propose its reinstatement were Democrats! Even John Kerry, the Democratic candidate who was formerly an anti-war activist called for 40,000 more troops and declared that the U.S. could not “cut and run” from the imperialist occupation. The only defense against the draft would be a renewed mass movement of the working class and youth that ended the Vietnam War more than thirty years ago.
Beat Bush Back!
The Republican Party and the Bush Administration is without a doubt one of the most reactionary bourgeois political machines in U.S. history. During its first term, this Administration turned a blind eye while billionaire capitalists looted the private pensions of thousands of workers in a series of scandals. It left millions of unemployed workers stranded by refusing to extend benefits despite the recession. It has already brought about the worst fiscal crisis in U.S. history with its war spending and tax cuts for the wealthy. It has taken us to war by a whole collection of lies, while the Vice-President’s own company makes millions off of the war. George W. Bush is the most perfect representative of modern imperialism: ignorant, arrogant, and short-sighted. The Bush Presidency alone is proof enough of the urgent need for the creation of a mass party of Labor.
The urgent need to defeat the Republicans has been an issue since Bush first came to power. But how did the “opposition” Democrats respond? By trying to out-Bush Bush! Even after their second defeat to this man, the leaders of the party have concluded that instead of offering a program based on the needs of working people, they need to focus more on religious and “moral” issues! They continue to move further and further to the right. They could now justifiably be called the Democratic wing of the Republican Party. How can working people ever hope to defeat the right-wing policies of Bush with a party that is nearly identical?
We plainly need our own party to represent and defend our class – a mass party of labor, based on the trade unions and armed with a program of socialist demands. A party such as this would draw millions to its banner and could begin the re-conquest of all of the rights and the standard of living we have lost in the past twenty-five years. Far from slowing down, with the bosses choosing representatives such as Bush, these attacks will only intensify. The Democrats have proven themselves completely inadequate for the task. Only by relying on our own forces can we hope to beat back the tide and reclaim the old traditions of struggle, opening up a new political chapter for working Americans.