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Second Class Americans

It will probably come as no surprise that there was a time when I thought I could never agree with anything Pat Buchanan had to say. Then he loudly announced himself an anti-interventionist (a more polite term, perhaps, than isolationist). Although some of his motives may have been suspect, the result -- allowing sovereign nations to go about their business without big brother's interference -- could only be applauded.

Now he has shaken up the conservative tree once again with his open criticisms of Bush's talk of an economic recovery, a "new morning" for America:

"For scores of millions of U.S. workers, things are getting worse ... From the peak of employment in 2001 to the trough in 2003, 2.4 million U.S. jobs disappeared. Since recovery began, over a million jobs have been created. But that still leaves over a million jobs lost, plus millions of workers added in three years through immigration and natural population growth ... Is it morning in America again? Or are we breaking up into the 'two Americas'?"
I have already written quite extensively on the growing inequality in the United States, and I am confident in declaring that the age of the two (or more) Americas arrived some while ago. Even the "recovery" in hiring that Buchanan was willing to grant has stalled. The latest figures show job openings at a much lower figure than economists predicted. Just to keep even with population growth, the US needs to add 140,000 to 150,000 jobs every month. To absorb new workers and to put the unemployed back in jobs, the market should be creating at least 250,000 to 300,000 jobs each month. The actual June and July figures of 78,000 and 32,000 respectively need to be seen in this light.

For all of Bush's talk that the income tax cuts he pushed through for the wealthy would drive the economy forward, an analysis by Mark Zandi of Economy.com, quoted at TomPaine.com, found

"very little boost from the tax cuts for the wealthy. Perhaps most important, Zandi found that a different policy—one based on quick and substantial relief to those most likely to spend (the unemployed, the strapped states and middle- and lower-income taxpayers)—would have generated more growth and 2 million more jobs.
Even those with jobs are suffering under the Bush administration. Those who have lost good paying manufacturing jobs, and can actually find another job, generally find themselves in lower paying service-sector employment. This in turn is leading to an increase in the use of food stamps according to the government's own figures quoted by the Center on Budget Policies and Priorities:
food_stamps"May 2004, the last month for which data are available, 23.9 million people participated in the Food Stamp Program ... Since its recent low point in July 2000, participation has increased by 7.1 million people, or 42 percent."
Those employed are also losing their benefits at an alarming rate given the price of medical attention in the US.
" The number of Americans with employer-paid health coverage fell dramatically from 2001 to 2003, with about 9 million people losing coverage, according to a national study released Aug. 2. The Center for Studying Health System Change (HSC) said the proportion of Americans under 65 with employer coverage fell from 67% in 2001 to 63% in 2003 ... At present, about 43 million Americans have no health insurance coverage, either public or private. "
Finally, and thinking of the middle-class that Bush claims to have put his "reforms" in place for, the early years of the 2000s have certainly seen a startling increase in home ownership, driven by easy credit and Administration urging. However, this too is an issue with dire consequences according to Dean Baker in the Nation.
"The crash of the housing market will not be pretty. It is virtually certain to lead to a second dip to the recession. Even worse, millions of families will see the bulk of their savings disappear as homes in some of the bubble areas lose 30 percent, or more, of their value. Foreclosures, which are already at near record highs, will almost certainly soar to new peaks ... In this context, it's especially disturbing that the Bush administration has announced that it is cutting back Section 8 housing vouchers, which provide rental assistance to low income families."
One can discount the good-news rhetoric that the Bush Republicans will try to sell for the next three months. The fact is, the economy is a mess and whoever wins in November will have to pick up the pieces.

August 25, 2004 in Bush Administration, Capitalism, Right wing | Permalink


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