The destruction of our America

Let's say you have a brother who just can't manage money or pay his bills. He's in debt up to his eyeballs. His kids aren't getting adequate medical care or education because of his spending.

Five years ago, he did have money, but blew it all, and more, on a wasteful and destructive foreign adventure that made your family a lot of enemies. Last week, however, he topped that.

He arranged to borrow a whole lot, most of it, presumably, from the Chinese. But he didn't use it to pay his bills; he gave most of it to a bunch of millionaires who didn't need it, to curry favor with them.

So you tell me: Is it time that we stepped in and did an intervention, or whatever it's called, before our family is ruined forever?

Guess what: Surprise, surprise — this is a story about you, dear comrades! Your recklessly insolvent brother is our own smirking, stoop-shouldered George W. Bush, the worst president in history.

Today the press is so weak, and we are so used to his outrages, that we barely noticed the latest atrocity — another $70 billion tax cut, nearly all of it for the well-to-do to wealthy. The worst part is not that it is unfair, though it is. The worst part is that it hastens the collapse of our economy. The Seattle Times quoted Mark Zandi, chief economist for Moody's, a financial consulting service based in Philadelphia.

"If you do the math," he said "under any kind of reasonable economic assumptions the budget deficit will be 10 percent of gross domestic product 20 years from now. That's untenable. The economy will break before we get there."

That's from a conservative investor. Even if you are totally in sympathy with Puddin'head George's values, share his belief we should be launching a military crusade to save the world from radical Islam, and even if you think the war in Vietnam — oops — Iraq can be "won," you cannot be happy about his wrecking of our own economy.

George W. Bush makes the wildest liberal in Massachusetts look like a sensible money manager, as the conservative Detroit News noted when it declined to endorse him for re-election two years ago. Alone among any president since Thomas Jefferson, he has never vetoed any bill.

Of course, he has had a Congress dominated by a chorus of fellow know-nothings. Yet even other presidents whose party ran Congress would veto the odd spending bill for the good of the nation.

Not the man selected for us by Antonin Scalia and his friends. By the way, it isn't strictly true that middle-income families won't get any tax cut out of this latest round of insanity. Why, if you make $50,000 a year, you ought to save $46 a year, which comes close to filling up the gas tank on my seven-year-old Volkswagen Beetle.

Now if you are in the class that George Bush sees as truly needy, i.e., those who make a million dollars a year, help is actually on the way. Those folks will get a tax cut averaging $42,000 a year, according to the prestigious Brookings Institution. Incidentally, some Fox News types have taken to calling Brookings a "liberal" think tank. Apparently, this is because it practices "fact-based" rather than "faith-based" analysis.

Here are some more horrid facts. The damage to the budget and our economy caused by Bush's latest tax cuts won't kick in till after he leaves office. But they will hit at a particularly vulnerable time.

That's because the baby boomers will be starting to retire, in an enormous avalanche that will increase for years and put immense financial strains on Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and on other money needed because of the collapse of many private pension systems.

There won't be nearly enough money coming in, partly because of the many tax cuts for the wealthy, partly because there just won't be enough new workers. For clues as to what that might mean for your family, you might want to rent the movie Cinderella Man.

The folks in that movie, which is really more about the Great Depression than boxing, got in the shape they were in because of a government that pursued economic policies of the sort George Bush and his gang have been vigorously pushing.

But at least we now have definitive sociological proof that 62,040,606 people can be totally wrong, all at once. That was Bush's vote total in the last election, or at least the voting machines said it was.


Failure of intelligence? We have now learned that the National Security Agency, one of the most shadowy of America's many spy shops, is collecting billions of American phone call records.

That didn't surprise me in the least, given that we have an administration that has repeatedly shown that it has no respect for law. What was very dismaying is that a new Washington Post-ABC poll shows that two-thirds of Americans don't consider this much of a threat.

My guess is they haven't thought about it enough. Do you want the government knowing whom you call and keeping a record of it, perhaps for somebody to do something with, someday?

Now, of course they say they aren't listening in on those calls at all. Naturally, I believe everything that the government says. Nor do I have the slightest fear that for the first time in history, Bush wants to name an active military officer, Gen. Michael Hayden, to head the civilian CIA.

Why would that bother me? Do you expect me to care that (what a coincidence!) Hayden was the guy in charge of eavesdropping on our phone calls and e-mails when he ran the National Security Agency?

Why would I care about that, or any of the rest of our rights and freedoms? It's almost time for American Idol!


Daily news blues revisited: Last week I gently (as always) questioned whether it was great journalism for the Detroit Free Press to fail to cover what three Nobel Prize winners were doing in the city. Instead, they devoted much of the front page to editor Paul Anger's thoughts about eating peanut butter right out of the jar.

Someone protested that I was a hopeless intellectual, and that the dim bulbs of Gannett were only giving their readers exactly what they wanted. In fact, the Free Press was crowing earlier that very week that it was one of the very few newspapers in the nation not to lose circulation last year. (They gained 0.04 percent, possible because of the months of hype leading up to the Super Bowl.)

Well, that was then and this is now, and Gannett is fully in charge. The April numbers just arrived, and the Free Press is selling 13,000 fewer papers than it did a year ago. Actually, it is selling barely half as many newspapers as a few years ago. But Gannett should change that — for the worse.

Twenty years of Gannett took The Detroit News from 670,000 subscribers to its present 209,109. Now the conglomerate owns the Free Press instead; if April trends continue, the last subscriber of that paper will cancel her subscription sometime in June 2031, unless I am still getting it in the nursing home.

You have to have a certain dazed admiration for a performance that doesn't involve William Hung (I don't think) and is so consistently bad.

Jack Lessenberry opines weekly for Metro Times. Send comments to l[email protected]
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