Monday, September 3, 2007

Bush Labors Yet Again on Labor Day

For the third year in a row, President Bush struggled on Labor Day. In 2005 the reeling Chief Executive issued a proclamation honoring the memory of the victims of Hurricane Katrina. The public wondered how many died as a result of his botched federal emergency response. Recall he flew back from Crawford to "manage the disaster."

The next year, the political waters were less turbulent and Bush focused on the economy and the American worker. His speech did the usual, exhorted for less taxes, challenged other countries to open up their markets, and rallied support for our soldiers. However, one comment seemed absurd. The President said "And my message to the world is this: Just treat us the way we treat you. That's all we expect. We just want the rules to be fair -- because I believe this country can compete with anybody, any time, anywhere, so long as the rules are fair."

Right afterwards he stated "it's important for Presidents to embrace the Jones Act" which restricts shipping between certain U.S. ports to American flagged vessels. Treat us the way we treat you? In shipping, America completely shuts out foreign competition on selected routes. This seems odd in light of other recent Presidential actions. Why allow Mexican trucks on U.S. highways and approve Dubai Aerospace's purchase of American airport operations while shutting our foreign shipping?

Those Jones Act carriers got another break with the switch from business income taxing to tonnage taxing, which turns the industry in a huge tax break courtesy of Uncle Sam. Profits are soaring on the backs of U.S. taxpayers.

However, the thing most noteworthy about Bush's 2006 speech is his omission. Given the trend of employers bailing on worker's health insurance benefits, the President skipped over this challenge for the American worker. It warranted not one comment in last year's talk. And just days before the 2007 Labor Day, the U.S. Census Bureau released disturbing data on the state of the insured in our country.

Employers continued jettisoning their health insurance benefit. Of the 2.1 million increase in the number of uninsured, one million came from the employer segment. With the number reaching 47 million across America, President Bush had this to say. "The Census data also shows that challenges remain in reducing the number of uninsured Americans. Containing costs and making health insurance more affordable is the best way to reverse this long-term trend." When the numbers are bad, George is remarkably subdued.

The President oversaw the increase of 7 million people without health insurance on his shift and he says challenges remain? (The number would be 9 million without some timely reformulations the last two years.) George W. Bush has been AWOL on this issue his entire presidency. Lately he's become obstructive.

Consider children's health insurance. In the face of states expanding coverage for low to middle income citizens, the Bush administration issued a spate of bureaucratic rules intended to block covering more kids. The Census Bureau indicates 700,000 more children with coverage in their latest figures. this brings the total to 8.7 kids, more than the number of uninsured children in America in 1994 when the Republican revolution began. Yes, even with CHIP more kids are without health insurance than thirteen years ago.

None of this will be mentioned this Labor Day as the President visits the Dick Cheney predicted quagmire in Iraq. Cheney donned his crystal ball in 1994, prior to his service as CEO of Halliburton. George W. made a surprise landing in al Anbar province where local Sunni tribes collaborated with coalition forces to drive al Qaeda from Iraq. I wonder how that went, especially given local tribal leaders stated months ago they "would fight al Qaeda so the Americans would leave their country." Having the President use their province as a stage to promote his surge, might not go over well.

Also, a recent military report that said local militia's could change their allegiance at any time. Let's hope George W.'s confab and photo op isn't the trigger for such a shift. Might Iraqi's still be mad given Colin Powell's Pottery Barn analogy, "you break it, you own it"? At least the trip to al Anbar prevented Bush from having to answer to millions of Baghdad residents why they don't have water and electricity. His not leaving the base should keep the President from being wounded by anything other than "a cedar."

As for the Petraeus report, the news already suggest it will be written by the White House. Today's meeting in al Anbar is the last big confab of Bush's military advisers. I love it when the President says he'll act on the information from his generals, while behind the scenes, the White House writes the position they should proffer. Colin Powell didn't create the pictures with arrows showing Saddam's mobile WMD factories.

First Powell acted as the administration's mouthpiece, now Petraeus. Who will get fooled again? This Labor Day we already know it's the American worker, the question is who else?