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BushWatch: The Hubris, the Horror

bushwatch.jpgSomeone responded yesterday to an AFL-CIO blog in which we mentioned that just days before leaving office, Bush got a whole new set of nearly $600,000 china for the White House. The fellow who commented was rightly appalled. But then he went on to say:

I don’t know about the rest of you who are reading this, but I am just barely making it the way it is. I’m not proud when I say this, but I’ve even had to eat dog food a time or two this past two years just to stay alive! You go out on the streets and you can’t even buy a job. These are the hardest times I’ve ever seen and I’m now 50 years old.

Dog food for dinner. That, in a few words, sums up the Bush legacy.

Over the past eight years, we at the AFL-CIO have kept a running chronicle of Bush actions at BushWatch. The list of horrors we kept tabs on focused on workplace issues, such as safety and health and social service issues, like children’s health insurance. Even though it doesn’t include the multitude of attacks on our constitutional rights, his disastrous foreign policy or abysmal environmental record, the list is long—very long.

Tonight, Bush trots out his smirk and his hubris to give yet another valedictory for his failed terms in office. A good time to point out just a few lowlights from eight years of hubris and horror:

  • Bush appointed a former Wal-Mart attorney who argued against laws protecting workers’ overtime pay to head the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division. Paul Decamp later left Wage and Hour for a spot at a union-busting firm.
  • Bush appointed, re-appointed and used recess appointments to get a former coal CEO—Richard Stickler—in place as the director of the nation’s watchdog agency for mine safety.
  • Under Stickler’s watch, dozens of miners were killed in accidents across the country. The U.S. Labor Inspector General’s office found the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) was “negligent” when it approved a mining plan that most mine safety experts believe played a major role in the Crandall Canyon coal mine disaster that killed six miners in August 2007.
  • In 2001 alone, Bush revoked 19 health and safety grants for universities, labor-management groups and unions to develop new health and safety programs. Later that same year, Bush forced the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and MSHA to stop work on 30 job-safety initiatives that were in the regulatory pipeline.
  • Over the years, the Bush administration refused to act on safety standards that would protect workers from toxic substances such as lung-damaging beryllium and diacetyl (an additive used in microwave popcorn that may cause respiratory injuries) and illnesses such as tuberculosis and pandemic flu.
  • With time running out on his administration, Bush began a last-minute end run last fall to implement several new rules long sought by Big Business, including a change in how exposure to toxic substances is measured that could increase workers’ susceptibility to the effects of dangerous chemicals.
  • Bush attacked workers and their unions by taking bargaining rights away from hundreds of thousands of federal employees, including those in five Justice Department divisions; airport screeners; Department of Homeland Security employees; and staff at the National Imagery and Mapping Agency.
  • Bush killed repeated attempts to extend health care coverage for low-income children, an issue Christy has written about many times here—and he had no shame in saying he killed children’s health care because it would hurt the private, for-profit health insurance industry.

On Inauguration Day, we plan a symbolic burning of BushWatch on our blog. Wouldn’t it be a wonderful world if it were so easy to erase the effects of eight years of his regime.

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Tula Connell

Tula Connell