by Laura Snedeker
Cheer up, America. George Bush feels your pain.
The U.S. Labor Department announced Friday that the economy lost 63,000 payroll jobs last month, representing job losses in the manufacturing and construction industries, as well as in department stores, retail outlets, and offices. The announcement prompted speculation that the Federal Reserve, the nation's central bank, would cut interest rates for the third time this year and the announcement also forced the president to admit that this is a “difficult time for our economy."
“Losing a job is painful and I know Americans are concerned about our economy,” Bush said during a surprise announcement at the White House. “So am I."
The optimistic president insisted that the recently enacted “stimulus package,” which includes tax refunds for individuals and tax incentives to encourage businesses to invest, was the necessary “shot in the arm” that would jump-start the economy as consumers, flush with cash, rush to the malls to buy the newest gizmos.
Economists have long bemoaned Americans’ poor saving habits and penchant for spending themselves into debt. According to data compiled by the Pew Research Center in January 2007, Americans now spend more money than they make after taxes, and personal savings hit a record low in 2004. Additionally, a 2006 Pew poll discovered that the list of consumer items that American feel they cannot live without has grown during the past decade, undoubtedly influenced by advertisers’ pressure to sell them the latest piece of technology.
The Bush administration’s stimulus package rests upon the very assumption that Americans will continue their poor spending habits when faced with an infusion of cash from the government, and ascribes consumers the power to fix what ails the economy, a stance that is perfectly in line with the pro-market consensus ruling Washington.
Despite slow economic growth in the last quarter of 2007, increasing unemployment, and evidence that the financial crisis that began in the housing market is spreading to other sectors of the economy, the White House remains confident that the economy is “structurally sound for the long term.” On Friday, President Bush professed his belief in “pro-growth, low-tax policies that put faith in the American people.” Faith in the American people as consumers, that is. As corporate interests and politics have become more entangled, with politicians openly advocating pro-business economic policies, Americans have been downgraded to mere “consumers,” people capable only of spending.
Even as it places the responsibility for the future of the economy on the shoulders of American consumers, the Bush administration refuses to admit any culpability for the state of the economy, sharply disagreeing with those who suggest that the Iraq War has helped lead the country into a recession. “I think actually the spending in the war might help with jobs…because we’re buying equipment, and people are working,” Bush said during his February 18th appearance on NBC’s Today Show.
The social, economic, and political costs of the war are not important to the president, who is more interested in the well-being of the war profiteers than the well-being of the 63,000 workers who lost their jobs in February. Easy for him. He will not stand in line at the unemployment office when he loses his job next January. He will not have to search for a job during a recession. His sons and daughters will never enlist in the Army out of sheer desperation.
Throwing a few dollars to the people while running a multi-billion dollar war and accumulating a staggering deficit is no way to run a country. But it is a damn good way to run a country into the ground.
For more stories concerning the recession, please see:
- "Recession Fears Crowd Out Iraq;"
- "Super Tuesday & Hillary Clinton's Economic Strategy;" and
- "On Wall Street Reality is Relative."
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