A Monomaniac with a Bad Idea: Bush Against the Economy

This article was published in the latest edition of the US Socialist Appeal.

In class society, possessing wealth and power does not generally encourage candor. Those who rule, making decisions by themselves that affect the rest of us, can hardly admit that they hold power illegitimately, without our consent. Occasionally, though, the truth comes out; and at times the bourgeois press carries an account of how things really are.

One example of this is Harold Meyerson's essay in The American Prospect, "Squandering Prosperity," an examination of George W. Bush's handling of the economy. Meyerson is a liberal journalist; his research enables us to draw some general conclusions about the effect the current Bush presidency has had on working people, and that effect has been catastrophic.

Meyerson's data give us a snapshot of capitalist society: the rich grow even more prosperous, while workers suffer. Consider:
* Profits and productivity have risen; employment and wages are falling.
* There are now officially 8.8 million jobless, fully 6 percent of the workforce.
* 2.6 million private sector jobs have disappeared during the current Bush presidency, a loss, every month, of 69,000 jobs.
* 3 million Americans have joined the ranks of the unemployed since George W. Bush's inauguration. No president in the past seventy years has experienced a net loss of jobs while in office, except Bush.
* Job loss occurs primarily in manufacturing: since July 2000, 2.2 million manufacturing jobs have disappeared. For 33 consecutive months, the number of jobs in manufacturing has diminished, a record not equaled since 1945. The jobs that remain are found in the service sector, where salaries are much lower.
* Nor is this situation likely to improve. A nearly 2.5 percent increase in worker productivity means that employers can continue to produce more goods without taking on additional help. In addition, state governments can expect zero dollars and zero cents from Federal sources, as administrators at the state level try to deal with deficits of $68 billion this year. These tens of billions will be subtracted from funds supporting health care and public education at all levels. Public sector employees will, involuntarily, do their part in solving the economic crisis by losing their jobs to layoffs.

Meyerson's conclusion is that Bush the manager has garnered "the worst economic record of any president since Herbert Hoover." He characterizes the Bush economy as "a slow 1929," that is, a situation of negligible economic growth and immense human suffering. As debt and deficits achieve unparalleled levels, Bush's only "solution" for the economy is to cut the taxes of the extremely wealthy. It is remarkable that Bush embraces a policy whose failure is a matter of public record: since a $1.6 trillion tax cut was passed in 2001, 1.7 million jobs have disappeared. The economic situation of working people is catastrophic, and Bush's policy is completely ineffectual. Writing about Bush's infatuation with alleviating the tax burden of the super-rich, Meyerson calls the President "a monomaniac with a bad idea" and concludes that Bush's refusal to consider any other strategy for economic recovery is "directly responsible for the increasing longevity and severity of the bust."

Bush's response to the slow but steady approach of a fiscal crisis shows that he considers it his job not to promote recovery, but to use every opportunity to shrink the public sector. According to Paul Krugman in the Times, this is the motive for this year's $800-billion-plus tax reduction, Bush "is deliberately setting the country up for a fiscal crisis in which popular social programs could be sharply cut." What will happen is that taxes will be lower in comparison to GDP, than in the fifties, leaving the Federal government unable to maintain Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security. Slashing these social expenditures will directly impact workers and the poor, as the apologists of capital explain that they had no choice but to abolish the programs on which most of us depend, given the scarcity of public funds.

This, too, is catastrophic, since it means that during economic downturn or personal misfortune, we will have literally nowhere to turn. We will have to accept the minimal wages offered us, or starve.

It is, therefore, no exaggeration to say that the Bush administration is orchestrating an attack on the working population, on our class. This attack has probably gone unnoticed. Most people, distracted by the 9/11 tragedy, by a flood of frightening news about terrorism, and by Bush's unending wars, are unaware of how fiercely their economic interests are being assaulted by the ultra-right ideologues in the White House.

The tasks of Marxists, in response to this latest ruling-class offensive, are clear: we must say what is, call things by their names, and tell the workers the truth, no matter how bitter it may be, in order to build a proletarian organization fighting for an end to the irrational boom/bust agony of a dying, exploitative economic system. The working class can do better; Bush, and the class he represents, will not.