Busharama: Connecting the
Real Dots by Following the Money
The internet, which has everything from macrobiotic soup to certified
nuts, contains whole mountain ranges of facts and figures that
document the incompetence and marginal malfeasance of the Bush
team and that flatly contradict the Bush line of the day for
every day he has been in office. Curiously, the internet also
has oceans of claims, outraged jeremiads, and bizarrely inventive
calumnies against his critics and opponents. I say curiously
because they seem to "work" better. They are simple,
they play to those old reliable baser instincts, and they, above
all, are easy.
For those who follow these things, it is well
known that surveys show that among Bush voters, a scary majority
believe to this day that Saddam Hussein was behind the Twin Towers
atrocity, that there still are weapons of mass destruction. They
now believe that Iraq is on the road to democracy for a negligible
cost. And so on. The majority who voted for Kerry were and are
aware of the spectacular mendacity of former good guy Colin Powell,
who is the real champion flip-flopper, of the outrageous violations
of human rights and even basic animal dignity perpetrated under
the cloak of necessary security and well, the list could go on
And then there are the revelations of former
cabinet members and department heads about the incompetence and
monomaniacal ideological drive of the neocons who literally trashed
all plans for managing post-war Iraq. A former regularly attending
member of Cabinet meetings described them as "a blind man
in a room full of deaf people." And the revelations of taxpayer
money being used to hire journalists and plant fake ones in the
Washington press corps, of firing dedicated civil servants for
daring to tell Congress the truth about budgets and costs
none of these outrages have legs, as they say on Broadway. They
don't play in Peoria.
It seems that no fact, no revelation, no cheating,
no lies, no mounting death toll of innocent lives, no majority
abuse of Congressional rules and customs nothing would
seem to bring this President down. His 4% popular majority in
the last election, the lowest ever for a sitting President, is
construed as a mandate. Even if, as is probable, a majority of
Americans have either loathing for or amused contempt of the
President, those same people believe he is unstoppable and supported
by what Lippmann called the "phantom public."
Ironically, I believe the cause of this horrendous
electoral disconnect is that the critics and opponents do not
connect the dots, which the supporters have smeared into a thick
fudge of rhetoric about freedom and democracy while managing
to restrict the one and snub the other. And the Bush team, spearheaded
by an undoubtedly gifted demagogue, are masters of isolating
the dots and playing our flawed media structure with virtuosity.
Their bloviated string of staying on message about a very vague
march of freedom and democracy plops contentedly into the pottage
of the 24/7 soft news cycle, with Fox in the lead and the rest
striving to catch up by frantic waving of the same flag.
But there is another compelling narrative
to be told and to be sold. It has the ring of truth, the drama
of villains, and the truly frightening prospect of possible annihilation.
Better than any video game, it is the ultimate reality show.
It goes like this. First, follow the money.
The Iraq and Afghanistan adventures, in no way having
achieved even a part of the original stated goals, are draining
the treasury and our young blood. Is the money going to Iraq,
Afghanistan, and our boots on the ground? Only a small portion
most is going to contractors who have been and will continue
to be heavy contributors to the GOP. (After our own soldiers,
the largest contingent in both areas is contracted mercenaries.)
And most if not all of this money is dressed as "supplemental"
meaning that it officially is not part of the budget. Dot One.
No one disputes that the tax cuts, which will
become permanent if Bush has his way this year, have created
an unprecedented humongous trillionesque shortfall for the year that
becomes part of our Himalayan debt. No one disputes that the
vast bulk, over 90%, of these cuts benefit the very rich. No
one disputes that services, even essential services like police
and fire and health, have been sharply cut in states and cities
from Maui to Maine, because of withdrawal or cutbacks in supportive
federal programs. Dot Two.
We now turn to Social Security. We have
heard the superficially suasive arguments about a growing old
population supported by fewer and fewer workers. Less in, less
out, right? Of course, but this is not the way SS works. For
decades the money has been going into a trust fund where it has
garnered interest. In the early eighties it was foreseen that
in about twenty years the trust fund would begin to be stretched.
So with bipartisan support of Senators Bob Dole and Pat Moynihan,
President Reagan tweaked the system by raising the payroll tax.
It was fixed and it remains fixed. More in, more growing in there,
more yet coming out.
But we are lied to that the system is in dire
trouble and must be reformed. Part of that reform involves borrowing
more money and asking simple folk to trade in a guaranteed annuity
for a chance to go to Wall Street Vegas, where, you guessed it,
salivating heaviest GOP contributors are waiting, top hats and
waxed mustaches intact. Dot Three.
In order to sell this snake oil, the President
has said that unlike social security, one would own private accounts,
and so the government cannot take them away from you. Yes, he
is saying this over and over again. We do not own our SS accounts,
the government does. What does that mean? Worse, what does it
Can the government take away my present account?
Or as President Bush also says, what if the government can't
keep its promise?
The government can't keep its promise?
Social Security is a very serious
promise, the most serious promise,
a Trust Fund in US Government Bonds, which have the full faith
of the United States of America backing them up. The same bonds
held in the billions by private purchasers and foreign governments
from China to France in fact the bonds enable us to carry
on business because the world is so far accepting the word and
full faith of the United States of America.
You got it. In order to reward its supporters
and peers with obscene wealth, the Bush team has already been
willing to let our infrastructure, our insurance, our safety,
our health go to hell. But the war and other adventures cost
more and more the money will simply have to come from the
Social Security Trust Fund, which must somehow be presented as
being fixed while being raped. Dot Four.
Can such a colossal fraud be put over? Well,
they have a great track record so far. Stripping individual citizens
of their right to sue the mighty or declare bankruptcy are simply
part of tort reform.
Of course they cannot fool the gnomes of Zurich
or of Beijing, Tokyo, London, Paris who as I write are
unloading dollars for euros. It is a slow leak waiting to explode.
They know this administration has backed off serious US prior
commitments like the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
This is the iceberg that Captain Bush is going
to ram at full speed after he has fired every reliable honest
sailor and officer. This is what must be fixed.
You do not have to be a rocket scientist to
see the larger picture but you have to be a good narrator so
that the American people see what is really happening. The Bush
team is ingenious at deflecting attention. We had elections in
Iraq and Afghanistan, so case closed. We thus have low key announcements
of increasing deaths each day treated as weather reports. Meanwhile
our national attention is divided between Michael Jackson's trial
and network quickies on the president's plan, accepting his numbers
and giving even less time to critics. He says, They say. And
now a word from our sponsor, MerrillLynchCitiChaseJPMorganSchwabAmerica.
Of course there are other important dots which
must be woven into the narrative that must replace the facile
conceits of vague values, standing tall, holding fast (to what?).
Oil is skyrocketing. A superb military designed to fight two
major theater wars has been reduced to failure in controlling
two cities because of the spectacular and cretinous arrogance
of its leaders. Gifted young men improvise ingenious and brave
tactics forced on them because of the crippling confines of bankrupt
strategy. And these men are being killed every day along with
far more civilians - both groups innocent collateral damage in
a mad master narrative.
Is it conservative to support this shameful chain
of duplicitous fiascoes? Is it liberal to expose and oppose them?
Is it a matter of faith versus atheism? No, clearly it is reality
versus fantasy, realism versus ideology, honesty versus fraud.
Of course this house of marked cards must
collapse from its own inconsistencies and jerry-rigged short-term
solutions. But should we wait for that? We are talking about
massive momentum that must be stopped and reversed.
Parties and politics are not at stake.
The nation is.