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Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2008

Goodbye To All That

A brief catalog of Bush administration failures

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I don’t know what his beef is,” President George W. Bush told a reporter after an Iraqi journalist hurled a shoe at him and yelled “This is your farewell kiss, you dog!” during a press conference in Baghdad.

Although Bush may be clueless about why Muntadar al-Zaidi reacted so strongly, the president could take a trip down memory lane and consider the long list of his administration’s failures, helpfully compiled by the Center for Public Integrity, a nonpartisan watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. The center just released a new report, “Broken Government: An Assessment of 128 Executive Branch Failures Since 2000,” which will make readers want to throw their own shoes—and more—at Bush and his cronies. Some of the failures include:

  • Bush’s wild spending spree. President Clinton left office with a $127 billion budget surplus, but Bush turned that into a $32 billion deficit after just one year on the job. Now, Bush will give President-elect Obama a $455 billion deficit in 2009. Culprits include the Iraq war (now costing $12 billion a month, or about $904 billion for all military operations since 2001), Bush’s tax cuts, the imploding economy and the cost of health care.

  • Turning a blind eye to tax cheats. More than $100 billion in revenue is lost each year thanks to U.S. companies that use overseas subsidiaries or shell companies to hide their profits. Part of the problem is that the Internal Revenue Service under the Bush administration has reduced audits of offshore taxpayers and huge corporations (just 26% of big corporations were audited in 2007, compared to 70% in 1990). Audits of individuals earning more than $100,000 have been cut in half since 1996, while audits of the working poor now total 40% of all investigations.

  • Lying about the threat from Iraq. Bush and seven members of his administration made 935 “demonstrably false” statements leading up to the invasion of Iraq. In recent history-revising interviews, Bush seems not to be bothered by the lies. When a reporter broke the news to him that Al Qaeda didn’t exist in Iraq until after the United States invaded, Bush merely replied, “So what?” The center turned up 17 military-related failures in its investigation, including poor health care for veterans, failure to regulate security contractors and the bloated budget of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.
  • Failing to update financial regulations. “I’m sorry it’s happening,” Bush said about the financial crisis, the worst since the Great Depression. Yet the Bushera Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) did not limit or object to the highly risky financial tools—like credit default swaps—that got us into this mess. What’s more, in 2004 the SEC allowed investment banks to take on more debt and cut the number of regulators who oversee these institutions, preferring to let the investment banks regulate risk themselves.

    Adding to the number of Americans without health insurance. When Bush took office a whopping 39.6 million Americans under 65 did not have health insurance. Now that number has ballooned to 45 million. The National Academies’ Institute of Medicine estimated that up to $130 billion is lost every year due to the impaired health of the uninsured.

    The politicization of science. The Bush administration took magical thinking to new heights by downgrading the importance of science in policy-making. It dragged its heels when making appointments to the Food and Drug Administration and the National Institutes of Health, and a congressional committee found that the administration “repeatedly suppressed, distorted or obstructed science to suit political and ideological goals.”

    Giving mercury polluters a free pass. The White House allowed utility industry lobbyists to influence an Environmental Protection Agency rule change that would weaken toxic mercury emission regulations. The proposed change was so dangerous that a federal appeals court spiked it earlier this year.

    Screwing over the next generation. Dependence on foreign oil has grown from 35% in 1973 to 60% in 2006; only 3% of the country’s electricity comes from alternative sources such as solar and wind. Bush’s pet project, No Child Left Behind, turned into a $40 billion unfunded mandate for school districts around the country. Despite the program’s high profile, minority and disadvantaged students haven’t seen meaningful gains. Bush is also unconcerned about the impact of environmental hazards on children’s health, allowing the EPA to ignore input from an advisory committee on children’s health protection and allowing a related task force to expire in 2005. And the Consumer Product Safety Commission, thanks to a drastic cut in staff and budget, has allowed toxic toys to hit store shelves. In 2007, an estimated 35% of all toys contained lead, while only 20% of all toys had no evidence of any harmful chemicals.

    To read the entire report, go to www.publicintegrity.org.

    What’s your take? Write: editor@shepex.com or comment on this story online at www.expressmilwaukee.com.

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