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Economic Disaster Longtime Coming

Back in January 2001, in an article presciently titled: "Bush: ‘Our Long National Nightmare of Peace and Prosperity Is Finally Over,’ " The Onion satirized the list of horrors on our horizon following the installation of the Bush regime. Here’s what The Onion had to say about Bush and America’s economy:

On the economic side, Bush vowed to bring back economic stagnation by implementing substantial tax cuts, which would lead to a recession, which would necessitate a tax hike, which would lead to a drop in consumer spending, which would lead to layoffs, which would deepen the recession even further.

Seven years ago, some of us may have chuckled at that prediction. Today, we see that even though The Onion writers probably thought they were pushing the envelope as far as they could go, they fell far short of describing the economic disaster Bush created.

Robert Kuttner, co-editor of The American Prospect, makes clear the current economic morass stems back to Bush and to the extremist conservative ideology that’s run rampant through the federal government over the past two decades. And as Kuttner told Democracy Now yesterday, it’s up to Democrats in Congress to connect the dots so the public understands that what’s going on now in the U.S. economy is not a series of isolated incidents.

When people lose their homes because of the subprime mortgage disaster, it’s not only because a greedy and unethical lender, acting in isolation, misrepresented the terms of the deal. When two people in a family working two jobs can’t afford health care, their situation isn’t an aberration. The subprime lender is part of a winner-take-all culture  cultivated by intentional government inaction that winks at egregious excess of corporate greed. Familes working full-time who can’t afford health care are among millions in this nation for whom the American dream is hoping they don’t get sick.

Only when the stock market nosedives, putting pundits’ portfolios in jeopardy, do they acknowledge what many of us have been saying for years: The economy is not working for working people and hasn’t been for a longtime. Americans for Democratic Action pulled together a few facts to show just what the Bush administration has given us since taking office in 2001:

  • 1.7 million more people without jobs.
  • 4.1 million more people in poverty.
  • 9.1 million more food stamp recipients.
  • $777 billion more in consumer debt.
  • 97 percent more long-term unemployment (more than 27 weeks).

…And on, and on….

Bush now is talking short-term stimulus, as if all working families need is a band-aid before his corporate buddies can go back to bullying us on the playground.

We need both short-term and long-term solutions. Last week, the AFL-CIO proposed steps to address the immediate crisis and the strategies needed to turn around our economy and put us all on solid footing.

Short term:

  • Extend unemployment benefits.
  • Increase food stamp benefits.
  • Provide tax rebates targeted to middle-income and lower-income taxpayers.
  • Ensure fiscal relief for state and local governments to avoid the economically depressing effect of tax increases and budget cuts.
  • Accelerate ready-to-go public investment in school renovations and bridge repair.

These measures should be in addition our proposals on mortgage relief in which we urge lawmakers to impose an immediate moratorium on foreclosures on subprime mortgages—any mortgage with a teaser rate structure, as well a restructuring of subprime loans for 30 years at the lower teaser rates.

In a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, AFL-CIO President Sweeney also proposed longer term solutions to solving the wage stagnation, including:

  • Ensuring transparency and effective regulation of our housing and financial markets.
  • Reactivating the historically successful fiscal and monetary policies that place a higher priority on full employment.
  • Fixing our flawed trade policies. Investing in the high-paying green jobs of the future.
  • Fixing our broken labor laws so that workers who want to form a union can bargain with their employers for better wages and benefits.
  • Ensuring affordable health care and retirement security.

Last year, we spearheaded economic education trainings—An Economy That Works for All—among union activists across the country to empower them to dismantle the corporate agenda and build a working family agenda. It’s critical we get across to our union members and the public at large that there’s a connection between seemingly isolated economic problems, and that these problems are woven into the very fabric of a corporate-first, top-down political environment that isn’t on our side.

[Thanks to everyone here who took time to fill out our health care survey last week. In just over a week, nearly 10,000 people have taken part in it. The comments submitted about individual health care experiences show again just how dire the crisis is in this country.]

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Tula Connell

Tula Connell