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Does "W." stand for wealthy?

George W. Bush is the first president in more than 100 years to reach the White House after losing the popular vote to his opponent, but that fact has done nothing to temper his impulses toward extremism. After his first 100 days in office, it's clear that the only value truly revered by this administration is shareholder value.

When EPA administrator Christie Todd Whitman had the chutzpah to announce that the president would honor his campaign promise to cut down on emissions of carbon dioxide to reduce global warming, it took only a few days for the president to bow to pressure from the coal industry to overrule her. Environmentalists reacted with horror, but syndicated columnist (and full-time Republican apologist) Bob Novak explained that Bush's pledge was never really his policy--it was just "a line ... slipped into a speech ... embracing the advanced ecoactivist position that emissions of carbon dioxide should be regulated .... Five months later, Environmental Protection Administrator Christie Whitman picked up the neglected line and exalted it, incorrectly, as Bush doctrine." Just call that Republican logic.

Bush caused more outrage when he announced he would reverse Clinton administration regulations requiring less arsenic in drinking water and more corporate responsibility for repetitive stress injuries suffered in the workplace. The new president also is being pressured to stand tall for the right of snowmobile owners to pollute national parks. But not until the Agriculture Department declared that spot-testing for salmonella in beef going to the federal school lunch program would be too onerous for the meat industry was Bush finally forced to rescind one of his opulent gifts to corporate America.

Since the United States is undeniably the greediest country in the world, it's easy to argue that we finally have the president we deserve. When it comes to coddling the rich, "W." is determined to out-Reagan Reagan. Bush junior seems especially eager to avoid what he apparently thinks was his father's fatal error--failing to cater continuously to the most extreme wing of his party.

The amazing thing about Bush's policies is that almost every one of them is even worse than it first appears to be. For example, according to a report from the bipartisan Joint Committee on Taxation, his notorious $1.6 trillion tax cut actually turns out to be a $2.7 trillion giveaway after you factor in all the extra billions in income tax the wealthiest Americans will be able to avoid if the estate tax is repealed. Paul Krugman of The New York Times believes that means that after the Bush tax cut there won't be enough money to finance extravagances like the prescription drug benefit for seniors that the president also promised during the campaign.

The only hopeful signs for gay people so far are the appointment of at least two openly gay men--the new (anti-abortion) head of the White House AIDS office and a consultant to the Defense secretary--and the successful efforts of our close friends on the religious right to at least temporarily derail Bush's plan to funnel billions of dollars in social service funds to religious organizations, the places most likely to fire openly gay employees or discriminate against gay people who need these services. The New York Times Magazine highlighted these dangers in a piece about an ex-therapist at a Baptist home for children that receives funds from the state of Kentucky. The therapist was fired after her coworkers saw a photograph of her in an AIDS walk with someone who looked like she could be her girlfriend.

Although the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force objected to the president's faith-based initiative, only the evangelicals had the clout to slow it down. The turnaround came after Pat Robertson described the idea as a "Pandora's box" that would make federal funds available to everyone (including Hare Krishnas).

All of which leaves just one reason for optimism: Only a president determined to pander to the extreme right might accomplish what we have rarely been able to accomplish ourselves. With so much anger from so many progressive groups, we might finally create the formidable alliance that will be necessary to rid ourselves of these rascals for good.
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Article Details
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Author:Kaiser, Charles
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 22, 2001
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