Bush belongs in Texas

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 21, 2004

The state of the nation is good, despite more than three years of mismanagement.

We have a national budget deficit of $500 billion (that’s $500,000,000,000.00) and which could reach $1 trillion ($1,000,000,000,000.00); about 2.5 million people who used to have jobs no longer do; there are 12 million children who have no health insurance; industrial jobs are moving out of the country; and, except for Martha Stewart, corporate criminals are getting richer and richer by raiding retirement accounts and robbing employees.

But that’s okay, says President Bush, because if we quit taxing multinational corporations and millionaires, everybody will better off. I’m not sure how that employs people since the corporations are using the extra few million dollars to build new factories in Mexico, China, Korea, and many other third world nations where they don’t have to bother with pesky things like decent wages, health insurance, or retirement benefits.

Meanwhile, in America, more and more businesses are doing away with retirement benefits and making employees pay the lion’s share of health insurance, which when coupled with no raises for years and years, means hard-working people with families can no longer afford health insurance or the paltry 401k plans employers offer instead of real retirement plans.

Most Americans are worse off today than they were five years ago, but Bush says that’s all right because we can at least feel safe and secure in the knowledge that terrorists aren’t going to blow us up. He’s right that there have been no foreign terrorist attacks inside the borders of the United States since Sept. 11, 2001. Of course, you can count the number of times foreign terrorists have struck inside the U.S. on one hand and prior to the horrors of 9/11 the last attack was in February 1993.

Even though I’m sure our law enforcement agencies are working very diligently to keep foreign terrorists from striking again, there is no evidence that the draconian Patriot Act has helped. Sure, it allows the government to invade your home, tap your phone, and see what library books or movies you’ve read or rented, so it certainly is harder for the terrorists to plan and plot.

We are safer from foreign terrorists, but are we more safe and secure now than we were before?

I don’t think so. Here’s why: We must now worry about what our own government is doing. We gave more police power to the U.S. government with the Patriot Act and would give even more power to it if the Patriot Act were expanded. This should worry people. No, we’re not up to the level of being truly repressive or tyrannical, but we’re heading down a slippery slope when we erode individual liberty and personal privacy every time we give the government the authority and power to search us, spy on us, or imprison us.

Hundreds of people are imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay and hundreds of others were arrested after 9/11 who were not charged with any crime, denied legal representation and not even allowed to speak with their families. Most those &uot;detained&uot; in the United States were not charged with any crime related to terrorism. And even though the prisoners in Cuba were captured on the battlefields of Afghanistan, they are not being treated with the same dignity and respect we expect our soldiers to be afforded and they are not being detained in accordance to the Geneva Convention guidelines, of which the U.S. is a signatory.

As a nation of laws, we should ensure that all prisoners in our custody are treated in accordance to our laws or to international laws we expect others to abide by. It doesn’t matter whether these are U.S. citizens or not. It is our responsibility – our burden – to make sure everybody in our custody is afforded the right to representation, to a list of charges, to the right to at least communicate with family members, and given the opportunity to defend themselves against accusations and charges made against them.

The lack of these fundamental rights, even though imposed upon foreigners in our custody, sends a chill down my spine. If the government can do it to them, what’s stopping them from doing it to my neighbor? Or to me?

In the name of security, we are sacrificing the legal protections that guarantee our freedoms and liberties. By doing so, we are on that slippery slope. Our freedoms have been attained through struggle: Our forefathers fought a war for them, we fought a Civil War for them, our armed forces have fought several wars to preserve them, conscientious protestors have fought to broaden and preserve them, and legal battles have been waged since the nation began to strengthen them. We can’t just give up our freedoms because 19 suicidal madmen attacked us.

Remember what Benjamin Franklin said – &uot;They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security.&uot; I think every American deserves &uot;essential liberty&uot; and I, for one, and not willing to give it up for &uot;temporary security&uot; because I know that in the long run, you lose both liberty and security.

As for the war against terrorism, nothing has changed. We have not defeated al Quada because we diverted our forces and resources away from the war on terrorism for an ill-conceived excursion into Iraq that has cost 500 American lives, injured thousands more, and cost the nation hundreds of billions of dollars.

The rationale for going to war – a threat to national security because of nuclear weapons, biological weapons, chemical weapons, and ties to al Quada – was false. Yes, Iraq and the world are better off without Saddam Hussein, but there was never any threat to our national security from him. Saddam did violate U.N. resolutions, but wouldn’t it be the responsibility of the UN to enforce its own resolutions?

Bush’s assertion that &uot;America will never seek a permission slip to defend the security of our people&uot; is ludicrous because the Iraq war was never about our national security. No president would seek permission to defend this nation from any nation or coalition of nations. Implying that the Democrats would stoop so low is not only an insult to the presidential candidates, but also an affront to the majority of people in this nation who are not in lock step with Bush.

So, what did Bush propose during his state of the union speech?

He wants to create a program to give prisoners some job training when they get out. An early estimate based on the number of prisoners to be released and the funding Bush proposed means that each man and woman released from prison would get $15 (fifteen dollars) to learn a trade and acquire the desirable work skills and habits. (Well, they don’t really need much since there are no jobs for them anyway.)

What else did Bush propose? Let’s see…oh, yes, he’s all for marriage! Good for him. I’m enjoying a happy marriage and hope all people will find that joy in their lives. Do we need a Constitutional Amendment to make sure marriage is only between man and woman? Let’s just agree to have a marriage you need a husband (male) and wife (female) and forget about toying with the Constitution of the United States for a matter that should be one of social mores, not earthshaking changes to one of the most important documents mankind has ever created.

Bush’s speech was pretty dull and his assertions lacked credibility. The good news is that he didn’t declare war on anybody or add any nations to his &uot;axis of evil&uot; list. Otherwise, he made it sound like he’s the compassionate conservative he portrayed himself to be when he first ran for president even though his administration is an affirmation of the kind of conservatism Charles Dickens railed against in the 19th Century.

The state of this nation will improve dramatically once the ultra-conservative, xenophobic, and security obsessed Bush administration is out of the White House and back in Texas watching their oil wells pump.