If I were a conspiracy theorist, I would have a field day with the Bush administration, asserting that it’s all about the money. Here’s what I would say:
– Tax cuts – The mantra of the “conservative” party appears to be “let’s decrease our revenues while at the same time spending ourselves into oblivion in an illegal and unnecessary war.” Whom do the tax cuts benefit most? The wealthy, in two ways: 1) they get a bigger break than the rest of us and 2) they are the ones loaning money to the country to fund our deficit that results from not collecting enough revenues. It’s a vicious circle (vicious to the rest of us, not to the wealthy; to them, it’s a circle of prosperity). Is that why 70% of the country’s $9 trillion debt has been incurred under the watchful eyes of the last three “conservative” presidents? Is that why only two of the 19 budgets submitted by the last three “conservative” presidents have been balanced?
– Iraq – The reason we were dragged to Iraq was because it was easier to convince the Legislature to attack Saddam Hussein than to convince them to drill in Alaska. And so we spend $2 billion each week ($483 billion so far) for the promise of oil (I’m sure in the fourth year of the war the oil production in Iraq will reach the pre-war estimates and begin to defray the costs) instead of investing that in green technologies. Why? Because Bush was an oil-man and he owes A LOT to his ol’ boys. Because he doesn’t know if the people who will eventually make a lot of money in renewable energy donated to his campaign. Because there were bucket-loads of money to be made in the “reconstruction effort,” primarily by Halliburton and other enormous multi-nationals (and donors). Because the military-industrial complex is one of the wealthiest sectors of the economy (and also huge donors) and they can make better money selling tanks than funding debt.
– Privatized Social Security accounts – This was a brain-child of the early years. The point was to get a bunch of novices (us) into the business of investing so that we would have to invest through Merrill Lynch, T Rowe Price, Fidelity, Goldman Sachs, etc. In other words, the wealthy would have one more chance to skim off our money in the form or investment fees.
– The environment – The Bush administration has declined to increase national gas mileage minimums (CAFE standards), increase soot restrictions to a less lethal level, and allow California to strike out on its own to demand higher mpg (the first time in the history of the EPA that it has rejected a petition from a state intended for “environmental protection”). It increased (quadrupled, if I remember right) the reporting minimum of hazardous waste, meaning that you have to generate a whole lot more before you need to report how much and what you did with it; this means there is a whole lot more waste out there that goes unaccounted for. Why does Bush have this disdain for environmental protection? Because protecting the environment doesn’t make his friends richer. In fact, it would cost Detroit a lot to retool to the point where it could match the fuel economy of automakers in the rest of the world. Besides, anything that smells of slowing the economy reduces the fees and interest made by the folks on Wall Street.
Another more cynical view (yes, I can get more cynical about it—I’m pretending to be a conspiracy theorist, remember?) may be that the adverse health effects that result from these decisions pads the pockets of the private healthcare industry and the lenders that sufferers resort to. After hearing the creepy tape of Nixon on Sicko, I wouldn’t put anything past him or the current megalomaniac-in-chief.
– Speaking of Healthcare – My one hang-up with universal healthcare has always been that the opportunity in the U.S. for making money has created the innovative environment for new medical technologies and treatments. Just a couple of days ago I realized that all the technology in the world doesn’t do me a bit of good if I can’t afford it.
More than half of the bankruptcies in the U.S. are at least partially due to healthcare costs resulting from a catastrophic illness. And 75% of those had that holy grail, health insurance, at the onset of the situation. Fearmongers tell us that universal healthcare is too expensive (look at all the taxes they pay in Europe!). I think it’s a lot more expensive to pay a portion of our healthcare dollars into the pockets of investors, stockholders, and bloated CEOs rather than directly into a single-payor system with a government-wage agency director.
– Bankruptcy – And when the uninsured, underinsured, or unlucky finally run out of money and get kicked to the curb halfway through treatment, they find that the Republican congress in 2005 made it harder for people to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, that position of privilege that so many people were so anxious to get to that the government had to finally step in to slow the flow (too bad they didn’t have the same foresight when their lender friends were tossing out interest-only mortgages like candy at a parade). This simply means that fewer Americans can get relief from the crushing debt that the lack of universal healthcare has put them in. It also means that healthcare corporations, payday lenders, and credit card companies don’t get cheated by those shifty terminal patients.
– Speaking of Lending – We Americans spend more than we make. Granted, no one forces us to do this. However, the trap that it becomes is unconscionable. The reason lenders can make “risky” loans (risky because there has been historically a higher chance of default) is because the ubiquity of data makes them, in fact, not risky. It is very difficult for people in our day to drop from the radar. You can’t simply move without a forwarding address to dodge your loans. Common sense would determine that interest rates would therefore decrease as repayment is more likely. But instead they continue to increase, along with fees. This is why the financial sector wasn’t too scared about “risky” mortgages. They overestimated the resilience of the market, but they made a load of money in the meantime. And they’ll make a load of money on the loans that their victims will be living on for the foreseeable future.
– College tuition – tuition in Utah has increase 16% in the last five years. I must admit, I haven’t talked to anyone to find out which of the schools’ costs are rising at that rate. But I know the result: college becomes unaffordable to more people, meaning the wealthy get more exclusive access to the best jobs in the economy. Basically, the glass ceiling of the bachelor’s degree is creeping lower very quickly. This alone has the power of creating a de facto aristocracy in America. It also means that those who take the leap and use student loans pay more in interest to the folks on Wall Street.
At the end of it all, I think the Bush administration is the best thing that ever happened to the wealthy. The term laissez-faire comes to mind, followed after 15-20 years by the term “Great Depression.” Don’t worry, they’ll come out of it OK.
That’s what I would say if I were a crazy conspiracy theorist. Boy, wouldn’t that be kooky! I’ll bet you’re glad I don’t believe any of that baloney. Maybe next time I’m pretending I’m a conspiracy theorist I’ll hypothesize about the other thing the Bush administration is stealing from the common man: power.