Dear George

Dow Wow Wow

excerpted from the book

Stupid White Men

and other Sorry Excuses for the State of the Nation

by Michael Moore

ReganBooks, 2001

Dear George

Your [Bush's] list of accomplishments-in just your first few months in office - is brutally impressive.

You have:

* Cut $39 million from federal spending on libraries

* Cut $35 million in funding for advanced pediatric training for doctors

* Cut funding for research into renewable energy sources by 50 percent

* Delayed rules that would reduce "acceptable" levels of arsenic in drinking water

* Cut funding for research into cleaner, more efficient cars and trucks by 28 percent

* Revoked rules strengthening the power of the government to deny contracts to companies that violate federal laws, environmental laws, and workplace safety standards

* AIlowed Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton to request suggestions for opening up national monuments for foresting, coal mining, and oil and gas drilling

* Broken your campaign promise to invest $100 million per year in rain forest conservation

* Reduced by 86 percent the Community Access Program, which coordinated care for people without health insurance among public hospitals, clinics, and other health care providers

* Nullified a proposal to increase public access to information about the potential ramifications of chemical plant accidents

* Cut funding for the Girls and Boys Clubs of America programs in public housing by $60 million

* Pulled out of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol agreement on global warming, ultimately signed by 178 other countries

* Rejected an international accord to enforce the 1972 treaty banning germ warfare

* Cut $200 million from workforce training programs for dislocated workers

* Cut $200 million from the Childcare and Development grant, a program that provides child care to low-income families as they are forced from welfare to work

* Eliminated prescription contraceptive coverage to federal employees (though Viagra is still covered)

* Cut $700 million in funds for public housing repairs

* Cut half a billion dollars from the Environmental Protection Agency's budget

* Overturned workplace ergonomic rules designed to protect workers' health and safety

* Abandoned your campaign pledge to regulate carbon dioxide emissions, a major contributor to global warming

* Prohibited any federal aid from going to international family planning organizations that provide abortion counseling, referrals, or services with their own funds

* Nominated former mining company executive Dan Lauriski as Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health

* Appointed Lynn Scarlett, a global warming skeptic and an opponent of stricter standards on air pollution, as Undersecretary of the Interior

* Approved Interior Secretary Gale Norton's controversial plan to auction off areas close to Florida's eastern shore for oil and gas development

* Announced your plans to allow oil drilling in Montana's Lewis and Clark National Forest

* Threatened to shut down the White House AIDS office

* Decided no longer to seek guidance from the American Bar Association on federal judicial appointments

* Denied college financial aid to students convicted of misdemeanor drug charges (though convicted murderers are still eligible for financial aid)

* AIlocated only 3 percent of the amount requested by Justice Department lawyers in the government's continued litigation against tobacco companies

* Pushed through your tax cut, 43 percent of which goes to the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans

* Signed a bill making it harder for poor and middle-class Americans to file for bankruptcy, even when facing overwhelming medical bills

* Appointed affirmative action opponent Kay Cole James to direct the Office of Personnel Management

* Cut $15.7 million from programs dealing with child abuse and neglect

* Proposed elimination of the "Reading Is Fundamental" program, which gives free books to poor children

* Pushed for development of "mini-nukes," designed to attack deeply buried targets-a violation of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty

* Tried to reverse regulation protecting sixty million acres of national forest from logging and road building

* Appointed John Bolton, an opponent of nonproliferation treaties and the United Nations, as Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security

* Made Monsanto executive Linda Fisher deputy administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency

* Nominated Michael McConnell, a leading critic of the separation of church and state, to a federal judgeship

* Nominated civil rights opponent Terrence Boyle to a federal judgeship

* Canceled the 2004 deadline for auto makers to develop prototype high-mileage cars

* Named John Walters, an ardent opponent of prison drug treatment programs, as drug czar

* Appointed oil and coal lobbyist. Steven Giles as Deputy Secretary of the Interior

* Named Bennett Raley, who has called for the repeal of the Endangered Species Act, as Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Water and Science

* Sought the dismissal of a class-action lawsuit filed in the United States against Japan by Asian women forced to work as sex slaves in World War II

* Appointed as solicitor general Ted Olson, your chief lawyer in the Florida voting debacle

* Proposed to ease the permit process for constructing refineries and nuclear and hydroelectric dams, including lowering environmental standards

* Proposed the selling of oil and gas tracts in the Alaska Wildlife Preserve


Dow Wow Wow

As I'm sitting in a Michigan airport waiting for my American Airlines flight to Chicago, a man in a uniform sits down beside me and strikes up a conversation.

I learn that he is actually a pilot, for American Airlines-or more precisely American Eagle, the commuter airline of American Airlines, which like all commuters these days is now adding jets to its fleets for flights of under two hours. This saves the parent company lots of money, I guess.

The pilot who has approached me is not scheduled to fly the plane I'm on. He's hoping to grab an empty seat for the flight across Lake Michigan.

"Do you have to pay to fly if it's a personal trip?" I asked.

"No," he replied. "It's about the only fringe benefit we have."

He then revealed that the starting pay for a pilot at American Eagle was $16,800 a year.

"What?" I asked, sure that I had misheard the figure. "Sixteen grand per year?"

"That's right," the captain responded. "And that's high. At Delta's commuter airline, starting pay is $15,000 for a pilot; at Continental Express, it's around $13,000."

"Thirteen thousand ? For the captain of a commercial airliner? Are you messing with me?"

"No, I'm not messin' with anyone. It gets worse. That first year as a pilot, you have to pay for your own flight training and your own uniforms. After that's all deducted, you end up with about $9,000."

He paused so that could sink in. Then he added: "Gross. "

"I can't believe what I'm hearing." My voice was now getting to a level where others around us began listening in.

"Believe it," he assured me. "One of our pilots last month went down to the welfare office and applied for food stamps. No kidding. With four kids, at his level of pay as a pilot, he was legally eligible for assistance. The front office at American found out about this and sent out a memo that said no pilot was to apply for food stamps or welfare-even if they were eligible for it! Anyone who did apply would be let go.

"So now my buddy just goes down to the food bank on his way home. They don't ask for anything from you that would get back to American Airlines."

I thought I'd heard everything by now. But t-his story was beyond frightening. I did not want to get on that plane. You see, there's something about us humans and our basic animal instincts for survival-and one of those instincts, probably traceable back to the caveman days, is: Never, ever let someone fly you up in the air who's making less than the kid at Taco Bell.

I got on the plane, but only after I convinced myself the guy must have been feeding me a line. How else could I justify risking my life like that? The following week, though, I made some calls and did some research. Much to my horror, that pilot's figures were right. While captains who had been with these commuter airlines for a number of years were pulling in the big money ($40,000/year!), first-year rookies in many cases were living below the poverty level.

I don't know about you, but I want the people taking me with them to defy nature's most powerful force-gravity-to be happy, content, confident, and well paid. Even on the big jets for the major airlines, the flight attendants-another group of employees whose training may one day be critical to saving your life-start out at somewhere between $15,000 and $17,000 a year.

If you don't want to take my word alone, then let me offer you some neutral, objective statistics about just how well those at the top are doing:

* From 1979 until now, the richest 1 percent in the country have seen their wages increase by 157 percent; those of you in the bottom 20 percent are actually making $100 less a year (adjusted for inflation) than you were at the dawn of the Reagan era.

* The world's richest two hundred companies have seen their profits grow by 362.4 percent since 1983; their combined sales are now higher than the combined gross domestic product of all but ten nations on earth.

* Since the recent mergers of the top four U.S. oil companies, their profits have soared by 146 percent- during what we were told was an "energy crisis."

* In the most recent year for which there are figures, forty-four of the top eighty-two companies in the United States did not pay the standard rate of 35 percent in taxes that corporations are expected to pay. In fact, 17 percent of them paid NO taxes at all-and seven of those, including General Motors, played the tax code like a harp, juggling business expenses and tax credits until the government actually owed them millions of dollars!

* Another 1,279 corporations with assets of $250 million or more also paid NO taxes and reported "no income" for 1995 (the most recent year for which statistics were available).

Forbes magazine estimates that corporate tax shelters cost us average Americans over $10 billion dollars a year (and we have to make up the difference, by paying more taxes or by losing services). Next time you can't afford to fix the furnace or replace the computer, you can thank all those fat cats who've got you repeating the line "the economy isn't doing too well right now."

Instead of collecting this money that's being stolen from us, how is the IRS spending its time these days? They've decided to go after you. That's right. They've thrown up the white flag, they're surrendering their efforts to get the rich to pay their taxes. Their new policy is to focus on squeezing those who make the least. According to the General Accounting Office, those who earn less than $25,000 a year have seen their IRS audits double-while those earning over $100,000 have seen their audits drop by over 25 percent.

What does this mean on the balance sheet? It's resulted in a drop of 26 percent in the amount of taxes corporations pay, while you, the average American, have seen your taxes go up by at least 13 percent. In the 1950s, taxes from corporations made up 27 percent of the revenues for the federal government; today that number has dropped to less than 10 percent. Who has made up the difference? You and your second job.

Part of the reason you're hearing so much about how bad the economy is these days is that many of those who are getting their pink slips are the friends and family of those reporting the bad news. Unlike the massive layoffs of the eighties, which were all but ignored by those who went to good colleges and made good money, the layoff massacres today are mostly white-collar and professional. Lay off a few hundred thousand of these people, and you're gonna hear about it. Why? Well, because IT'S . . . IT'S . . . IT'S SO UNFAIR! I mean, these high-tech guys paid their dues! They played by the rules, gave their heart and soul and first marriage to the company. They were there for every company retreat, never missed a late-night "think session," attended every charity event the chairman and his friends threw. And then one day. . . "Bob, this is an employment counselor we've hired to help you with your transition, which we'd like to make as easy for you as possible. Please hand me your keys, and this gentleman with the badge and gun will escort you to your cubicle so you can collect your personal belongings and leave the building in the next twelve minutes."

There is no downturn. Are businesses earning less than last year? Absolutely. How could they not? The nineties saw these corporations post surreal, over-the-top profits, a once-in-a-lifetime bonanza that had nothing to do with reality. Compare any year's figures to those, and you're comparing apples and windfalls. There was a headline the other day that said GM's profits were down 73 percent from last year. That sounds bad-but last year was nothing short of a profit orgy. Even with that 73 percent drop, GM will still pocket over $800 million profit in the first half of 2001.

Stupid White Men

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