WE KNOW that “free market” fundamentalism, deregulation, and irresponsible tax cuts have wrecked our economy. Yet, Americans generally favor free markets, lower taxes, and smaller government. So don’t start by attacking these ideas. Frame the issue by agreeing with Americans that the current economic system is broken.
WE SHOULD SAY: Our economy is broken, we’re in a recession, and the conservatives in Washington don't get it. We need change. Let’s make certain the economy works for Main Street, not Wall Street. Let’s build a society where hard-working Americans can earn a decent living, afford high-quality health care, access world-class education for their children, and retire with security.
Since taking control of Washington in 2001, Bush and his conservative allies have ruined our economy.
Bush and the conservatives neglected to invest in America. We could have created millions of jobs by investing in our nation’s infrastructure. We could have made America energy independent. We could have guaranteed health care for all and driven down medical costs. We could have invested in education and made college more affordable. Instead, conservatives cut taxes for the rich.
Bush and the conservatives wasted our money on corporate cronies. They gave away billions of dollars in unneeded subsidies to Big Oil. They created a prescription drug program that was designed to overpay pharmaceutical companies. They kept a tax loophole that encourages multinational corporations to ship American jobs overseas. At every turn, conservatives rewarded special interests at the expense of the public interest.
Bush and the conservatives threw away more than $656 billion on an unnecessary war in Iraq. So far, actual appropriations for the Iraq war have totaled $656 billion, according to the Congressional Research Service. But that’s just the direct, short-term cost. Including indirect costs such as caring for wounded veterans, refurbishing military equipment worn out in the war, and interest on the debt we’re running up, the total price tag for the Iraq war will exceed $3 trillion, according to Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz.
Short-term stimulus. For heaven's sake, let's stop squandering $340 million dollars per day on the war in Iraq; let's put that money to work here in the U.S. instead. For example, to soften the blow of the current recession, state and local governments need federal aid so they can continue providing critical community services.
Long-term investment. To restore America’s economy, we need to invest in ourselves. That means fixing our nation’s bridges and roads, expanding mass transit and broadband access, becoming energy independent, and developing new “green” technologies. It means major efforts to provide every child with a high quality education, and every worker with the opportunity for advanced training.
Root out loopholes and subsidies. To redirect spending to where it’s needed, we need to eliminate tax breaks for wealthy corporations, especially those that reward companies for sending jobs overseas. We need to end subsidies to big oil, pharmaceutical, and insurance companies that do nothing for our health and energy security.
America is losing jobs. The private sector has lost more than 400,000 jobs in the last six months [EPI]. Over the past seven years, 3.4 million manufacturing jobs—one out of every five—has been shipped overseas [Bureau of Labor Statistics]. Today, a smaller percentage of Americans have jobs than at the beginning of the Bush administration [Bureau of Labor Statistics].
Basic costs are skyrocketing. The price of gasoline has increased by more than $2.50 per gallon since George W. Bush took office and the average household will spend $2,300 more on gas this year than in 2001 [CAF]. The cost of health insurance has nearly doubled during the Bush Administration [Kaiser Family Foundation]. Tuition and fees at public four-year colleges are up 46 percent since 2001 [College Board]. And now food prices have begun to rise [U.S. Department of Agriculture].
American incomes are stagnant. Adjusting for inflation, American workers haven’t made any salary gains since Bush took office. In fact, real median household income dropped nearly $1,000 from 2000 to 2006. [U.S. Census Bureau] The number of Americans in poverty increased from 31.5 million to 36.5 million from 2000 to 2006. Now, one out of every eight Americans is considered poor. [U.S. Census Bureau]
We’re mired in debt. Sixteen percent of mortgaged homes are now “underwater”; that is, the mortgage owed equals or exceeds the value of the house. It is estimated that by June 2009, nearly one in four homes will be underwater [Chicago Tribune]. At least two-thirds of college students graduate with some debt and the average debt among graduates exceeds $19,000 [U.S. Department of Education]. More than 850,000 families filed for bankruptcy last year, a 38 percent increase over 2006 [American Bankruptcy Institute].
For more information, see EPI Policy Center's The Bush Legacy: Poverty