Bush all for rich and big biz
Family values seem to be the magic ingredient in the election campaigns. To me, “family” means children, and the future well being of all children is a broad issue. That’s much broader than the limited “moral” view the fundamental right holds as it obsesses about sex in some form or another. A larger moral view includes issues of social justice in which access to health care, a good education, clean air and water, a living wage, ability to buy a house would be available to all families, not just the ruling elite.The American ideal is based on everyone having the same opportunity to succeed, so trying to create a good health and education system for all our children is the foundation for the American dream. Due to our current budget deficits (40 percent due to the tax cuts), we’re slashing the programs that are supposed to help the poor. So much for “compassionate conservatism,” an oxymoron. When given the choice between lifting poor children onto a little more equal footing or tax giveaways to the very rich, guess who wins? The horror of social programs fostering the tragedy of dependency and indolence never quite makes the leap to arguments about the inheritance tax. Waiting for grandpa’s trust fund looks to be little different.The No Child Left Behind Act is a landmark initiative that holds schools accountable through a standardized test. Accountability is good, but there is controversy over the “one size fits all” test. When the act passed, a sum of money was promised to implement the test and help schools improve. In this year’s budget, Bush under-funded the NCLB by $9.4 billion on top of the $17 billion the previous two years. Some poorer states are refusing to comply. They see it as an unfunded federal mandate with questionable results anyway. On top of this, the successful Head Start and Early Head Start programs are being shortchanged so less than half the children eligible can receive a head start. The rest are left behind. This seems to be a common thread with this administration – say one thing then do another.On the environment they rely on Orwellian language to mislead. “Healthy Forests,” “Clear Skies,” etc., are all environmental rollbacks hiding behind fluffy language. Watch out for phrases like “clarifying,” “streamlining,” “bringing balance back to,” “greater flexibility.” These are often sure signs that some hard-fought protection of the public’s common good is being steamrollered for corporate interests.An example: The Department of Agriculture decided to “clarify” the “Organic” label. Suddenly “Organic” labeled products could contain animal drugs, sex hormones, antibiotics, toxic fish meal and pesticides. They snuck this through without the public comment period required by law, and all to help agribusiness. When word got out, consumers, small producers and trade associations surprised the administration by kicking up such a fuss they backed down. Public protest does work.Remember mad cow disease and how we’d have new tough feed regulations banning all meat [except fish] from cattle feed and banning cows brains, spinal nerve tissue, other high risk parts (SRM) and meat from sick downer cows being fed to chicken and pigs. Well on July 9, the FDA postponed for the second time any action, instead asking for comments and scientific information, none of which we need since Europe has been there before us. But I ‘m sure the American Meat Institute, which opposes banning SRM, is happy. The meat industry feels that it can best address this issue without the need for regulation. That’s a classic case of short-term profits obscuring any long-term vision – scarily similar to our “deer in the headlights” inaction to the steadily approaching global climate crisis.Despite all the talk about cracking down on corporate cheats, the IRS is reducing its corporate audits, prosecutions and penalties. In the year 2000 60 percent of corporations paid zero in taxes. Since then, corporate taxes have been reduced by $170 billion. Taxes are what we pay to maintain the society we live in and benefit from. Corporations are part of that society too.In the Economic Report of the President, economists wanted to label fast-food workers as manufacturing rather than service jobs. Cooking a burger is chemically transforming it, i.e. manufacturing. Coincidentally, this would increase the number of manufacturing jobs and silence critics who point out that any job growth is mainly in the low-wage service sector. Such manipulation would be funny if it didn’t work, but our major news channels prefer ratings to news. As a result we’ll rely more on paid commercials to inform us about political candidates and they gloss things over.Remember the 2000 election and how while Washington argued Texas moved forward with a patient’s bill of rights that was a model for America? The ads forgot to mention that Bush, a recipient of HMO campaign funds, vetoed it the first time it passed, then opposed the next version. When it passed and became law with a veto proof majority, he still wouldn’t sign it.Though Bush’s terrible environmental record and shady attempts to hide this from public view have biased me against him, I understand that both candidates will be misrepresenting themselves and each other. Democracy is important enough to take the time to listen to the cable news networks, read different papers, get as broad a view as possible and question the sound bites. If it sounds too clear, it probably is. Little in this world is as cut-and-dried as a sound bite.Alan Braunholtz of Vail, Colorado, writes a weekly column for the Daily.