Bush pushes America in dreadful direction
I HAVE been a professor of public administration and public policy for more than 30 years and have never experienced the kind of dread I now feel about the continued existence of our democratic political system being able to provide equitable treatment to all Americans for a decent life, from their youth through their old age.
The American public has been sold out by the greedy collusion of the Republican Party in Washington, D.C. We Americans are now faced with the largest deficit in history, which most likely will be paid for by some combination of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid cuts, failure to restore the poor souls who were wiped out by Hurricane Katrina, and many other unconscionable acts of omission or commission that will last for many years.
The scariest thing about all of this is that we seem to have elected a president who lacks vision and is unable to translate his best evangelical or religious notions to policies that benefit or protect this country. Most people I speak to seem to think he is being "handled" by a group of insiders who only care about the unbridled growth of large corporations. Bush and team think nothing of asking the (Republican) Congress for supplemental spending bills of more than $80 billion to support the war in Iraq for another few months, but when the Army Corps of Engineers estimates that it will take tens of billions to rebuild and improve the New Orleans levees so that they could withstand a Category 5 hurricane, the Republican leadership in Congress makes sure to block the bills that were introduced to accomplish this.
The steady flow of illegal aliens across the Mexican border ensures a steady flow of "off the books," cheap labor for businesses throughout several major states, including our president's home state, Texas.|
I GUESS this means that as long as certain favored corporations can continue to profit from the war, we can abandon one of our most historical and important cities in its time of greatest need.
Does this mean that any American city that experiences a catastrophe cannot expect adequate assistance from the national government while Bush is president and the Republicans control Congress?
In the meantime, under the guise of "states' rights," there has been a continuous reduction in categorical and block grants, or funds given back to state and local governments to help pay for a variety of critical needs.
This is compounded by Bush and Congress's attempt to prevent American citizens from receiving reduced-priced prescription drugs from properly licensed Canadian pharmacies, their constant push to give tax breaks to the richest Americans and their general belief that any regulatory policy that helps the average consumer must be bad for big business.
This brings one to the question of why our vaccination capability is so inadequate.
Should pharmaceutical companies have no legal obligation in this life-and-death matter? We've had shortages of conventional flu vaccine because the drug companies want to make much larger profits per dose than they currently receive. Why didn't the Bush administration step in a few years ago and look for some kind of compromise?
Even worse, with the specter of the bird flu possibly on the horizon, Bush refused to have America placed on the waiting list to receive antiviral drugs from Switzerland, Germany and Japan, and also refused to force our own drug companies to develop adequate supplies for our population. His quarantine policy is full of holes. Sure, we can prevent people from entering the country at the airports if they have symptoms, but what if they are in the nonsymptomatic incubation period?
And what about the thousands (tens of thousands?) of illegal aliens who cross the U.S.-Mexican border every week? Which of them have contagious diseases, criminal records, are mentally deranged or are actual terrorists? Of course, no one knows, since our president and Congress have failed to police this border.
I teach my students that all countries have a right and even an obligation to pass immigration laws that will protect their own societies. We have those laws, but the national government has failed to enforce them. Of course, the steady flow of indigent people across the Mexican border ensures a steady flow of "off the books," cheap labor for businesses throughout several major states, including our president's home state, Texas. Even worse, this administration has encouraged American businesses to outsource tens of thousands of jobs formerly held by American workers, and has tried to convince us this is good for America.
FINALLY, WE come to the Iraq war itself. The Bush administration has admitted that it acted on false intelligence. As a native New Yorker, I was full of hurt and even rage after the World Trade Center was destroyed. I supported our invasion of Afghanistan and had mixed feelings about invading Iraq. However, the one thing I always knew would be a major disaster would be our attempt to actually occupy a Middle Eastern country for any period of time. Most people in the Middle East fear and distrust us "infidels." Although most Arab countries have a history of tribal warfare, they tend to be fiercely nationalistic and only unite when they feel they have a common enemy.
In my opinion, the U.S.-British occupation of Iraq has done more to ferment hatred against the West and create untold numbers of new terrorists than anything else Bush could have done. In military terms, Iraq has now become a proving ground for terrorists and infidel haters of all denominations to try out and perfect new weapons and tactics that can be (and have already been) imported to other Western countries, including the United States.
The really sad thing is that anyone in America who attempts to say anything negative about our policy in Iraq is accused by many Bush supporters as being unpatriotic and "not supporting the military." Even former war heroes have been so accused. The last time I looked, this country had a long history of elevating freedom of speech as one of its most important civil rights, and this extends to being able to criticize our government's policies when we feel it is justified. We are not supposed to blindly agree with every policy any administration puts forward.
In the end, I guess the most chilling prospect is pondering how much more damage President Bush will do to our country with three more years to go in office.
Gary Helfand is a professor of justice administration and disaster preparedness at the University of Hawaii-West Oahu. He also is a past president of the American Society for Public Administration, Hawaii state chapter.