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Lies, Damned Lies and Bush Lies

What happens when you e-mail President Bush with concerns over the president’s handling of workers’ rights? You get an auto-generated e-mail, natch—but one filled top to bottom with lies. Let’s take a look.

From: “White House Strategic Initiatives”
Subject: Thank you for sharing your concerns about U.S. workers’ rights
Reply-To: “White House Strategic Initiatives

Thank you for sharing your concerns about U.S. workers’ rights.

President Bush is committed to the well-being of America’s working men and women and their families, and his economic policies are having a real effect.

Now, here are the facts:

Job growth over the past business cycle has been slower than in any other business cycle lasting at least 78 months: Payrolls were only 4.3 percent higher in September 2007 than in March 2001, compared with the other three recent cycles, which posted growth rates of at least 10 percent.

The wealthiest 1 percent of Americans earned 21.2 percent of all income in 2005, up sharply from 19 percent in 2004. The bottom 50 percent earned 12.8 percent of all income.

Workers’ productivity grew 18 percent between 2000 and 2006—but most people’s inflation-adjusted weekly wages rose only 1 percent during that time. This was the first economic expansion since World War II without a sustained pay increase for rank-and-file workers.

Under Bush, the number of those without health insurance rose from 38.4 million (13.7 percent of the population) in 200 to 47 million (15.8 percent of the population) in 2006.

Health care premiums have increased 78 percent since 2001, the year Bush took office.

Since 2001, 1.8 million jobs have been lost in the U.S. due to the growing trade deficit with China.

Since January 2001, 3.1 million manufacturing jobs have been lost, a decline of 18.3 percent. In September 2007, U.S. manufacturing jobs totaled only 13.9 million—the last time the number of manufacturing jobs in the United States fell below 14 million was in June 1950.

Household debt is now more than 90 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) and more than 120 percent of disposable income—both historically high levels.

The Bush administration has increased total outstanding federal debt by more than 550 billion per year for the past four years. That means by the end of 2007, if current trends continue, the nation under Bush will be $9.216 trillion in debt.

Bush and Republicans in Congress fought an increase in the minimum wage which, until Democrats gained a majority in the House this year, remained at $5.15 for 10 years.

Nationwide, the number of home foreclosures will reach 3 million by the end of 2007, nearly five times the rate of 2004.

Forecasts show by the end of Bush’s term in 2009, 700,000 fewer people will own homes than when he came to office.

Since the President took office, after-tax income has increased by 11.9 percent—about $3,500 per person.

Fact:

Because the tax cuts are being paid for with borrowed money, the cost of paying the added national debt more than wipes out any benefits from the tax cuts for 99 percent of residents in each state. Only the best-off 1 percent are net winners from the president’s fiscal policies.

Middle-income taxpayers are paying more taxes while high-income households have seen a sharp drop in their tax bills. And working people are getting less for their taxes. Of the approximately $2.7 trillion the federal government spent in fiscal year 2006, social programs—such as unemployment insurance, child care assistance and low-income housing—made up only 9 percent of the federal budget. Some 21 percent of the budget, or $557 billion, went to pay for defense, homeland security and security-related international activities.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the largest percentage of income gains in 2006 occurred for people in the bottom 20 percent of incomes.

Fact:

By 2004, real after-tax income of the poorest one-fifth of Americans rose by 9 percent, that of the richest one-fifth by 69 percent and that of the top 1 percent by 176 percent, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

The poverty rate is lower than all but one year in the 1980s and 1990s while unemployment is 4.6 percent, lower than the average of each of the past four decades.

Fact:

The percentage of children, people and families who are poor was higher in 2006 than before Bush took office. In 2006, 9.8 percent of families were poor in the United States, compared with 8.7 percent of families in 2000. Among America’s children, 17.4 percent were poor in 2006, versus 16.2 percent of children in 2000. In all, 12.3 percent of all people were poor in 2006, compared with 11.3 percent in 2000.

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the 4.7 percent unemployment rate in September 2007 was higher than when Bush first took office in January 2001, when the unemployment rate was 4.2 percent.

The president also has worked diligently to protect workers’ rights and paychecks.
The administration opposed a recent bill that would have stripped workers of the fundamental democratic right to a supervised private ballot election and interfered with their ability to bargain freely. The bill was eventually voted down.

Fact:

The Employee Free Choice Act opposed by Bush and some Republicans in Congress, would not have taken away workers’ freedom to join a union through the ballot process. It would have added another option for workers seeking to join unions—majority sign up—a process that involves far less government involvement.

Bush’s National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) repeatedly ruled against workers seeking to form unions, even though union members on average earn more than nonunion workers. (In 2006, median weekly earnings for full-time wage and salary work were $833, compared with $642 for their nonunion counterparts.)

Since 2001, the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL’s) Employment Standards Administration has made record-level recoveries of back wages ($1 billion, including overtime) and improved employer compliance with wage and hour and anti-discrimination laws.

Fact:

In August 2006, Bush used a recess appointment to install former Wal-Mart attorney Paul DeCamp, a lawyer with a long record of urging restrictions to the Fair Labor Standard Act’s overtime pay and other provisions, to head up the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division. DeCamp was senior policy adviser to the Labor Department’s Employment Standards Division when the division’s failure to stop rampant wage theft involving wage-and-hour violations by employers engaged in Gulf Coast recovery work after Hurricane Katrina.

The Bush administration proposed weakening rules for determining whether private employers with federal contracts illegally pay women or racial minorities less than other employees for comparable work. Under Bush’s plan, the Labor Department’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) would abandon the current system in which pay bias is determined through large discrepancies in pay grades and replace it one with based on non-statistical factors such as experience.

DOL’s civil rights enforcement agency and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recovered $2.3 billion since 2001 for U.S. workers subjected to unlawful employment discrimination.

Fact:

Earlier this year, the Bush-dominated U.S. Supreme Court ruled that workers have no right to sue to remedy pay discrimination if they wait more than 180 days after their first short paycheck, even if workers don’t discover the pay discrimination until years later.

The Bush administration threatened to veto a bill that would have remedied this pay discrimination.

The administration also is committed to ensuring the retirement security of America’s workers, retirees and their families. In August 2006, the president signed the Pension Protection Act of 2006, the most sweeping reform of America’s pension laws in more than 30 years. This legislation strengthened the pension insurance system and ensured that workers receive better information about their pension plans.

Fact:

Bush made privatizing Social Security a priority, with a failed proposal that would have forced drastic cuts in retirement benefits for America’s workers—whether or not they chose to take part in the scheme. His plan would have slashed guaranteed benefits as much as $9,000 per year, with the average worker losing $152,000 in guaranteed retirement benefits. Between 1960 and 2004, Social Security helped cut the poverty rate among seniors by more than two-thirds, from 35 percent to 10 percent.

Since 2001, DOL’s Employee Benefits Security Administration has protected $9.2 billion in workers’ pension, health and other employee benefits, and its investigations have led to 691 criminal indictments.

Fact:

With backing from the Bush administration, House Republicans in a straight party-line vote rejected a Democratic economic stimulus proposal in 2002 that would have extended the emergency federal unemployment benefits program for long-term laid-off workers for another six months and added 13 weeks of regular benefits for jobless workers in all states. The plan offered the jobless assistance in only three states, did nothing to help the long-term unemployed workers who had exhausted their benefits and denied benefits to 2.9 million laid-off workers who were expected to run out of emergency and regular benefits.

Finally, thanks to this president, more workers are eligible for overtime. In 2004, DOL finalized reforms to white-collar overtime regulations. For the first time ever, the regulations explicitly guarantee overtime protection to blue-collar workers, police, firefighters, EMTs, production-line workers and construction workers.

Fact:

When Bush and Republicans in Congress rolled back overtime pay protections, they made it possible for as many as 6 million workers to lose the right to any extra pay for the time they work beyond 40 hours a week.

Further, the new rule excludes police, fire fighters and other workers now classified as “executives” from receiving overtime pay.

Thank you again for taking the time to write.
Office of Strategic Initiatives
The White House

P.S.

The White House memo left out any reference to the more than 1.4 million U.S. men and women who return home after being deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Those who left jobs when they were deployed have the legal right, in all but the rarest circumstances, to get them back. But veterans groups have charged the federal government has violated the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) by denying veterans reinstatement to federal civilian jobs or full benefits on their return from service.

The 2006 unemployment rate for veterans 20–24 years old was 10.4 percent. Some 1.8 million U.S. veterans have no health insurance. More than 400 veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are reported to be homeless, and the Veterans Affairs Department and aid groups say they are bracing for a new surge in homeless veterans in the years ahead.

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Tula Connell

Tula Connell

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