Tea for Two (Hundred) at the Intersection of Misguided and What-the-Fuck

Tea Party.jpg
I got $50 in bailout cash that says they're clueless about Socialism. Or for that matter, Democracy.
Driving down Eldorado Parkway in McKinney last night I happened upon a slew of sign-holding, flag-waving folks staging themselves a protest thinly disguised as a "tea party." Embarrassingly lame.

"Bailouts Steal Our Children!" read one sign. "You Can't Multiply Wealth By Dividing It!" screamed another. And my personal fave: "Obama is the Real Pirate!"

Really? Sorry, but I don't get it.

*When Bill Clinton left office in 2001 America enjoyed a budget surplus of +$127 billion.

*When George W. Bush left office in 2009 America's budget deficit was -$455 billion.

I'm no Stephen Hawking, but that's bad, right?

Where were these God-'n-Country maniacs when Dubya was not finding weapons of mass destruction, not smoking Osama bin Laden out of his cave and instead ruining a company from a $127 billion winner into $455 billion loser?

Instead, this is how it goes down: The guy responsible for the shit gets a standing ovation in these parts, while the guy responsible for cleaning up the shit gets a protest.

Nope, no tea for me. I'm good.

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11. Bush squandered global goodwill after 9/11. Bush thumbed his nose at world sympathy for the victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks, by declaring a global war on terrorism and declaring “you are either with us or against us.”

12. Bush turned to Iraq not Afghanistan. The Bush administration soon started beating war drums for an attack on Iraq, where there was no proven Al Qaeda link, instead of Afghanistan, where the 9/11 bombers had trained and Osama bin Laden was based. His 2002 State of the Union speech declared that Iraq was part of an “Axis of Evil.”

13. Bush attacked United Nation weapons inspectors. The march to war in Iraqstarted with White House attacks on the credibility of U.N. weapons inspectors in Iraq, whose claims that Saddam Hussein did not have nuclear weapons proved to be true.

14. Bush flat-out lied about Iraq’s weapons. In a major speech in October 2002, he said that Saddam Hussein had the capacity to send unmanned aircraft to the U.S. with bombs that could range from chemical weapons to nuclear devices. “We cannot wait for the final proof—the smoking gun—that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud,” he said.

15. Bush ignored the U.N. and launched a war. The Bush administration tried to get the U.N. Security Council to authorize an attack on Iraq, which it refused to do. Bush then decided to lead a "preemptive"  attack regardless of international consequences. He did not wait for any congressional authorization to launch a war.

16. Bush abandoned international Criminal Court. Before invading Iraq, Bush told the U.N. that the U.S. was withdrawing from ratifying the International Criminal Court Treaty to protect American troops from persecution and to allow it to pursue preemptive war.

17. Colin Powell’s false evidence at U.N. The highly decorated soldier turned Secretary of State presented false evidence at the U.N. as the American mainstream media began its jingoistic drumbeat to launch a war of choice on Saddam Hussein and Iraq.

18. Bush launched a war on CIA whistleblowers. When a former ambassador, Joseph C. Wilson, wrote a New York Times op-ed saying there was no nuclear threat from Iraq, the White House retaliated by leaking the name and destroying the career of his wife, Valerie Plame, one of the CIA’s top national security experts.

19. Bush pardoned the Plame affair leaker. Before leaving office, Bush pardoned the vice president’s top staffer, Scooter Libby, for leaking Plame’s name to the press.   

20. Bush launched the second Iraq War. In April 2003, the U.S. military invaded Iraq for the second time in two decades, leading to hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths and more than a million refugees as a years of sectarian violence took hold on Iraq. Nearly 6,700 U.S. soldiers have died in the Iraq and Afghan wars.

21. Baghdad looted except for oil ministry. The Pentagon failure to plan for a military occupation and transition to civilian rule was seen as Baghdad was looted while troops guarded the oil ministry, suggesting this war was fought for oil riches, not terrorism.  

22. The war did not make the U.S. safer. In 2006, a National Intelligence Estimate (a consensus report of the heads of 16 U.S. intelligence agencies)asserted that the Iraq war had increased Islamic radicalism and had worsened the terror threat.

23. U.S. troops were given unsafe gear. From inadequate vests from protection against snipers to Humvees that could not protect soldiers from roadside bombs, the military did not sufficiently equip its soldiers in Iraq, leading to an epidemic of brain injuries. 

24. Meanwhile, the war propaganda continued. From landing on an aircraft carrier in a flight suit to declare “mission accomplished” to surprising troops in Baghdad with a Thanksgiving turkey that was a table decoration used as a prop, Bush defended his war of choice by using soldiers as PR props.


President George W. Bush's Eighth Legacy: Destruction of Retirement

Another Bush legacy has been the destruction of the retirement system established in the immediate post-World War II period. That system was based on the idea of a three-legged stool structure that included Social Security, employer-provided pensions, and personal savings. Bush actively undermined all three, resulting in a crisis of historic proportions for the more than 44 million retirees and the 77 million baby boomers who will join their ranks starting next year.

The crisis in Social Security is not the one described by the Bush administration a few years ago, as Bush desperately attempted to privatize the system. The crisis is the more than $2.3 trillion dollars that has been siphoned out of the Social Security Trust Fund, transferred to the U.S. general budget, and spent in order to pay for wealthy and corporate tax cuts, chronic wars under Bush, and ballooning defense budgets. Social Security payroll tax collections for two decades have actually subsidized the U.S. budget, not undermined it. Every year the Social Security program produces a surplus, at the rate of sometimes hundreds of billions of dollars. And that surplus is diverted in full and spent. Defenders of the historic theft say we owe it to ourselves and can put it all back in the trust fund whenever we need. True. But to replace it requires that the U.S. government borrow back the $2.3 trillion from banks and other private sources, paying interest on that debt, and thus adding at least $200 billion more a year for 10 years to the coming $1 trillion a year budget deficit. In accounting terms it is possible; in economic and political terms it is not. Bush has borrowed over his eight years in office more than $1.3 trillion of the $2.3 trillion Social Security Trust Fund surplus.

President George W. Bush's Ninth Legacy: Dismantling Health Care

Bush has been even more successful in privatizing, and thus dismantling, the post-war health care financing system. By allowing health care insurance premiums and other costs to double during his term, rising more than 10 percent every year, he has forced employers and workers alike to give up health care coverage altogether or to reduce that coverage in order to afford rising premiums and other costs. There are now more than 47 million Americans without any kind of health coverage whatsoever, an increase of 9 million since 2000. More than 1.3 million working Americans lost their health insurance coverage in 2006 alone. Approximately 12 percent of all children in the U.S. have no health coverage.

Despite this collapsing coverage, the U.S. spends nearly twice as much, about 17 percent, of its total GDP on health care. That compares with 9 to 10 percent for those countries with single payer health delivery systems in Europe, Canada, and elsewhere. It means the U.S. spends more than $1 trillion a year to mostly insurance companies that push forms around while delivering no health services.

For those still with health insurance, the rising cost burden has also shifted significantly from employers to their workers—by as much as 30 percent, according to some studies. Thousands of companies have been allowed to abandon their health plans altogether, most notably the big auto companies which are dumping their health care funds, underfunded by $50 billion, onto the auto workers' unions.

President George W. Bush's Tenth Legacy: Income Shift

Every year for the first five years of his terms in office Bush pushed historic tax cuts totaling more than $5 trillion. Estimations from sources like Brookings, Urban Institute, and others are that about 73 percent of the cuts benefited the wealthiest 20 percent households—30 percent, or $1.5 trillion, of that 73 percent benefited the wealthiest 1 percent households; roughly 1.1 million out of the total 114 million taxpaying households in the U.S. But these figures don't include tax cuts for corporations. Nor do they include similar massive tax shifting at the state and local levels. Where has all that tax cut money gone, one might ask? A good deal of it into hedge funds, private equity funds, and other forms of private, unregulated banking, thus stoking the fires of speculative investment in subprimes, derivatives, and other unregulated financial securities. Other amounts have no doubt contributed to the explosion of offshore tax shelters. According to the investment bank Morgan Stanley, in 2005 offshore tax shelters increased their funds from $250 billion in 1983 to more than $5 trillion by 2004. More recent estimations by the Tax Justice Network indicate tax shelters now hold more than $11 trillion. A reasonable estimate is that wealthy Americans likely account for at least 40 percent of that total—around $4-$4.5 trillion. Exactly how much is not currently knowable, since there are around 27 offshore tax shelters, according to the IRS, in mostly sovereign nations like the Cayman Islands, the Seyschells, Isle of Man, Vanuatu, and the like that have closed their tax doors and do not cooperate with IRS attempts to investigate how much wealthy U.S. taxpayers have stuffed away in their electronic vaults.

This explosion of income and wealth at the top at the expense of those at the bottom has been estimated in recent academic studies by Professors Emmanual Saez and Thomas Picketty. Based on their analysis of IRS taxes paid over the history of the federal income tax since 1917, the wealthiest 1 percent of households in the U.S. received about 8.3 percent of total income in the U.S. in 1978. By 2006, that wealthiest 1 percent was receiving 20.3 percent of total income generated in the U.S.—not including tax sheltered income or corporations' retained income or profits diverted offshore. This 20.3 percent represents a return to almost exactly what the top 1 percent received in 1928 (21.09 percent) on the eve of the last Great Depression.

These legacies are interdependent, one feeding on and exacerbating the other. It is not possible, for one example, to understand the current financial crisis and emerging global epic recession apart from the massive shift and concentration of income in the hands of the wealthiest household-speculators and corporate-speculators. That is not the sole explanation of the present systemic financial collapse or growing threat of global depression increasing now almost daily. But the financial and economic crisis underway at present cannot be fully comprehended apart from the former either. Reversing the legacies, removing the toxic effects on the future of American economy and society cannot take place without correcting the fundamental causes. That includes reversing once again, as in the 1930s and 1940s, the perverse and distorted income and wealth distribution afflicting society itself. 

Ajay Jain

Twitter Handle @ajain31.
Mobile: 214-207-9781