Ochenski 

Crying shame: Reassessing the damage of Bush’s presidency

George W. Bush’s presidency is heading into its final months and, as new reports this week show, a full accounting of the magnitude of the disaster into which this worst-ever president has led us is becoming clear. While Barack Obama and John McCain speak in lofty terms, weaving their visions of what the post-Bush future holds, the grim reality is that the next president of the United States will be spending much of his time and energy just trying to clean up the fiscal, environmental, social and political wreckage the Bush-Cheney cartel has left in the wake of our crippled ship of state.

It’s certainly no revelation that Americans are facing daunting challenges these days—just turn on the tube or pick up the paper and the bad news seems to come in tidal waves. For instance, a recent survey of the 20 largest cities found home prices, in an accelerating loss of value, fell an astounding 15.8 percent from a year ago in what has been called a “historic decline.”

But the full story is only revealed if one looks at some of the truly shocking numbers for individual cities. Las Vegas, for example, set the record, with the average home losing 28.4 percent of its value since May of last year. Miami is just one-tenth of a percentage point behind, followed closely by Phoenix and Los Angeles, which all suffered 25 percent or greater losses. One could certainly argue that home prices were over-inflated, but losing a quarter of the value of one’s home is especially tough on those who borrowed against their home’s former worth or were planning on selling their house to pay for retirement.

On another front entirely, the Bush administration has now set a dismal new record of nearly a half-trillion dollar deficit projection for 2009. Normal people can’t be blamed for being unable to visualize just how much money that is, but numerically the projected deficit looks like this: $482,000,000,000. Plus, if there’s one thing the Bush presidency is known for, it’s misleading the American public, and on this issue they’ve done it again. The real deficit will include another $80 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, bringing it to a whopping $562,000,000,000.

How is it possible that in eight years we went from having a surplus and looking forward to a bright future to being trillions of dollars in the hole and struggling just to make ends meet? Certainly Bush and the Republicans who dominated Congress during much of his presidency are to blame, but the sad reality is that much of the hole we’re in has been dug with the willing assistance of Democrats who went along with the outrageous tax breaks, the unjustified wars and the continued military spending spree on borrowed foreign money.

Remember the $1.35 trillion ($1,350,000,000,000) tax break for the wealthiest Americans Bush enacted in his first term? Montana’s Sen. Max Baucus was in a position on the Senate Finance Committee, which he now chairs, to kill or cripple the enormous giveaway of national resources to those who need it the least. Instead, Baucus not only supported the bill, but appeared with Bush numerous times to laud it, including in one of his campaign ads.

Obama says he wants to repeal the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest individuals and investors while initiating new tax breaks for seniors, the middle-class and the working poor. Perhaps, faced with the disastrous outcome of his previous decision, Baucus will go along with Obama. Or perhaps he won’t. As disingenuous as it seems during a campaign year, so far Montana voters have no clear picture of what our man Max will do on this issue. Nor do we know where he’ll be on continuing to fund our massively bloated military budget and the useless foreign wars into which Bush, with Max’s support, plunged our nation.

What we do know about both Max and Montana Sen. Jon Tester is that both men have fallen victim to Bush’s “support the troops” vernacular, which, in truth, merely hides the unsupportable and unsustainable financial drain that funnels hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars to the military-industrial complex’s war profiteers. Meanwhile, the troops that are supposed to be “supported” are coming home to face futures haunted by post-traumatic stress disorder and brain damage so severe that record numbers of servicemen and women are now committing suicide rather than live with the “support” they’re getting.

It’s well past time that our leaders get real about what our country is facing. We cannot build a health system to take care of our citizens, fund quality education for our kids, restructure our energy systems and rebuild America’s crumbling infrastructure if the lifeblood of our country is drained to foreign wars and paying the interest on a mounting national debt.

While we have come to expect Republicans like Rep. Denny Rehberg to renege on campaign pledges of fiscal responsibility—to which the $9.5 trillion national debt and new deficit projections grimly attest—it’s particularly disheartening when those we elected to end the Bush disaster vote to continue it. Case in point would be the calls by both Obama and congressional Democrats to “redouble our efforts” in Afghanistan—although to what end and for what outcome remains unclear.

At some point, and perhaps it will come in the looming Winter of Discontent, when out-of-control energy prices bedevil our citizens, the dark reality of our financial status will become so undeniable that politicians from both parties will come to their senses and demand a radical redrawing of American foreign and domestic policies.

So far, however, that hasn’t happened, as Bush and Congress continue to spend like drunken sailors. But as the chickens come home to roost, the sad truth is that the on-going policy failures of our political leaders are stealing the future from us all—seniors, working families, and most egregious of all, our kids—and that’s a crying shame.
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