25 July 2004

It's good to be the Bush

From Jim Hightower:

Observing from afar, it seems to me that "Being Bush" must be such a great joy. Reality never seems to intrude, his own lies (including whoppers) seem sincerely to be believed by him, irony never strikes his noggin, hypocrisy seems to be a welcome old friend, doubt never darkens the door of his absolute certainty, and he thinks introspection means taking your car in for a checkup.

Very few presidents in our nation’s string of 43 have been as brazenly servile to the moneyed elite as has George (only Grant, McKinley, and Harding are competitive). And none have been so blithely obtuse to that servility, couching every single act as being for "the children," "the single mom," "the small farmer," " the seniors," or some other humble group that actually gets none of the action.

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Yet, throughout the 2000 election, he claimed to be Mr. ConsumerMan, promising to fight like an enraged bear for a national patient’s bill of rights: "It’s time for our nation to come together and do what’s right for the people."

Where did Papa Bear go? Four years later, We the People still don’t have that bill of rights. Bush made no fight for it – in fact, he no longer bothers mentioning it. The issue didn’t go away – polls today show that four out of five Americans continue to want such a law. Bush simply lied, feigning interest in the common good as a cloak to get elected, bide his time, let the media move on to other issues… and let his HMO and insurance backers escape scot-free from any public accountability for their abuses.

The Bushites are laissez-faire purists striving for their ideal of a corporate-run state. Not only does this mean removing public restrictions on corporate power, but also removing anything and everything that has the word "public" attached to it – from education to Social Security, housing to health care, national forests to our local water supplies. Their extremist anti-government agenda, culled from a sprawling cluster of right-wing corporate-funded think tanks, is so sweeping and being pursued so energetically that one can imagine them holding pre-dawn pep rallies each day in the White House and every government agency, complete with pom-poms and cheerleaders:

[. . .]

Bush & Company are not merely trying to take us back to the Gilded Age of pre-New Deal, robber-baron corporatism, but also all the way back to the "enclosure movement" of 18th century England. Back then, with the blessing of parliament, the dukes and barons of the aristocracy suddenly laid claim to the forests, meadows, wild game, and other resources that, up to then, all had shared (and the peasantry had literally relied on for sustenance), enclosing this commons as the private property of the elites.

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Fail the test, and not only does the child pay a price, but so does the school and the entire school district, including having their funding slashed. The pressure on all – third graders, parents, teachers, principals, superintendents – is so intense that the real-life affect of Bush’s CEO-style accountability is that the education of our kids is being abandoned in favor of "teaching the to test." The schools drill the test questions and answers into each child day after day, hoping that most of them memorize enough to pass so Bush won't yank the school's funding. Never mind whether students really learn (as in learning how to learn and developing their cognitive ability). Under No Child, everything they need to know is on the test, isn't it? It’s what you might call the narrow view of knowledge.

Besides being a pitifully inadequate measure of educational progress, Bush’s testing scheme is being forced on public schools without the funding necessary to administer it. This underfunding is the result of – what else? – another Bush lie. He got congress (and specifically, Sen. Ted Kennedy) to pass his NCLB on the solemn pledge that he would back the law with an agreed-upon level of federal dollars.

Yet, in this year’s Bush budget, after asserting rhetorically that it fulfills his promise of "making sure our children get educated," he shortchanges his own landmark education initiative by $9.4 billion. Billion! This is on top of the $17 billion that he’d cut from the No Child Act in the previous two years. This is why states from Virginia to Utah are in open rebellion, declaring that they will no longer comply with the NCLB law, since it amounts to a cumbersome questionable and unfunded federal mandate.

Meanwhile, the education president’s 2005 budget provides just enough money to allow Head Start (which is only one of the most successful education programs in history) to reach half of the eligible children. Also, the Early Head Start program is budgeted so low that it can serve only five percent of those eligible. That’s a lot of children left behind.

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Read Jim's entire post.

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