|The Nossiter Net
The net that shall enmesh them all
Edited, Written, and Published by J.C. Nossiter
|The Morning Mendacity
Monday, August 30th, 2004
|The Nossiter Net is cast to snare some of the riper rascalities of the day. Comments? email@example.com|
|What can the Bush Administration say in defense of an economic performance that last year alone created 1.3 million new poor? Administration pitchers are trying two kinds of spin; let’s call them the sinker and the slurve.
The sinker, because it’s an argument that upon examination goes straight down the drain, claims that the 2003 U.S. Census Bureau report on incomes and poverty (see Bush Runs, Can’t Hide) is a snapshot in time that misses the last glorious three quarters of strong economic performance. And like many Administration fantasies, this one contains a grain of truth: the Census Bureau report does reflect data collected only until January of ’04. It’s the rest of the argument that deserves to be flushed down the – sink. In the first quarter of ’04, the economy did grow at an annual rate of 4.5%, and did create jobs.
But then consumers stopped spending, and in the second quarter of ’04 growth slowed to 2.8% according to the latest Bureau of Economic Analysis figures (bea.gov). The economy, in other words, stopped dead in its tracks. Mounting household debt, the prospect of higher interest rates, and the cumulative effect of the loss of nearly three million jobs in three years finally shut down what had been the engine of U.S. economic growth; consumer spending. The sluggish growth, zero job creation, and stagnant incomes of last year are all occurring this year as well.
So much for the sinker. The slurve, which seeks to duck criticism by slinking and curving out of the way, states simply that it’s not the Administration’s fault. 9/11, high oil prices, the threat of terror, and world-wide geopolitical instability have all contributed to an economic slowdown beyond the Bush brain trust’s control. Never mind that the Administration has contributed mightily to the latter two by regularly terrifying the electorate with color-coded threat announcements, and by invading and occupying Iraq. And never mind that this argument utterly contradicts the Administration claim that its tax cuts for the wealthy and massive give-aways to big energy, big pharma, and defense have spurred economic growth.
No, what should focus our full attention on this pitch is the unspoken basis for the “it’s not our fault” defense: the “we couldn’t do any better” excuse. Because that’s simply a lie. The Administration made deliberate policy decisions that led us directly to the present pass. Among the many policies the Administration could have pursued instead: direct grants to the states in the wake of 9/11 to cushion the economic impact of the attacks; government guarantees for health insurance providers to encourage lower premiums; rigorous pursuit of a full employment economy through incentives to hire and to invest in plant and equipment; a fully-funded and well designed plan to restore our public school system to health.
Economists don’t agree on much, but there is consensus among the brethren that nothing contributes more to economic growth than investment in human capital, which is to say health, and education. The Bush Administration has consciously neglected both, and no amount of spin can disguise the severe costs.
The Afternoon Affront
Bold Bush Administration minds are also spinning the devastating Census Bureau report this way: sure, wages are stagnant for 80% of wage earners, but their tax cuts compensate them. The non-partisan, non-profit Citizens for Tax Justice (ctj.org) estimates that in 2003, the Administration tax cuts put an average of $339 into the hands of the lower 80% of wage earners. Tax savings for the lowest 20% of earners are a whopping $61. Doubtless they’ll be cheered to learn that tax savings for the top 1% of wage earners averaged $11,302 – or perhaps not.
©J.C. Nossiter 2004
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