DERRICK Z. JACKSON
Bush's bitter harvest
IT IS OCTOBER, and the harvest from the spring's planting of troops remains a grapeless vine, withering into winter compost. Without weapons of mass destruction, Tikrit has given way to Texas, Fallujah is fading into Florida, and the idiocy of another $87 billion for Iraq is rapidly becoming apparent in the latest news from Illinois, Indiana, and Iowa. In the season of pumpkins, Bush is turning into one, with millions of Americans feeling like Cinderella after the ballyhoo of violent, vengeful patriotism. Bush hoped he could sneak back into the White House in 2004 before the clock struck midnight. It is too late. The original support for the war is waning as Americans realize that they have also waged war against themselves.
In the last week, the Census Bureau released data indicating that household income in the United States is on the decrease, poverty is on the increase, and the number of Americans without health insurance grew by 2.4 million, to 43.6 million. The adding of 2.4 million Americans to the rolls of the uninsured comes at a time when 2.7 million Americans have lost their jobs since Bush took office.
What is more ominous than the initial news is that if the Bush family and the Republicans remain true to form, it will get worse. The biggest prior jump in the numbers of the uninsured since 1987 was during the last year of Bush's father's presidency, when the numbers grew by 3.2 million. Even during the Democratic administration of Bill Clinton, the sabotaging of serious health care policies by Newt Gingrich and the Republican-controlled Congress kept the number of uninsured increasing until the late 1990s.
Bush has depended mightily on the working class and the middle class for support of his war in Iraq. But of the 2.4 million newly uninsured households, 1.4 million come from families making $25,000 to $74,999.
Nervous Republicans are already complaining that the Democrats are using the stumbling economy to foment class warfare. With Bush's trillion-dollar tax cuts and the spending for the invasion and occupation of Iraq, war against everyone except Halliburton and the wealthy was inevitable. One in five households making $25,000 to $49,999 spent 2002 without health insurance, compared with only one in in 10 households making $75,000 or more.
With all the job losses, it is not surprising that 1.7 million people were thrown into poverty in 2002. First lady Laura Bush was over in France representing the United States in its rejoining of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. That show of caring about children in developing countries was lame as the United States added 400,000 children to the ranks of the poor here at home. Poverty rose even in the suburbs, from 12.1 million to 13.3 million people. In Massachusetts, the percentage of people in poverty held stable at 9.5 percent, but the number of people without health insurance went up from 8.5 percent to 9.1 percent.
When Bush signed the first of his tax cuts in the summer of 2001, he said: "Tax relief is a great achievement for the American people. Tax relief is the first achievement produced by the new tone in Washington, and it was produced in record time. Tax relief is an achievement for families struggling to enter the middle class."
Two years later, the Census Bureau tells us that real median money income in Midwestern households has declined by nearly $1,000, from $44,531 to $43,622. The per-capita income of $22,794 represents the first annual decline in per-capita income since 1991, which -- surprise -- was again the first Bush administration.
Meanwhile, according to data released last week by the Internal Revenue Service, American households earning $56,000 to $92,800 still pay 18 percent of the nation's income taxes, more than the 16 percent of the nation's wealthiest households.
It appears that the current president Bush has learned nothing from his father. His father creamed Iraq, catered to the rich, neglected the middle class, and lost his reelection. The son crushed Iraq, gave away billions in tax breaks to the wealthy, and has sunk in some polls to an approval rating of less than 50 percent. Under Bush's father the median household income of Americans was less at the end of his term than when he took office. Bush has all but guaranteed that the same will happen on his watch.
The fields that Bush claimed were so fertile -- for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and for workers here at home -- are finally beginning to be seen for what they always were: a parched desert.
Abroad, the harvest is the bitter fruit of more than 300 American soldiers so far. At home, the harvest moon has been obscured by clouds, with wolves creeping around with unemployment slips between their teeth. Americans, finally understanding how they bit themselves, are beginning to bay against Bush.
Derrick Z. Jackson's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.