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News ::
11 Jun 2003

By Leslie Feinberg
Via Workers World News Service
Reprinted from the June 23, 2003
issue of Workers World newspaper


By Leslie Feinberg

It wasn't that long ago that the sharks on Wall Street and the
politicians in Washington were insisting that social programs like
welfare had to be cut back because the economic health of the United
States depended on balancing the budget. "End deficit spending" was the
mantra of the conservatives. It became the rationale for big cuts in
needed social programs. For a few years toward the end of the nineties,
the government's debt was actually reduced.

But then came the big military buildup, the beefing up of the domestic
police agencies under the excuse of "homeland security," the huge tax
cuts to the rich, and a downturn in the economy. The budget deficit
began to grow sharply.

So, very quietly, President George W. Bush signed a bill on May 27 that
raises the federal government's debt limit by close to $1 TRILLION.

That's a million times a million dollars.

Imagine the howls of indignation from the political representatives of
big business if this colossal amount of debt were being contemplated in
order to finance a federal jobs program, or free medicines for those who
can't afford them, or a crash program to develop sustainable sources of

But there have been no howls. Both Democrats and Republicans have been
very quiet about it. For not only is this money earmarked for Bush's
"endless war," it also has the blessings of Wall Street.

The growing debt means the government will have to borrow massive
amounts of money. Wall Street is happy about that because it means more
interest to the banks. The prime interest rate set by the Federal
Reserve Bank is on the floor, supposedly to get companies to borrow
money and expand, but lowering the rate hasn't led to an upturn in the
economy because businesses don't want to expand when the markets are
glutted. So the government will now be taking out huge loans--a boon for
the banking empire.

Why haven't the Democrats made a big noise about all this? They usually
claim to be the party that cares about workers and the middle class--and
an election year is looming.

The Democratic Party used to advocate government spending on social
programs as a means to stimulate the economy during recessions. The
irony of the present situation is that both Democrats and Republicans
hope that government spending will work again--but the spending is on
the military-industrial complex and domestic repression, not on programs
to help the unemployed or improve health care or Social Security.

In fact, the capitalist economic slump is not based on lack of cash or
capital investment. It's rooted in the boom-and-bust cycle of a profit-
driven economy. The crisis is one of over-production, of abundance.

Who will pay this debt? The government is making it crystal clear that
the "tax man" won't be hounding the rich or their corporations and banks
for it.

The very next day after Bush quietly signed the IOU for a trillion
dollars, he signed the third-largest tax cut in history, making it a
media event. However, it gives billions to the wealthy elite and little
or nothing to the workers and poor, who are already being hit with
increased local taxes, mass transit hikes and other forms of taxation.

This is class warfare on the domestic front.

More than a half-million jobs have already been lost this year and more
than 8.7 million people are counted as unemployed. That official figure
doesn't count those who are discouraged and have stop ped job hunting.

Wages are falling, across the board.

"The president is not calling his tax package the 'Windfall for the
Wealthy' act, which is what it is," observers Jared Bern stein, an
economist with the Washington-based Economic Policy Institute. "He calls
it the 'Jobs and Growth' act, which is what it's not."

And when the yeas and nays were tallied, the tax measure passed 58 to
33. Almost a quarter of the congressional votes came from Democrats.

Those who voted for it made a big deal about an addition of $400 to the
child tax credit. But as soon as it passed, the truth came out. The bill
denies the credit to families with incomes between $10,500 and $26,625.
That's 12-16 million kids--one out of every six children in the U.S.
under the age of 17, according to the Center on Budget and Policy

About half of all African American and Latino children either get no
benefit, or a very meager allowance, from this bill.

The legislation also leaves high and dry, without any tax relief, some 8
million mostly low-income taxpayers who have no children.

What would it have cost to pass on the extra $400 credit to all
families? $3.5 billion. But the legislators thought that was just too

However, House and Senate negotiators slashed provisions in the bill
that would have cracked down on corporate tax shelters, blocked some
accounting scams like those that enriched Enron CEOs, prevented U.S.
companies from creating post-office box headquarters in offshore tax
havens, and limited bloated deferred-compensation plans for executives.
(New York Times, June 2)

That cost us $25 billion--and the corporations laughed all the way to
the bank.

- END -

(Copyright Workers World Service: Everyone is permitted to copy and
distribute verbatim copies of this document, but changing it is not
allowed. For more information contact Workers World, 55 W. 17 St., NY,
NY 10011; via e-mail: ww (at) Subscribe wwnews-
on (at) Unsubscribe wwnews-off (at) Support the
voice of resistance
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