Did you notice during the last election that liberals couldn't quite
remember exactly what made Bush Senior, and the entire Republican machine,
so odious? How we couldn't quite come up with examples for the Naderites
to prove that, yes, there really are important differences between the
parties? Let's not let that happen again!
Did you notice during the last election that liberals couldn't quite remember exactly what made Bush Senior, and the entire Republican machine, so odious? How we couldn't quite come up with examples for the Naderites to prove that, yes, there really are important differences between the parties? Let's not let that happen again!
Elephant Memory is an archive of actions taken by the Bush Jr. administration that show it to be:
- Relentlessly pro-big-business at the expense of the environment
- Relentlessly pro-rich at the the expense of the poor
- Relentlessly conservative in the extreme, at the expense of moderation
I don't mean for this list to be comprehensive. Really, it's just a hobby. But at least it should help us REMEMBER this stuff in 2004! Links are to articles in mainstream press only -- mostly the New York Times, the 'newspaper of record.'
Some might ask "Should this page really be up after September 11?" To which I answer: YOU BET. The Republican corporate machine has exploited September 11 and the national grief surrounding it to pass the outrageous corporate taxbreaks and other welfare-for-the-rich programs. Under the guise of "national security," wildly overbroad incursions into civil liberties have been implemented, and increased exploitation of the environment has taken place. Even more than before, it's important that we remain vigilant, and remember this stuff the next time we get to vote.
Here, then, in no particular order, are things to remember:
Steal from the Poor, Give to the Rich
1. The Bush Income Tax Cut
40% of Bush's tax cut goes to the richest 1% of families. The $1.35 trillion tax cut has already erased the budget surplus and further increases in spending (such as Bush's $18 billion more for defense) will have to come from the Social Security surplus.
(Treasury Department tables, reproduced in NY Times, Mar 01) Now we're already back into deficit, and this before the war expenses came along.
2. The "Emergency Economic Stimulus Bill"
The Bush folks told corporate lobbyists back in January, 2001, "Just you wait." Now, in November 2001, the wait seems to be over. No one paid much attention to this "Emergency Economic Stimulus," but here are some of the choice features of the new round of tax break (courtesy NY Times, Oct 27, 01, at C1) passed by the House:
- 64% goes to corporations, 32% to individuals. (And of the individuals, 19% is "upper income", 13% lower and mid income.)
- $25 billion is tax rebates to large corporations: $1.4bil to IBM, $781mil to GE, for example. These companies are doing quite well notwithstanding September 11.
- A repeal of the Corporate Minimum Tax, which ensures businesses can't use loopholes to pay no tax at all.
- A potpourri of other corporate tax breaks, again, skewed to the largest, biggest businesses.
3. The Estate Tax Repeal
The Estate Tax taxes inheritances over $750,000. Bush & the GOP Congress repealed the estate tax, thus depriving the government of millions in revenue in the most regressive way possible. The rhetoric was that the estate tax hurt 'family farms' and so on, but no exemption was proposed for such entities; instead, the entire thing was repealed. Then, in a twist, the full repeal was postponed for ten years -- so the impact of it wouldn't appear on any budget forecasts. Here are facts about the estate tax and the cost of its repeal. Talk about 'fuzzy math'...
4. Bush's junior appointments are destroying regulations that
affect big business
All this from Stephen Labaton, Bush is Putting Team in Place fora Full-Bore Assault on Regulation (NY Times, May 23, 2001, at D1).
- The new head of the Consumer Products Safety Commission has a decade-long track record of voting against proposed safety rules. She has criticized the commission for creating a 'federal nanny state.'
- The new head of the Federal Trade Commission has said that the Clinton administration restricted too many big corporate mergers.
- John D. Graham, the new head of Bush's budget review process, is a Harvard professor whose studies on risk said that many environmental regulations (including limits on dioxin) have costs that outweigh the benefits. The 'costs', of course, are borne almost entirely by industry; the 'benefits' by people who don't get cancer.
- Michael Powell, the new chair of the FCC, has opposed every action to limit the size and scope of cable and phone companies.
- Two of the three new service secretaries in the Defense Department come from military contractors.
5. Campaign Finance Reform is not really a bipartisan issue,
and the Republicans get much more corporate $ than Democrats
People identify campaign finance reform with John McCain, and he deserves a lot of the credit. But in the February 14, 2002, House vote on the Shays-Meehan bill, which would eliminate soft money, the vote was 240-189, with 198 out of 210 Democrats in favor, and 176 out of 217 Republicans opposed. Is this really bipartisan? It shouldn't be surprising tha it's this way. Compare these stats (from Common Cause, and the NY Times, Feb. 15, 2002)
"Hard Money":Republicans, 132.3 million - Democrats 54.6mil
"Soft Money": Republicans, 87.8 million - Democrats 61.9mil
The Republicans win elections because Big Business buys them!
What did the Enron bosses do?
- Embezzled hundreds of millions of dollars in phony partnerships which siphoned money from Enron to their own personal bank accounts.
- Sold stock worth hundreds of millions of dollars while telling everybody the company was getting better & better. Meanwhile, Enron employees couldn't sell the Enron stock in their retirement plans.
- Knowingly overinflated revenue numbers, lied to analysts, and covered up all evidence of the wrongdoing until the company tanked. Meanwhile, individual investors got soaked because of the misleading information.
What does it have to do with Bush & the Republicans?
- Enron=The Bush Administration. Enron is one of the largest corporate contributors of Bush & the Republicans. But that understates it. Really, they are the same people - rich Texas oilmen who run the GOP. One of Enron's former chief lobbyists is now Secretary of the Army! Ken Lay hand-picked the head of the government agency that regulates Enron's business.
- Enron executives repeatedly met with Cheney, Bush, Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, and countless White House aides in the final months of the company's existence. What did they talk about? We don't know.
- Bush and Cheney have repeatedly lied about their Enron contacts. Bush said he only got to know Ken Lay in 1994; actually, it was at least 1992. He said Enron supported Ann Richards; actually, they supported Bush. (NY Times, Jan. 19, 2002, at A19) Cheney's spokespeople said Enron got "not one thing" from the energy plan, but actually they got billions of dollars in tax breaks, incentives, and 'investment', not to mention $254 million in corporate tax "rebates" from the Bush "stimulus" plan -- even though Enron hadn't paid any taxes at ALL in the last five years. (Id.)
- Enron executives (the same guys who stole millions of dollars) were on Cheney's "Energy Task Force." Now Cheney won't release the records of what they talked about. Why not? Maybe because Enron basically wrote the White House 'Energy Plan'?
- Kenneth Lay and other Enron execs are best friends with Bush. Are we really supposed to believe he knew nothing of any of Enron's shenanigans? Does he bear no responsibility? Why won't he even return Enron's campaign contributions?
- Some people say this is a bipartisan scandal, but that's like comparing a pothead to a smack addict. The Democrats also took Enron money, but in trivial amounts compared with Republican leaders. Enron and the Bush/Cheney oil crowd -- the SAME PEOPLE.
Where's the special prosecutor to investigate the theft of billions
dollars? Nowhere. We're too busy chasing the "American Taliban."
Ask ex-Enron employees, who are now left with nothing in their retirement
accounts, if they care about that guy. Compare this:
Whitewater - Clintons lost about $50,000 due to 2 land deals with shady characters. $30,000,000 taxpayer dollars to investigate.
Enron - Bush's best friends stole hundreds of millions of dollars in a cascade of ponzi schemes, while defrauding thousands of investors and employees out of their life savings. No special prosecutor, no independent investigation.
Screw the Environment
1. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
Bush and his team want to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) for exploration.
- The ANWR coastal plain, where drilling would occur, is a pristine wilderness, a diverse ecosystem, and the birthing ground for over 129,000 caribou. (William Cronon, Neither Barren Nor Remote, NY Times, 2/28/01) 180 bird species use the ANWR, including many migratory species that have ties to ecosystems in the Northeast, Midwest, California, etc. (id.)
- The US Geological Survey estimates the ANWR may have beween 4-12 billion barrels of oil. Taking the mean (7 bil), that translates into about 1 year of oil at our current daily use of 18 million barrels/day. (Amazing since 7 billion barrels would have supplied us from 1859-1924, and now lasts only a year) (id.)
- Alaska, meanwhile, has the highest per capita federal spending ($8,521 per person!) in the country and gets so much largesse (e.g., a $176k grant to the Reindeer Herders Association) that the money is called "Stevens Money" after Senator Ted Stevens. (NY Times, March 18, 2001, A14). Welfare for Republicans.
- The "it won't hurt the ANWR because it's only 2000 acres" argument is bullshit. That counts platforms but not connecters or pipes or roads; it's like saying your desk only takes up six inches of floor space because it only touches the floor on six square inches. (Paul Krugman, Two Thousand Acres, NY Times, Mar. 1, 2002, A23)
- Why are the Bush people LYING about how much oil it'll yield, LYING about conservation's potential, and LYING about the harm drilling will cause? Probably because it is good for the big oil business. Companies like Halliburton -- Dick Cheney was CEO of Halliburton before becoming the GOP's VP candidate, and still holds millions of dollars' worth of stock -- stand to make billions of dollars in the new exploration.
2. The "Energy Plan"
Remember the "Energy Crisis"? In the first half of 2001, it was a Big Problem. The Bush team developed an "Energy Plan", which we now know was created by large oil and industrial concerns, all large GOP donors. (NY Times, March 1, 2002, at A1). The task force that came up with the Energy Plan worked in secret (see NY Times, May 16, 2001, at A1) and came up with a wishlist of everything oil, gas, and nuclear companies wanted. It marginalized conservation (even though every dollar invested in energy efficiency in federal buildings saves taxpayers $4 in energy costs, and energy efficiency improvements made since 1973 have saved Americans $400 billion a year, according to TomPaine.com). And it disregarded safety and environmental concerns at every turn.
Now, there's no more "Energy Crisis," but there is a War. So Big Oil is using September 11 as a pretext for the same set of pro-oil, anti-environmental statutes they didn't get through the first time. Thank you for using the death of innocent Americans as a pretext for serving your greed!
But instead of six months of oil from Alaska, wouldn't a better get-us-off-foreign-oil plan be to move us away from oil, period? What about tax incentives for more fuel-efficient vehicles? Alternative fuel research? Importing oil costs us $250 billion a year, including subsidies and secondary costs. (Rob Nixon, A Dangerous Appetite for Oil, NY Times, Oct. 29, 2001, at A11.) We consume 25% of the world's oil, but even including Alaska, possess only 4% of world oil resources. Clearly, if we want to reduce our dangerous appetite for oil overseas, we have to reduce our appetite for oil.
is a great New Yorker article about this -- follow the link to
"Poor Little Big Oil" to download the document. It's a great one
pager about how the fluctuations in oil supply and demand are simple supply
and demand, and how these claims that we need a national energy policy
are both (a) totally false and (b) wildly hypocritical for a less-government-Republican
3. Bush's senior appointments come straight from industry and
- Andrew Card, Bush's chief of staff, was most recently a leading lobbyist for the auto industry's American Automobile Manufacturers Association. He opposed rules requiring cleaner-running cars, fought EPA smog and soot rules, and helped lobby against the Kyoto treaty. (Tompaine.com)
- Dick Cheney, ex-CEO of the Halliburton oil exploration company
- Gale Norton, Secretary of the Interior, is a former lobbyist for "property rights" groups in the West seeking to undo environmental rules. She is a disciple of James Watt, the notorious Reagan administration Secretary of the Interior who said that trees cause pollution and tried to undo ten years of environmental rules.
- J. Steven Griles, Norton's deputy at Interior, is a former lobbyist for mining and chemical interests. (One candidate passed over for the job: Bush Sr.'s secretary of Fish & Wildlife.)
- Camden Toohey, Norton's official in charge of aAlaska, is a former lobbyist for Arctic oil drilling.
- Kit Himball, Norton's official in charge of the West, was a lobbyist for Western business issues.
- Mike Dombeck, the chief of the US Forest Service, quit in March, 2001, after senior people said they wanted to "move in a different direction" from the Clinton administration.
- Eric Schaeffer, for five years the director of regulatory enforcement at EPA, quit in February, 2002, saying the White House "seems determined to weaken the rules we are trying to enforce." (NY Times, Mar. 1, 2002)
5. Let the Earth Burn
Bush formally abandoned the Kyoto convention on climate change
- Bush said we're still not sure whether climate change is real. In fact, every non-industry-paid climatologist believes global warming is taking place. The debates are only about extent. Only paid toadies of the oil and automotive industries keep denying. Do the research. Industry just plain lies about climate change. (See TomPaine.com on this issue for point-by-point analysis) The fact is, it is happening and we know why.
- There is now real evidence, in addition to climate models, of global warming: shrinking of ice caps, glaciers, etc. (Andrew Revkin, When Will We Be Sure? Sept. 10, 2000).
- This move has seriously hurt international efforts on climate change and has further isolated the US from everyone else in the world, now when we most need their support. Every major industrial power has agreed to Kyoto -- but not us. We're ruled by an oil baron.
Bush also reversed a pledge to cut CO2 emissions in a "major betrayal" of a previous promise. (NY Times, March 14, 2001, A1). During the 2000 campaign, Bush promised mandatory reduction targets for CO2. Then, he let it drop. Why? Maybe because oil and other industry lobbyists are running the government.
Bush's "Voluntary" Climate Change plan was written by industry. Bush's big alternative to Kyoto is that businesses should voluntarily cut the pace of emissions' growth. Yeah they've done that really well so far. Who came up with this great idea? "Every number, every date, are the numbers and dates that they [fossil fuel companies] advocated," said David Hawkins, climate policy director at the NRDC. (NY Times, Feb. 15, 2002, at A6). This isn't just the fox guarding the henhouse. This is the fox saying "I'm going to kill more hens, and this is how, and you're gonna have to take it."
This plan would be totally ineffective. At its best, it would gradually reduce the rate of increase of emissions. Scientists say that CO2 emissions need to fall bellow 1990 levels in order to slow catastrophic climate change. But jeez, that might actually hurt the oil companies' bottom line...
Another little side-note: Bush proposes tax credits for businesses that lower emissions. Great! More tax-breaks for business! Just what we need!
6. Eroding the Clean Air Act
Bush's team has eviscerated the Clean Air Act. Examples:
- The Bush Administration is lifting the ban on snowmobiles in Yellowstone National Park. (NY Times, June 24, 2001, A15). (This is a particularly annoying one for me since I worked for the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund, now EarthJustice, to convince Yellowstone to regulate or ban snowmobiles.) This comes after three years of discussion, 45,600 public comments, and the clear statements by park rangers that snowmobile exhaust is a major pollutant in Yellowstone.
- The Bush administration is dropping a series of Clinton-era enforcement lawsuits aimed at requiring old, coal-fired power plants to conform to the Clean Air Act. (NY Times, May 7, 2001, A11) Why? Industry said it was too hard to conform.
7. Endangering Clean Water
- Bush's EPA has decided to wait until at least 2003 before requiring states to adopt new water pollution standards that were supposed to go into effect last year. (NY Times, July 17, 2001, A17)
- Bush's EPA reversed the Clinton-era EPA's limits on arsenic in water, and replaced them with more lenient limits.
(NY Times, 3/21/01). The Clinton standard was 10 parts per million, developed after ten years of research. The National Academy of Sciences concluded that the old standard of 50 ppm, established in 1942, was 100 times less protective than other drinking water standards commonly in use. Bush's people said there was no "consensus" on the number. (Chuck Fox, Arsenic and Old Laws, N.Y. Times). And why do it? Arsenic that ends up in drinking water is largely produced by extractive industries such as mining. (Id.)
- The Clinton Administration had closed a loophole in wetlands protection. Despite an Earth Day pledge to keep this loophole closed, the Bush administration is now talking with industry groups (but not environmental groups) on ways to work around the wetlands rules. UPDATE: On January 15, 2002, the administration changed the rules, at industry behest, to allow wetlands to be destroyed as long as they are generally replaced on a regional basis. In the past, companies or people who filled in wetlands had to replace them acre-for-acre. (NY Times, Jan. 15, 2002, A16)
8. Kill the Forests
- The Clinton Administration put a rule in place protecting 60 million untouched acres of national forest from road building, oil and gas leasing, and logging. Various entitites sued. The Bush administration is not defending the plan, making it likely that it will be scotched.
- Now, Bush's forest chief, Dale N. Bosworth, says he's going to make the decision to uphold or kill the rule on his own, as a matter of his own discretion!
- The Bush administration fought hard to allow logging of burned trees on 46,000 acres of the Bitterroot National Forest, saying "just do it" without any of the statutorily required notice and review periods. (NY Times, Dec. 18, 2001, at A16). (The burned trees are critical to the forest's revival after fire, since they fertilize the ground, support wildlife, etc.) Luckily, a Montana judge stopped this on January 8, 2002. (Thanks to EarthJustice for fighting the fight -- a lawyer I used to work with in Bozeman won the case!) Oh, by the way, the Forest Service official who okayed it is a guy named Mark Rey. He used to be a lobbyist for the timber industry! Typical Bush environment appointee.
9. Kowtowing to Cattle Lobby
No more grizzly bear reintroduction in the West, thanks to Bush's interior department. Cattlemen opposed the reintroduction, fearing lost herds. The coalition in favor was a broad coalition of hunters and fishers. And Secretary of Interior Gale Norton didn't consult any of the scientists who worked for ten years studying the impact of reintroduction. Guess science and popular consensus doesn't matter.
10. Kowtowing to the Mining Lobby
- The Clinton administration had proposed rules finally giving the feds power to block mines likely to cause "substantial irreparable harm" to water quality and other resources. Gale Norton spiked them.
- Vice President Cheney's "Energy Task Force" has proposed a plan to open millions of acres of public land to new oil and gas development, including formerly off-limits areas in the Rockies.
10. Opposing National and International Plans for Cleaner Energy
- The Bush administration is opposing an international drive to phase out fossil fuel subsidies (which cost our government far more than welfare ever did) and move towards cleaner energy sources. (NY Times, July 14, 2001, A1). Why oppose this move? It hurts oil and gas companies. There really is no other reason. It wouldn't cost us anything.
- And why phase out rules for new washing machines and air conditioners to be more energy efficient? (NY Times, March 31, 2001, A11.) Helps environment, costs industry. (Even though it would help consumers save money if energy costs rise.) Spencer Abraham, the industry-lobbyist-turned-Energy-Secretary, spiked rules on central air conditioners because energy conservation had to be "balanced" against price. (NY Times, April 14, 2001, A7) So much for the energy crisis!
11. Letting Industry Challenge and Destroy Environmental Laws
One thing many people don't understand is that the government does much of its enforcement work in courtrooms. Industries always challenge environmental rules, and it's up to the government to defend them. But since the Bushies took over, the government has just rolled over on dozens of rules. For example, the Clinton administration had published a rule phasing out snowmobiles in Yellowstone National Park. Industry sued, as is expected. The Bush administration decided to roll over and "reconsider the rule." This is happening in dozens of invisible cases.
12. Starve environmental agencies
In Bush's first budget, military spending increased 4.8% (this was before 9/11, of course). (NY Times, April 10, 2001, at A16). Interior went down 3.9%, EPA down 6.4%, and Energy down 2.5% (largely in efficient-energy projects). By the way, a comparison: EPA gets $7.3 billion; the Pentagon $310.5 billion. The entire EPA budget is less than the nuclear weapons program ($14bil), and the spending on single big projects in the DOD's "black budget."
Some cuts: $40 mil less for the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles. Spending on solar, wind, and hydroelectric power down 50%. Oh, and the Interior budget does include some increases -- $5mil for studying drilling in the Arctic, roughly 15% increases for oil, gas, and coal extraction research generally. Why does the government spend a dime on this research if it's industry that makes the money? Dunno - maybe because it's industry lobbyists running the government.
13. Screw Endangered Species
The Bush Administration has asked for a one-year freeze on citizens suits under the Endangered Species Act. These suits are one of the main tools people have for getting the government to enforce the law. (NY Times, April 12, 2001, A1)
14. Ruin National Parks and Wilderness Areas
The Norton Interior department has been, without a single exception, in favor of every single mining and drilling proposal that has come its way. No big surprise, since the department is staffed with former lobbyists for the mining and drilling industries. This despite 35 million acres already open to development. Norton has even asked for new financing to "streamline" the permitting process. (NY Times, Feb. 8, 2002, A14) A recent example: The Bush administration just opened up scenic areas next to Utah's Arches and Canyonlands National parks, with 50,000-pound trucks already crisscrossing the desert. This surprised even the oil industry, not to mention the park rangers and government scientists who had strongly opposed the drilling. (Id.) That particular "exploration," by the way, was halted after mass protests. (NY Times, Feb 26, 2002; see also the editorial Chewing Up a Fragile Land, NY Times, Feb. 21, 2002, which describes the awful and blasphemous destruction of wilderness in the name of money).
Another example: snowmobiles in Yellowstone. Despite years of study and overwhelming public support, the Norton Interior department is revising (and wants to kill) the Clinton-proposed ban. Guess the rangers should just keep wearing gas masks. (NY Times, Feb. 20, 2002, A14)
Um, is there any good news on national parks? Well, to be fair:
- Bush didn't fulfill his pledge to overturn Clinton's declaration of about two dozen national monuments.
- He is helping the Everglades, in his brother's state, with $58mil in new money. Of course, he cut parks spending around the country, but, hey, it's Jeb's park.
15. Let Toxic Polluters Get Away Free
The Bush Administration has decided to end thirty years of the "Polluter Pays" principle in cleaning up Superfund sites. (NY Times, Feb 24, 2002, A1) Now, instead of the polluters, taxpayers will pay to clean up the mess! Any coincidence that the polluters are some of the GOP's biggest donors? (See also Carol Browner's editorial - she was head of EPA under Clinton - in NY Times, Mar. 1, 2002, A23).
More to come, I'm sure.
Last update: March 12, 2002