Episode Three: Alice Meets Compassionate King Bush
Alice decided no one was going to offer her any tea, so she left. Soon she came to a beach. There she saw King Bush standing with his top Republican Congressional leader, DeLay Walrus.
King Bush was beckoning the little oysters who were falling through the safety net. They heard his clarion call and scrambled to his side.
King Bush coaxed: “Just climb up the safety net and walk with us. I declare a new day where people will no longer depend upon the government. We’ll get the government out of your business. Without interference all the unemployed will find themselves jobs making at least the $5.15 minimum wage.”
Delay Walrus: “That’s right. Let private industry set the rules.
“You can’t have your cake and eat it too. That is, unless you’re wealthy. Then you can have the anti-government cake. But if you mix your rhetoric with big tax contributions to King Bush and his Republican Congressional friends, when the cake is all baked you can get a top job in King Bush’s administration. And you can still get the biggest slice of the government contracts. If you’re really clever, like Halliburton, you don’t even have to compete for them.”
Compassionate King Bush: “But I feel so sorry for the people who don’t have those special contacts with old buddies in the White House.”
With sobs and tears he sorted the oysters into piles of different sizes. His tears flowed hardest for the little children.
Alice was glad to see such compassion from King Bush.
Reading her thoughts, Compassionate King Bush continued: “I’m a Compassionate Conservative. That’s why I initiated a stronger Federal role in education with my new policy, ‘Leave No Child Behind.’”
Compassionate King Bush drew himself up proudly: “Isn’t that a catchy phrase?”
Alice: “Yes. Who thought it up?”
Compassionate King Bush: “We got it from the Children’s Defense Fund.”
Alice: “My mother said that was a good organization, that Hillary Clinton belonged to it.”
Compassionate King Bush: “Don’t talk to me about her. Why, that woman thought every American should have health care. Don’t people realize that only poor nations--Japan, Canada, England, Sweden, Australia, Germany and Switzerland--can afford giving health care to all their children? Don’t talk to me about Hillary and her wild ideas.”
Alice, feeling a little abashed, continued timidly: “I wonder if the Children’s Defense Fund minds your using their slogan. Even if they don’t, do they support your polices?”
Compassionate Bush: “Why, everyone who likes little children must support education, so they must support ‘No Child Left Behind.’”
Alice: “Do teachers like having someone from Washington telling them what to do?”
Compassionate Bush: “Well, the best teachers go to the richest suburbs so they have lots of money to spend on extra teachers and fancy computers and learning tools, so the new rules are no problem for them.”
Alice: “My teacher was complaining that you didn’t give our school all the money you promised.”
Compassionate Bush, indignantly: “That’s liberal propaganda. Just because I have a good idea, everyone expects me to fund it too.”
Compassionate Bush looked very grumpy.
Alice, quickly, not wanting to offend him: “Well, I know you’re doing other things for school children.”
Compassionate Bush: “Yes. I want to give vouchers to children so that they can get out of the bad public schools and go to good ones or to religious schools.”
Alice: “Will this help all children?”
Compassionate Bush: “It will help all children whose parents now pay for private schools. Twelve percent of children now go to private schools. I think the public schools should help pay their bills. Why, with vouchers more children can transfer out of the bad public schools into good religious schools.”
Alice: “The TV said that in Saudi Arabia a lot of children go to schools run by the Islamic clerics. Will our schools be like those?”
Compassionate Bush: “Certainly not. These will be good Christian schools. Of course, I believe in religious freedom. But that’s not the point. Vouchers could help 12 percent of the school children of America.”
Alice was very proud of her ability to subtract in her head: “If 12 percent of the children go to private schools, then 88 percent must go to public schools. What are you doing for them?”
Compassionate Bush: “Well, I’m making sure that they take a lot of tests.”
Alice: “Do the school boards like the idea?”
Compassionate Bush, angrily: “The real problem is the teachers.”
Alice: “My teacher told us that your Secretary of Education, Rod Paige, said that teachers belonged to a terrorist organization, the National Education Association.”
Compassionate Bush, quickly: “I didn’t say that.”
Alice: “If you don’t like what Secretary Paige said, could you fire him? Can’t you fire him or Ashcroft or any of your top people?”
Compassionate Bush: “It’s not that easy, little girl. You wouldn’t want me to be disloyal to my supporters, would you? I owe allegiance to my supporters on the far right. But I can assure you, they’re all for supporting the family.”
Alice was about to ask King Bush more about his supporters, but suddenly she saw something very strange so she left King Bush and went to investigate.
Fact Sheet: What Alice Didn’t Know about Compassionate King Bush
He didn’t put his money where his mouth was.
He never provided the money promised to the schools to carry out his ‘No Child Left Behind’ requirements. His budget request for 2005 was $5 billion less than the amount called for in the legislation.
King Bush claims that he is increasing funding for education in 2005. That is true, but after the election the amount budgeted is slated to be lowered. By 2009 King Bush’s budgets for education will be $660 million below the amount provided in 2004.
Moreover, because of Federal budget cuts in many programs administered by the States and the downturn in the economy during the Bush years, many states have balanced their budgets by cutting educational funds, leaving many local school districts with less money than before. They have had to either cut school budgets and programs or raise property taxes.
Cat: “Of course. Just because you can’t see my body doesn’t mean I’m not here.”
Cat, proudly: “I’m King Bush’s special cat. I can come and go on command. See?”
The cat’s whiskers began to twitch. Then the rest of his body slowly appeared.
Cat, proudly: “It certainly is. And I can do it in reverse. When King Bush assumed his throne, I embodied a surplus of over $2 billion, and you can watch how quickly I faded away.”
The cat disappeared quickly.
Cat: “Well...If I embody the deficit, I can not only come back quickly, I can swell up to many, many times my current size. This year I’ll probably swell up to about $5 billion.”
Cat: “You’ve heard of the phrase ‘bust the bank,’ haven’t you?”
Cat: “Not if Compassionate King Bush gets reelected and has his way. He’ll cut the social programs.”
Cat: “This year he wants to cut child care for the former Welfare Moms who got jobs, medical services to veterans, and Head Start.”
Suddenly Compassionate King Bush himself reappears.
Compassionate King Bush: “No. But I gave major tax cuts to people who make big bucks. You know, the kind who can afford to give $25,000 to my campaign. That’s how I can easily raise a million dollars at a fund raiser.”
Compassionate King Bush: “It spurs the economy. I’m going to buy millions of dollars in TV ads for the campaign.” Drawing himself up proudly, he continued: “By June, I had already spent $77 million on TV ads.”
Compassionate King Bush: “They can buy
expensive second homes to spur the housing industry. It helps the building
Compassionate King Bush: “Really good skiers
need first class outfits. Italian ones are hot this year. And rich people help
the airline industry if they use American carriers when they fly to
Compassionate King Bush: “That’s the place
where firms like Halliburton can incorporate their businesses to avoid
Compassionate King Bush: “Little girl, you just don’t understand. We were talking before about personal income taxes. But American businesses have to pay taxes too.”
Compassionate King Bush: “Certainly. I gave many big special tax write-offs to business to help create jobs.”
Compassionate King Bush: “I don’t know. You certainly don’t want the government to interfere with private industry by monitoring the results, do you? In some cases they probably used the money to build companies overseas where the wages are lower. That will enable them to sell their products cheaper and help American consumers. Or they may use the money to pay higher salaries to their Boards of Directors and CEOs so they can attract the best people.”
Fact Sheet: What
In 1998, midway through President Clinton’s second term, the Federal budget reported its first surplus in 21 years. When he left office, the government had a budget surplus of $236 billion.
President Bush reversed the trend of providing a budget surplus each year. Instead he created a deficit of $375 billion for fiscal year 2003, which is expected to grow to between $477 and $521 billion for fiscal year 2004.
Bush’s figures for future budgets generally do
not include the cost of the war in
Fact Sheet: What
Under Bush, corporate after-tax profits have risen to an all-time high while compensation for working people has reached a 40 year low.
§ The thrust of President Bush’s proposals is to shift the national tax burden to those earning wages and away from people who inherit money, people who own stocks and bonds, and from corporations.
§ Under the current Bush tax system, a working couple with an income of $50,000 a year will pay $8,439 in taxes on that income. If they didn’t work, but instead received all their income from dividends and capital gains, their tax would be only $1,770.
§ If their income was only $20,000, the working couple would pay $2,073 in taxes and the non-working couple would pay $270.
is cleverly concealed in Form 1040, which is all most people see, with a reference
to instructions which refer to a Qualified Dividends worksheet. It finally
reveals, after some intricate calculations, how little tax you pay on qualified
dividends. It turns out that qualified dividends are all dividends except those
§ Bush’s tax cuts do nothing to reduce payroll taxes. Many Americans pay more in payroll taxes than in income taxes. Payroll taxes pay for Social Security and Medicare. Without their Social Security checks, one-half of Americans currently over 65 years old would be poor.
§ The tax cuts do nothing to reduce property taxes. Indeed, the President’s cuts in domestic programs--and especially those in his budget plans for after the election--shift more costs to state and local governments. State taxes, local property taxes and sales taxes are likely to increase to cover these additional expenses.
§ Everybody pays property taxes, not just homeowners. Landlords consider property taxes when setting rents. Renters, however, do not get tax breaks enjoyed by homeowners. Thus, increases in property taxes hurt lower income wage earners most, since they are the most likely to be renters.
§ The estate tax, which President Bush calls a “death tax,” is only paid by people who have assets worth more than two million dollars.
The rhetoric about saving the family farm or business is misleading since most would be exempt. Bush’s proposal largely benefits corporations, including large corporate farms.
Episode Seven: Alice Talks to Compassionate King Bush Again
Alice continued on her way to the beach where Compassionate King Bush and DeLay Walrus were collecting the oysters still struggling in the safety net. Compassionate King George was weeping.
Compassionate Bush: “I feel your pain so much that I’m issuing new regulations to insure that a few of you will get overtime pay when you work longer than 40 hours a week.”
Alice smiled: “That’s a very good thing. Do the new regulations do anything else?”
Compassionate Bush: “Why, they eliminate the potential of overtime pay for six million workers. But some workers making less than $23,660 who didn’t get overtime before will now be eligible. And they really need it, so it’s a good thing.”
Alice: “Who are the six million people?”
Compassionate Bush, brushing her aside: “Mostly women. The regulations don’t say that, and, of course, I’m all for supporting Working Moms, but most of the people who will be affected will be women.”
Alice: “Why women?”
Compassionate Bush: “Because they hold the service jobs like nurses, secretaries, pharmacy clerks, bank tellers, school social workers, and people working in nursing homes or after-school programs. But it’s not my fault they didn’t get better jobs.”
Alice: “Will people making higher salaries be affected?”
Compassionate Bush: “Of course. Don’t you think I want to be fair? Why, employers now may not have to pay overtime to many workers making between $23,660 and $100,000.”
Alice: “My father is a member of the union. Will the unions like it?”
Compassionate Bush: “Of course not. But unions want people to be paid a living wage and get health benefits and pensions. Why, those are fighting words to a Texas Cowboy.”
Alice: “Have unions been successful?”
Compassionate Bush: “They used to be. But they’re losing ground rapidly. Why, union jobs pay about 20 percent more than nonunion ones, and unions negotiate hard for health benefits. Last year there were strikes by grocery workers in both California and Wisconsin--all because the workers wanted to have health coverage for their children.”
Alice: “Will the new regulations affect the unions?”
Compassionate Bush: “Not right away. Most of them have contracts which will last for several years. But when the old contracts have to be renegotiated, the owners will insist on dropping the time and a half for overtime.”
Alice: “Maybe that will be good. Then my parents could work shorter hours and spend more time playing with me.”
Compassionate Bush: “I’m certainly big on family values. But the employers can’t let the workers work fewer hours. The workers will work the same hours. They just won’t get paid for their extra work any more.”
Alice: “Is that fair?”
Compassionate Bush: “Little girl, I spend a lot of time out in the country talking to people. I host a fund-raising dinner every week. And my dinners are so popular that even at a cost of at least $1,000-a-plate, hundreds of people come. Why, people even come to my $2,000-dollar-a-plate dinners.” He smiled proudly. “I can raise a million dollars a night at those. And everyone at my dinners tells me that this policy is absolutely necessary if we are to compete in the Global Economy and protect American workers.”
Alice was a little confused. She wanted a cup of tea. So she decided to return to the tea party even though the creatures there hadn’t been very friendly.
Fact Sheet: What Alice Didn’t Know about King Bush’s Proposed New Overtime Regulations
§ Six million workers making over $23,660 annually could lose their eligibility for overtime pay.
§ Bush’s Wage and Hour Administrator, Tammy D. McCutchen, said that the new rules “will not adversely affect the well-being of families.”
§ But workers now receiving overtime pay depend upon it for 25 percent of their livelihood. They could loose an average of $161 a week.
§ Rather than hiring new workers, firms would be able to increase productivity by requiring their present workers to work longer hours. While millions of workers now receive time-and-a-half pay for any hours they put in beyond the 40-hour work week, under the new rules employers may not have to pay them anything for extra work.
§ The decisions about whether an employee is entitled to overtime pay or not will mostly be left up to the employers. They can stop paying an employee overtime by reclassifying the job.
§ The old rules exempted people from overtime pay only if they were managers or had considerable professional training related to the job, such as a degree in pharmacy. The new rules Bush wants would permit denying overtime pay on the basis of almost any education beyond high school. This would include training provided during military service or on-the-job training.
§ The new rules would eliminate the requirement that a worker had to perform non-exempt tasks 50 per cent of the time to be exempt. If the new rules are enacted, an assistant manager at a fast food chain who spends most of his time flipping hamburgers could be denied overtime if he is in charge of a few other workers. Anyone who is a “team leader” could be exempt even if they have no supervisory responsibilities for their team members.
§ The proposed rules specifically exempt all people working in the financial services industry, computer networkers, internet and database administrators from being eligible for any overtime pay.
§ Local governments may be tempted to cut costs by requiring policemen and fire fighters to work longer hours because many of them would no longer have to be paid overtime. This could reduce their effectiveness due to fatigue.
§ Nurses are already complaining about being forced to work overtime. Experienced nurses are leaving the profession because of poor working conditions.
§ According to the Institute of Medicine, 100,000 preventable deaths in hospitals occur each year, partly due to overworked staff--that’s 273 Americans a day dying unnecessarily. The number is likely to increase when the new regulations add to the stress and fatigue of nurses and other hospital staff.
§ Other workers likely to lose their overtime pay include:
v Newspaper reporters
v Physician assistants
v Sales engineers
v Supervisors in retail stores
v Managers in lodging establishments
§ Both houses of Congress voted to stop Bush from issuing these regulations but Bush’s Republican leadership overruled them in a parliamentary maneuver. In May 2004, the Senate passed a measure that would increase the overtime for workers making less than $23,660 but prevent other workers from losing their overtime eligibility. As of May 20, 2004, the Republican leadership in the House had refused to let the House even vote on this measure.
§ Even if the current Congress manages to stop these rules now, it is likely that issuing them would become a top priority in a new Bush administration.
Episode Nine: The Cat Comes Back
Cat: “That’s because I’ve been busy making things disappear for King Bush.”
Cat, somewhat grumpily: “Well, first I had to disappear his estimates on the cost of the prescription drug benefits for the elderly.”
Cat, angrily: “The problem was that King Bush told the Congress that it would only cost $400 billion, and some idiot released the fact that it’s going to cost over $500 billion. Even worse, a few misguided Congressmen thought that King Bush knew this at the time. They even claimed that someone in his administration threatened to fire an analyst if he gave the true costs to Congress.”
Cat: “You bet it would have. Even at the $400 billion cost we had to have the longest House roll call in the history of the nation so we could postpone the vote until we could get opponents to switch their votes.”
Cat: “We would have lost.”
Cat: “Little girl. You can’t expect him to know everything. You don’t think he’s responsible for those government bureaucrats, do you? Keeping them in line is Humpty Dumpty Rove’s job.”
Cat: “Certainly not. It’s not King Bush’s fault that his staff gave out wrong numbers. Just like he’s not responsible for telling everybody that Saddam and al Qaeda were closely connected.”
Cat, smirking: “Of course. It’s not true, but that doesn’t matter. Besides, King Bush never said exactly that. His Secretary of State Colin Powell and Defense Secretary Mad Hatter Rummy spread that disinformation.
“And certainly you don’t expect King Bush to
be responsible for the words of his top staff, do you? That would be like
making him responsible for the mistake of the CIA and FBI in not sharing
information that might have prevented 9-11. Everybody knows their mistakes were
Cat: “Yes, but you can hardly have expected
him to be on top of national security in that short a time. As I said, the
failures of our intelligence community were all
The Cat disappeared.
Fact Sheet: What Alice Didn’t Know About “Cherry-picking”
The new Medicare law is designed to help private firms offer health benefits more cheaply than traditional Medicare. The private plans will be able to keep their costs down because the law permits them to “cherry-pick.”
§ Cherry-picking is the term insurance companies use when they only accept people NOT LIKELY TO NEED MEDICAL CARE into their plans. When people say that they can’t get health insurance, it’s often because they have a disease, such as cancer, which will require extensive medical treatment. That’s one reason unions have been fighting hard to keep health benefits. Many of their members might not be able to get health coverage if they lose the company plan.
§ An insurance company might accept someone only with the condition that the company does not have to pay for any treatment for a “preexisting” illness.
example, a friend of
“You mean that if I am in an automobile accident and have a ruptured disc, you won’t cover it?” he asked.
“That’s right. We’ll consider it a preexisting condition.”
“What if someone stabs me in the ribs with a knife?”
“We won’t cover it. We will not cover anything related to your back because of the preexisting condition.”
As you can see, the insurance companies do not refuse to cover only the preexisting condition; they also refuse to cover the part of the body which houses that condition.
§ In another case, an insurance company refused to cover any part of a woman’s reproductive system because she had what her doctor said amounted to a pimple on her cervix.
“What if I get breast cancer?”
“Well, I want to make sure I’m doing everything necessary to protect my health. Is this condition on my cervix something that I should be concerned about? What harm can it potentially do to me?”
“I don’t know. I’m not a doctor.”
But the person who was not a doctor was empowered to deny health insurance coverage to the woman.
In the above case, the woman’s doctor wrote to the insurance company, and the woman obtained the coverage.
Fact Sheet: What
The new law encourages the privatization of
§ Although nothing in the law would take away that right, the way the law is structured to work could make traditional Medicare so expensive that many older people will be forced to join a private Health Maintenance Organization.
§ The private companies will not have to accept all the seniors. They can “cherry-pick,” accepting only the healthiest. This will leave Medicare with the oldest and sickest individuals and, therefore, leave Medicare with the most expensive bills.
§ The law does provide some prescription drug coverage, but it will not cover over 75 percent of the drug costs of the elderly. It provides no coverage for any drug bills between $2,250 and $3,600 a year, now being referred to as “the donut hole.” People who fall in the “donut hole” may be able to obtain better coverage by leaving traditional Medicare and switching to a private plan.
§ The legislation lets seniors sign up for a drug discount card once a year. Currently they can choose from among more than 70 plans. Before selecting a plan, they can see if it offers the lowest price for the drugs they presently use and whether they can purchase them at a convenient drugstore.
§ The company administering the plan, however, can change its prices and list of medicines covered weekly, while the senior citizen has to wait for a year to switch plans.
§ Additionally, the price and drug listing information recently provided by insurance companies is already outdated, so selecting a plan is like buying a pig in a poke--there is no way really to know what you are buying.
§ Furthermore, if you become ill with a different disease or your doctor wants to try a different medicine, the drugs you need may not be covered at all. And, in disputes about whether the company will pay for certain drugs, the new Medicare law specifically forbids doctors to contact the insurance company on behalf of their patients.
law also PROHIBITS the government from bargaining with the drug companies for
lower prices. It also prohibits purchasing drugs from
§ There is nothing in the legislation to stop drug prices from soaring. But the law contains a cost containment provision which limits the amount of Medicare increases which can be paid for from general revenues (like income taxes). If costs become too high, Medicare fees and co-payments will be increased, coverage will be limited and/or payroll taxes will be increased.
§ The bill also provides for a health savings account program which will provide tax benefits to younger people who can afford to use the program. But it may cause employers to reduce the health insurance they now provide and greatly increase costs. Health savings accounts are structured in a way which will encourage young, healthy individuals to opt out of comprehensive plans, leaving employers’ plans with older individuals and people with health problems.
§ The government already pays private managed care programs 19 percent more than it pays for the same services under the traditional fee-for-service Medicare which most seniors have preferred. Under the new law, the private firms will be given $46 billion in additional subsidies.
Episode Ten: Alice Sees Humpty Dumpty Rove Again
Alice realized that she still hadn’t gotten her tea so she started walking back to the tea party. On the way she came across Humpty Dumpty Rove sitting in a pristine grove of very old redwood trees.
Alice: “Hello again. Those are beautiful trees surrounding you.”
Humpty Dumpty Rove: “Yes, aren’t they? And they are just the length that the Japanese want for their industries.”
Alice: “I don’t understand. Aren’t you in a National Park? I thought it was illegal to cut down virgin trees in a National Park.”
Humpty Dumpty Rove: “Those trees belong to the American people. The loggers are Americans so they have a right to cut the trees. And trees are a renewable resource anyhow.”
Alice: “But how long will it take to grow the trees back?”
Humpty Dumpty Rove: “Not more than five or six hundred years.”
Alice thought about how long five or six hundred years was. She remembered her history lessons.
Alice: “Oh, those trees started growing about when Columbus started sailing west.”
Humpty Dumpty Rove: “Yes. And remember, little girl, that people had weird ideas about the environment even then. They thought the world was flat. That’s as silly as believing in global warming.”
Alice: “What’s that?”
Humpty Dumpty Rove: “It’s that ridiculous theory that by burning coal and oil to keep our economy strong and create jobs, we’re destroying the ozone layer around the earth.”
Alice: “What would happen if we did that?”
Humpty Dumpty Rove: “The sun would shine through more brightly, the ice caps in the polar regions would melt, and the American cities on the east and west coasts and near the Gulf of Mexico would be flooded.”
Alice: “Where would the people living there go?”
Humpty Dumpty Rove, casually: “Oh, I suppose they could move to the mountains. So it’s a good thing if we build roads into the wilderness and clear cut the land so it will be ready for them to build their houses.”
Alice: “How many people live near the ocean?”
Humpty Dumpty Rove: “Oh, only 50 percent of Americans. But that includes both the Atlanta and Pacific coasts.”
Alice: “Will they all fit in the National Parks?”
Humpty Dumpty Rove: “It’s never really going to happen. It’s just liberal propaganda put out by the scientists and nations who have been hoodwinked by the environmentalists for political reasons.”
Alice: “Do many scientists believe it?”
Humpty Dumpty Rove: “Hundreds, maybe thousands.”
Alice: “Are they good scientists?”
Humpty Dumpty Rove: “They have a Nobel Prize or two.”
Alice: “Do all scientists believe this?”
Humpty Dumpty Rove: “Not the ones King Bush appointed as consultants to EPA. And there is now not even a section on global warming in the EPA reports. The staff took it out.”
Alice: “What about scientists in other nations?”
Humpty Dumpty Rove: “Most of them believe this silly notion even though King Bush’s scientists told them it’s just nonsense. They still liked the Kyoto agreement.”
Alice: “What’s that?”
Humpty Dumpty Rove: “It’s a silly plan concocted by wild-eyed liberals like Clinton to have nations pledge to cut their use of fossil fuel.”
Alice: “Would that be a bad thing?”
Humpty Dumpty Rove: “It would be a bad thing for the oil industry.”
Alice: “Did the U.S. sign the Kyoto agreement?”
Humpty Dumpty Rove: “No, that was one of the first things King Bush did. He killed it dead. He and March Hare Cheney are loyal people. They certainly didn’t want to disappoint their friends in the oil industry.”
Alice: “Will the other nations meet their pledges anyway?”
Humpty Dumpty Rove: “No, most of them will use the excuse that if the U.S. isn’t going to, they don’t have to either. Besides, it probably wouldn’t be too effective without our participation.”
Humpty Dumpty Rove: “Because we’re responsible for 25 percent of the world’s pollution even though we only have five percent of the world’s population.”
Alice: “But what if global warming is real?”
Humpty Dumpty Rove: “I don’t believe it. We’re still able to breathe, aren’t we?”
Alice: “But what if it really turns out to be true?”
Humpty Dumpty Rove: “That will be well after the November election.”
Fact Sheet: What Alice Didn’t Know about King Bush’s Record on the Environment
During the 2000 campaign, candidate Bush promised to decrease carbon dioxide levels even lower than the amount proposed by his opponent, Vice President Al Gore. Bush dropped his pledge within two months of taking office.
§ Bush has opposed extensive and effective efforts to control greenhouse gases on the basis that the scientific evidence is inconclusive. The groups providing that evidence include the National Academy of Scientists and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, both concerned about the changes.
§ Pollution from coal power plants kills some 30,000 Americans a year. Bush’s “Clear Skies Initiative” actually increases the amounts of pollution allowed under the Clean Air Act. The increased levels of sulfur dioxide will increase acid rain which causes respiratory diseases.
§ Bush’s new proposals permit increases in mercury pollution. Mercury can cause brain, lung and kidney damage and reproductive problems.
§ Bush stopped the Environmental Pollution Agency from proceeding with lawsuits against polluters filed under the Clinton administration and cut the EPA enforcement staff.
§ After 9-11, the initial press releases of EPA warned New Yorkers about potential health problems from the lead, mercury, asbestos and fiberglass released into the air near ground zero. According to the EPA Inspector General (the EPA internal law enforcement officer), the White House instructed EPA to change their message to reduce people’s fears. The new message assured New Yorkers that “there was no significant threat to human health,” even though there was no evidence to back up that statement.
§ Bush believes that environmental controls should be voluntary, despite the fact that industry and business have fought almost every environmental regulation. In the 2000 campaign, as proof of his concern about the environment, Bush cited his Texas law urging the oil and gas industry to pledge voluntary reductions in pollution. The law, written with influence from the oil and gas industry, has not been effective. Only 10 percent of the 700 polluting plants even signed a voluntary pledge.
§ In a second administration, Bush might revive some harmful proposals which he withdrew due to public outcry.
§ For example, during the early days of his administration, Bush tried to let industry dump additional arsenic into the drinking water. He withdrew his proposal only after public protest.
§ Bush also wanted to weaken the requirement that states test children on Medicaid for lead poisoning. Lead poisoning causes brain damage leading to learning disabilities and behavioral problems. The effects can be lessened with medication if children are tested at an early age. A high proportion of children in public housing and children living in older housing are at risk because lead paint has not been removed from their buildings.
Fact Sheet: What Alice Didn’t Know about the Health Effects of Pollution
The elderly, children and unborn children suffer the most. Even under existing mercury regulations, an estimated 600,000 children a year are born with brain and other physical damage due to mercury in the water. Although fish have valuable nutrients, in 2001 Massachusetts issued warnings telling pregnant women not to eat the fish from ANY of its lakes.
§ The new Bush proposals increase the total amounts of mercury that will be permitted to be released. As important, they permit polluters at one location to continue polluting as long as they “buy” credits from a plant elsewhere that is polluting less than the allowed amount. This does not reduce the total pollution, and it permits concentrated amounts of mercury to be dumped into a local site.
§ Mercury also can harm adults. Although fishing is a big part of Wisconsin’s economy due to the tourism industry, Wisconsin has warned sports fishermen not to eat more than one of the fish they catch in a week.
An increase in air pollution will increase asthma. Asthma kills people. It also keeps them from enjoying life since they cannot do such simple things as go outside and take a walk. Childhood asthma is one of the main reasons for children missing school, and it has been rising significantly.
Episode Twelve: Alice Meets a Caterpillar
Alice continued walking. Suddenly she smelled smoke coming from the forest. “Oh,” she thought, “I’d better investigate. Maybe someone’s left a campfire burning in the National Forest.”
She soon spied a large mushroom. A green and yellow Caterpillar was sitting on the mushroom smoking a long curved pipe.
The Caterpillar continued to smoke, glancing at her with disdain, but saying nothing.
Alice tried again: “Hello?”
Caterpillar: “I saw you. Who do you think you are, Helen Thomas?”
Alice: “Who is she?”
Caterpillar: “She was dean of the White House Press Corps. From the time of Eisenhower all Presidents invited her to ask the first question at press conferences. But she asked a question King Bush didn’t like, so I asked the Red Queen to take her out. King Bush doesn’t like press conferences anyway. Too many people ask questions that Humpty Dumpty Rove hasn’t given him an answer for.”
Alice: “Who is Humpty Dumpty Rove again?”
She’d seen so many creatures since she fell into Bushland that she’d forgotten who was who.
Caterpillar: “He’s my chief advisor. He was following the tactics of Murray Chotiner, who taught Tricky Dick Nixon how to get elected by falsely smearing Helen Gahagan Douglas as a Communist.”
Alice: “What’s a Communist?”
Caterpillar: “That’s who we had to fight before we had the War on Terror.”
Alice: “Where did they live?”
Caterpillar: “All over. We had to topple governments in many countries to contain them. That’s why Nixon had to get elected to use his secret plan to win the war in Vietnam.”
Alice: “Did we win it?”
Caterpillar: “No, but a lot of people died heroically in the attempt.”
Alice: “Did people get hurt, too?”
Caterpillar: “Certainly. Senator John Kerry came home on a stretcher. And that Max Cleland who was running for reelection to the Senate in Georgia lost both his legs and one of his arms.”
Alice: “Did he win his reelection Senate race?”
Caterpillar: “No, Humpty Dumpty Rove fixed him. Not his arms and legs of course, but his campaign. We ran TV ads showing what a coward he was.”
Alice, shocked: “What?”
Caterpillar, angrily: “That’s right. A coward. He voted against some provisions King Bush wanted in the Homeland Security bill. That’s why the Republican candidate’s TV ads showed Cleland with a picture of Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. Anyone who opposes ANY part of King Bush’s plan to win the War on Terror is a coward.”
Alice pondered this for a moment. Something didn’t make sense, but the Caterpillar seemed so kingly she didn’t dare risking asking any more such questions. She was afraid that he’d turn her over to the Red Queen, like Helen Thomas or Max Cleland.
So instead she asked: “Why are you sitting on a mushroom?”
Caterpillar: “It’s my policy stance as King Bush’s Press Secretary.”
Alice: “I don’t understand.”
Caterpillar: “Mushrooms are round.”
Alice: “Why does that makes them a good perch for you? And what’s a policy stance?”
Caterpillar: “A policy stance is where I say King Bush stands on a policy. Because the mushroom is round, I can slide around to the other side and no one will notice.”
Alice: “Why would you shift your policy? Does King Bush check to see what the American people want?”
Caterpillar, drawing himself up proudly: “Certainly not. Unlike that other President--the one that we impeached for lying about an affair--he never reads the polls or the newspapers. He never even looks at the TV news shows. He has Karl Rove for that. And Vice King Cheney keeps him informed. The CIA and FBI let him know what’s going on, too.”
Alice: “Do they tell him when to shift his position?”
Caterpillar smiling with a silly giggle: “Little girl, King Bush NEVER shifts his position. He’s very clever at his press conferences.
“When he talked to the NCAA championship teams, he said that he’s like Lukas Dora, a native of the Czech Republic. King Bush said, ‘They tell me he talks a lot on the ice. He’s a talkative guy. But he uses unique English to confuse the opponents. Kind of sounds like the strategy I use at the press conferences.’
“So my job is not too hard. When the press questions me, I simply slide around to the other side of the mushroom until I find a statement that will convince the public that he didn’t really say what they thought he said.”
Alice: “How does that work?”
Caterpillar: “Well, he never actually said that Saddam had nuclear weapons nearly ready to bomb America. He just implied it and let Secretary of State Powell convince the U.N. and Vice King Cheney convince the press. But King Bush certainly never lied to the public.”
Alice: “But when my mother asks me a question and I only tell her the part I want her to hear, she accuses me of lying.”
Caterpillar: “But you’re a little girl. You’re not the leader of the greatest nation on earth, the symbol of Democracy fighting a War on Terror...”
The Caterpillar turned his back on Alice and continued smoking his pipe.
Fact Sheet: What Alice Didn’t Know about King Bush’s Flip-flopping on Issues.
The previous President had been impeached for lying about his sexual behavior. He tried to wiggle out of it by claiming his activities with Monica shouldn’t really be classified that way, claiming “it all depends upon what your definition of ‘is’ is.”
§ Bush is trying to wiggle out of the fact that he and his close advisors at least misled the American people and the world about the war on Iraq. His rationale for the invasion of Iraq has shifted over time. Before the war, however, his major arguments rested on the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and the connection between Iraq and al Qaeda.
§ The President and his Vice President are quibbling over the meaning of what constitutes a meaningful relationship. The staff report of the 9-11 Commission concluded that there was “no collaborative relationship” between Saddam and al Qaeda in connection with 9-11. The President continues to insist that “there was a relationship” and that there were “numerous contacts.” The Republican head of the 9-11 Commission agrees that there were contacts, but points out that Iraq did not provide the assistance requested by Osama bin Laden.
§ Bush Claims:
Saddam and bin Laden had close ties.
§ Bush’s evidence:
An al Qaeda operative had medical treatment in Iraq.
Several hundred extremists were operating in one area of Iraq.
Osama bin Laden did not support Saddam before the 9-11 attacks.
The area the extremists were in was not under Saddam’s control.
§ Bush Claim:
In his January 2003 State of the Union message, Bush cited documents detailing alleged Iraqi efforts to procure uranium from Niger.
The CIA had determined that the documents were forgeries and had informed Bush’s staff of this months before the speech.
§ Bush Claim:
Iraq had missiles that were an urgent threat to Americans.
No such missiles have been found. Even those Saddam might have been working on would only have had a range of several hundred miles.
§ Bush Claim:
Saddam had trailers which were “mobile labs,” proving that he was hiding a biological weapons program.
The Defense Intelligence Agency’s engineering experts concluded that the trailers were used to produce hydrogen to fill weather balloons.
(So it seems that most of the reasons we went to war in Iraq may have been hot air!)
Note: The bipartisan National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States, created to investigate the 9/11 attacks, has determined after months of hearings and examining classified documents that there were no effective links between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. No weapons of mass destruction have been found.
What Alice Didn’t Know about Using Negative Ads and Misleading Interviews to Distort the Truth
Senator Max Cleland supported creation of a Department of Homeland Security when King Bush was still opposing it. He voted for one version of the bill creating the Department but opposed several provisions in Bush’s plan related to labor protections for the civil servants who would be staffing the new department.
§ By late May, Bush had already spent $77 million on ads.
§ The wording of one of Bush’s ads could leave viewers the false impression that Kerry opposes wiretapping of suspected terrorists.
§ Despite the fact the 9-11 Commission has determined that Iraq was not involved in the 9-11 terrorist attacks, and there were no relevant links between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda, Vice President Cheney continues to assert that such links might be possible.
The Administration recently has insisted that it never said that Iraq was an “imminent” threat. But the President said that Iraq is a “unique and urgent threat.” When arguing for war, the President said that action was urgent because of “the smoking gun that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud.”