The Robber Barons Return as the Bush Gang,
Small Time Crime: Bush and Cheney,
Mega-Crime: Three Decades of Class Piracy

excerpted from the book

Robbing Us Blind

The Return of the Bush Gang and the Mugging of America

by Steve Brouwer

Common Courage Press, 2004, paper




 1982   25 million
  2002  43.6 million


 1982  13
 2002  229


A band of rich thugs has mugged the United States of America. For the second time in twenty years, the Bush Gang-otherwise known as The Family or The Dynasty-is pilfering our pockets and emptying the public treasury. Under the direction of George W, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld, the members of this criminal clique are plundering our country t: again, just as they did in the 1980s and early l990s. What is more, as the nation slips inexorably toward economic chaos, the Bush Gang is drowning out criticism with the noise of war drums and blinding the American people with a frenzy of waving flags. Rather than fix things at home, they want to enlist our help in plundering the world.

America's destiny is now linked to the reckless and selfish pursuits of a corporate elite who are disregarding the well-being of the United States. Like the "Robber Barons" in the Late nineteenth century, the Bush Gang is devoted to the business of fleecing the American people and buying out the last vestiges of honest government. Through their policies, their political alliances, and their personal behavior, the members of Bush Gang I encouraged various kinds of criminal behavior in the 1980s-massive financial fraud in the Savings and Loan industry, "junk bond" scandals on Wall Street, and widespread government malfeasance. When they left office in the early 1990s, they saddled us with a long recession and a tremendous national debt. When Bush Gang 11 returned to the scene in 2001 and 2002, we immediately became aware of their participation-at Harken and Halliburton, Enron and Arthur Andersen-in a massive corporate crime wave that included many of the nation's biggest accounting firms, insurance companies, manufacturers, and financial institutions.

On top of this corporate criminality, the members of the Bush Gang were the central agents in thievery of even greater magnitude, the "mega-crime" of our era. They began to engineer the systematic robbery of the income and wealth of American working people during the 1980s, then pressured a weak Democratic administration to acquiesce to most of their demands in the 1990s, and finally resumed their project with renewed vigor with George W. Bush's election in 2000. This mega crime has resulted in the wholesale redistribution of money to a very small minority of wealthy Americans, thus leading to inexcusable levels of economic and social inequality in the United States. Consequently, our political system now resembles, as it did a century ago, a plutocracy-a government of the rich, by the rich, and for the rich.

... more importantly, the Bush Gang represents a much larger group, the ultra-conservative, corporate upper class that has taken over our country just as they did a century ago. The last time a tiny, self centered minority held so much power, dominating the United States through their control of "Money Power" and the Republican Party, they were called the "Robber Barons." Though it might seem unfair to pick on a particular family by recasting the Robber Barons as the Bush Gang, these guys deserve the attention. The roots of Bush family power extend back to the beginning of the 20th century-George W and Jeb really are the great-grandchildren of the Robber Barons. The Bush family has a long record-their involvement in upper-class investment schemes, their promotion of dangerous intrigues in foreign affairs, their long-time participation in Republican politics, and their membership in a variety of elite institutions-that makes them ideal examples of how the corporate upper class maintains and wields its power in the United States.

The Bush Gang is throwback to "The Gilded Age," that time over a hundred years ago when wealth was worshipped in all its forms and the nation was ruled by a band of notorious financiers and capitalists, which is why people called them Robber Barons.

The economic and social evidence is overwhelming: the Bush Gang and the new generation of thieves have orchestrated a massive redistribution of America's wealth. They have taken from the poor, from the working class, and from a wide swath of the middle class, and given to the rich-that is, to themselves. The share of national income that goes to the bottom nine-tenths of the American people, the large majority who reside at the base of the economic pyramid, shrank from 67% of the total in the late 1970s to about 52% twenty years later. Analysis of statistics kept by the Internal Revenue Service shows that almost all of this missing income was redistributed to the very richest Americans, the top one percent of our population-in fact, their take of the loot, already a robust 9.3% of all American income in 1979, had more than doubled, to 20.8%, by 2000.

When you are being dispossessed, when your assets and income are shrinking due to the activities of others, then you are being robbed. When the perpetrators organize themselves purposefully to dispossess you, when they plunder your savings, then it is fair to call them a "gang." One dictionary definition fits them perfectly: "Gang-a group of people working together for criminal, disreputable ends."

Our whole notion of freedom in the United States is based upon a the willingness of citizens to speak up and throw self-satisfied elites out of power. Those who fought against the "Money Power" in the past, such as the Kansas farmers who helped invent the term "Robber Barons" in the 1880s, never apologized for calling them a criminal class. Mary Ellen Lease, an outspoken Populist leader of the time, told her Midwestern audiences that they could not afford to be shy. "Raise less corn and more hell!" she said.

She also told them where to go to recover their lost farms and stolen wages: "Wall Street owns the country. It is no longer a government of the people, by the people, or for the people, but a government of Wall Street, by Wall Street and for Wall Street."

Over the past few decades in the United States, there has been little popular criticism of the "elite," the small class of people who dominate corporate ownership and management. Obviously many critical voices are blocked by the corporations themselves, since they have successfully monopolized the major media. But there is another factor. There are no prominent politicians castigating members of the monied elite and calling them "malefactors of great wealth." And though some of us have heard vague references to "The Gilded Age," we seldom hear it applied to the society we live in today. Was the slogan invented by cranky losers who missed out on the American success story? Not so. The United States' most famous and humorous writer of the nineteenth century, Mark Twain, wrote his wickedly satirical novel, The Gilded Age, in 1873, thus giving a name to the first great wave of American corporate and financial thievery. The theme reappeared constantly in his writing for over forty years. When one of the most famous criminals of the era, the railroad scam artist and financier known as Jay Gould, died in 1892, Twain offered a mock eulogy:

The people had desired money before his day, but he taught them to fall down and worship it.... The gospel left behind by Jay Gould is doing giant work in our days. Its message is 'Get money. Get it quickly. Get it in abundance. Get it in prodigious abundance. Get it dishonestly if you can, honestly if you must.

In those days, the powerful indictments of a variety of outraged Americans-populist Democrats, trade union organizers, progressive Republicans, home-grown and immigrant socialists-changed our political culture. With their strong sense of morality and their powerful voices, they condemned "Money Power" for creating a culture of greed and dishonesty. The struggle against the corrupt supremacy of the rich went on for so long, roughly from 1865 to 1935, that three or four generations of Americans had to rebound from discouraging defeats before they finally triumphed. Along the way, they recruited the help of people from all social classes. One of them, President Theodore Roosevelt, the descendent of a wealthy New York family and a Republican, had the courage to defy a substantial sector of his own party and say: "We hold it to be a prime duty of the people to free our government from the control of money." In the same fashion, Woodrow Wilson, a fairly conservative Democrat, echoed the rhetoric of the populist chorus: "The masters of the government of the United States," he said, "are the combined capitalists and manufacturers of the United States."

Even with such contributions at the presidential level, the popular campaign to promote more honest politics and progressive taxation faltered in the early decades of the 20th century. After World War I, the rich counterattacked by mounting an extraordinary celebration of the glory of their own money. Their exuberant excesses-cutting taxes, speculating in finance, and buying every possible extravagance (three attributes which reappeared in the 1980s and 1990s)-eventually brought the Roaring Twenties down to earth with an abrupt crash.

The Great Depression led to the disgrace and the downfall of the aristocracy of money. Franklin Roosevelt, backed by a massive popular coalition of working people, realized that it was in the interests of his party to keep the rich at bay and he was determined to keep it that way after his re-election in 1936: "I should like to have it said of my first Administration that in it the forces of selfishness and lust for power met their match. I should like to have it said of my second Administration that in it, these forces met their master."

That never quite happened. But for decades the equality and dignity fostered by the New Deal kept the nation focused on the health and happiness of middle-class and working-class Americans. The ultra-rich paid their high taxes, and lo and behold, they survived quite well, just slightly less wealthy than before. No aristocrats were marched off to the guillotine, nor did the nation's industries and businesses starve for capital. In fact, the United States lived through a golden era, from the 1940s to the 1970s, in which most of its citizens enjoyed unprecedented levels of economic growth and prosperity.

In recent decades, citizens of the United States of America developed amnesia about the financial piracy of the past. Many of us slipped into a delusional state, worshipping the gods of finance and luxury, tantalizingly displayed in ubiquitous advertising but not really within our reach, while forgetting that our real priorities still concerned work, family, and community. Some, it seemed, were bowing down before the false idols of Dow Jones and Wall Street and chanting the incantations they found in Money, Invest, and Fortune. Meanwhile most families were struggling to stay afloat, with mothers and fathers working many more hours per week simply to avoid slipping behind and going further into debt.

The "Bush Gang" Represents Unrestrained Upper Class Power

For years a number of authors, myself included, have written about the growing inequality in America. In the 1980s, I criticized the ultra-conservative path pursued by the Reagan/Bush administrations. And in the l990s I took the Clinton administration to task for doing too little to reverse this reactionary course, for all too often they simply acquiesced to the demands of powerful corporate interests. Many thoughtful writers were raising similar warnings-from moderate, liberal, and left perspectives-but, all in all, they barely touched the consciousness of most Americans. During the euphoria generated by the enormous Internet and stock market "bubble" of the late l990s, it was difficult to get anyone to pay attention to the pressing problems of real life on earth, such as repairing the social fabric of our country and fairly sharing the fruits of our labor.

From the vantage point of a new century, we can see that our worst suspicions have been confirmed. Economic analysis shows that the increasing inequality in the United States was not an unfortunate or transitory phenomenon, but the result of systematic plundering by the rich. Historical perspective places the Bush family and its political associates at the heart of this privileged elite. For this reason, the "Bush Gang" becomes a convenient and accurate metaphor for describing how the corporate upper class and the ultra-right wing of the Republican Party have manipulated the economy and the government for their own selfish ends.

From the moment the first George Bush took over leadership of the Task Force on Regulatory Relief in 1981, the Bush Gang mounted a very effective program of dismantling the rules and regulations that had controlled the predatory instincts of big business ever since the Great Depression. This led to the emergence of a new, low-wage corporate model that utilized every possible method of exploiting working people. In later chapters, we will explore how diverse corporate actors-WalMart, the meat-packing industry, and for-profit health care providers-used a combination of business deregulation and the outright coercion of labor to make their employees work harder, faster, longer, and for less pay. Squeezing working people-this is the legacy of the Bush dynasty. They did not do this primarily to be cruel; they did it to make more money.

And since we are talking about an upper class gang whose prime objective in life is money, we will devote considerable time focusing on how the rich have been getting it and keeping it-their methods of hauling in income; their preoccupation with accumulating wealth and capital; their obsession with avoiding taxes in order to augment their income and wealth all the more; and their insatiable appetite for other people's savings and Social Security.

We will also look at some important ideological elements that have helped the Bush brand of capitalism win out over American democracy. Their belief in the value of capital takes priority over all other human values; their support for the anti-democratic legal apparatus of corporations protects their class advantages; their isolation in elite organizations warps their ideas and social relations (the Bushes' Skull and Bones club is a prime example); and their monopolization of news and information in the corporate media spreads their views widely among the general population.

Finally, we will consider political questions that are of immense importance to the future of American democracy. What kind of lust for power and profit is driving the Bush Gang's compulsion to take over the world? Do the American people realize that they are rapidly losing both their money and their ability to influence their government?

George W and the Renewed Urge to Plunder and Pillage

Ever since the 1980s, grave damage has been done to the institutions that promote democracy and equality. The ultra-conservative program of serving the wealthy and punishing lower income Americans became so well-entrenched, even among many Democrats, that it ultimately gave free rein to corporate thievery. During the Clinton years, the Democratic Party occasionally tried to limit the most egregious methods which the corporate class used to bilk the majority of working Americans, but in most respects they fell under the influence of the Bush Gang, too. Frightened off by the vicious attacks mounted by the Republican Congress and the pit bulls of talk radio, Democrats attended to the agenda of their own wealthy campaign donors. For this reason, there was no effective Democratic opposition to the initiatives of the Bush Administration in 2001, even though the Democrats won more popular votes in the 2000 election.

This abdication of responsibility by the j Democrats allowed the reassembled Bush Gang to pursue the same objectives that guided the United States when Ronald Reagan and the first Bush Gang took office twenty years earlier. They wanted to 1 ) give huge tax breaks to the wealthy and the corporations; 2) begin a military build-up that reaps very high profits for defense industries; 3 ) ignore the increasing indebtedness of the private sector and the federal government; 4) disregard the general welfare of most citizens and their natural environment; 5) deregulate almost all corporate activity and financial markets; 6) limit constitutional freedoms and the rights of working people.

When the younger Bush was inaugurated, the U.S. government had a federal surplus o $129 billion. But less than two years later, by the autumn of 2002, the deficit hit $157 billion and kept growing, with shortfalls of over $450 billion predicted for 2003 and 2004.

Robert Brenner, director of the Center for Social Theory and Comparative History at UCLA

Between 1995 and 1999, the value of stock options granted to US executives more than quadrupled, from $26.5 billion to $110 billion, or one-fifth of non-financial corporate profits, net of interest. In 1992, corporate CEOs held 2 percent of the equity of US corporations; today, they own 12 percent. This ranks among the most spectacular acts of expropriation in the history of capitalism.

An interesting analysis by United for a | Fair Economy (UFE), which specializes in interpreting economic trends for a popular audience, looked at the compensation of corporate CEOs whose companies were being investigated for improprieties by the Securities and Exchange Commission, the US Justice Department, and other authorities. In the 23 major companies examined, including AOL Time Warner, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Kmart, Lucent Technologies. and Xerox, the CEOs were paid a combined total of over $1.4 billion from 1999 through 2001, or an average of $62.2 million each for the three year period. In contrast, the average CEO at the top 500 US corporations had cumulative earnings averaging $36.5 million for the same period of three years. Crime, it seems, was paying well, double the going rate for more honest executives. For the shareholders of these 23 companies, there was a different story-they lost $530 billion in stock value, or more than 73 per cent. Many workers at these companies, 162,000 of them, fared the worst- q7 they lost their jobs..

In September of 2002, Fortune surveyed 1,035 large companies whose market value had dropped at least 75 percent and found that insiders had cashed out to the tune of $66 billion, since January 1999.

According to Federal Election Commission data, Bush received more than twice as much as Gore in individual campaign contributions for the 2000 election. He took in $101 million to Gore's $45 million. In order to gain this $56 million advantage, the Bush campaign sacrificed about $15 million in federal funds.

Theft and Plutocracy

Lobbyists and corporations were dangling the bait for all comers throughout the 1990s. Many Democrats were scared silly that they would fall far behind the levels of political funding achieved by their rivals. They had good reason; they had lost badly in the money-raising races during the Reagan/Bush I years. So off they went, scurrying after big business, currying favor in the most obsequious ways. Clinton, with his "New Democratic" image that kept working people and unions at arms length, was quite adept at using the power of the White House to attract corporate donations, particularly from the burgeoning financial sector that loved his Secretary of the Treasury, Wall Street dynamo Robert Rubin.

Probably no one on the Democratic side outdid Joe Lieberman, the 2000 candidate for vice president and long-time devotee of the probusiness contingent known as the Democratic Leadership Council. He was a major supporter, often working hand-in-hand with Republicans, of changes in accounting rules and tax preferences that led directly to abuses of stock options and corporate bookkeeping. When the Senate pushed through rules stipulating that stock options given to employees (and in particular, to CEOs) did not have to be reported as expenses, this allowed corporate boards to keep grossly overcompensating their chief executives while inflating the levels of corporate profits at the same time. Many CEOs then went so far as to drive up the price of their newly acquired stock with bookkeeping tricks and sold off their inflated holdings through insider trading schemes before the stock values fell. After these scandals became public in 2002, Lieberman pretended to be appalled at the lack of corporate oversight by public watchdog agencies. But Arthur Levitt, the former head of the Securities and Exchange Commission, had been deeply frustrated when Lieberman and others undermined his attempts to catch fraudulent behavior. He called the Democrat to account when he said:

Where was Lieberman? He was busy tying up the SEC in knots over auditors' independence, over the budget, and over options accounting.

Clinton and his henchmen did not cause the corporate crime wave, but were reacting to the burgeoning "Money Power" that had enveloped American politics. They felt they had no choice but to bargain with the big-time corporate brokers who had been feeding at the Republican trough throughout the 1980s. The "New Democrats" seldom showed the slightest interest in reviving the substantial ideas of the Old Democrats, such as instituting universal health care or restoring the rights of laboring people, themes that date back to the robust promises of the New Deal. In general, the Democrats were easily frightened back into line by a rabidly right-wing Congress and were held prisoner to the economic course that was dictated by big business.

historian Sidney Schama

... the United States Inc. is currently being run by an oligarchy, conducting its affairs with a plutocratic effrontery which in comparison makes the age of the robber barons in the late 19th century seem a model of capitalist rectitude.

Americans in the 1970s were starting to make demands that seemed unreasonable to the most powerful leaders of our economic institutions. Citizens groups agitated and petitioned for many things, and among their demands were the following: clean up the environment and stop burning so much oil; use workers' pension funds, which were burgeoning, to govern corporations in a more democratic manner; free up the labor process and wake unions up from their lethargic state; promote more opportunities and better wages for minorities and women; restrict the kinds of imperialistic policies that had led to the Vietnam War; and keep progressing on civil rights.

The prospect of a more democratic America was threatening to the rich in the early to mid-1970s. The bastion of big business, The Business Roundtable, which represented 200 of the largest American corporations, was formed under the guidance of John Connally, President Nixon's Secretary of Treasury.

Nixon and Connally helped the Business Roundtable get started on plans to reassert corporate power and use the vast resources of big business to mold public opinion. The Roundtable asserted that "chief executives of major corporations should take an increased role in the continuing debates about public policy." Elite organizations dominated by Wall Street bankers, executives, and lawyers, such as the Council on Foreign Relations and the Trilateral Commission, began discussing the problem of "too much democracy" in both industrialized and developing countries. They were finding it difficult to control the new varieties of political movements that were springing up everywhere. And new think tanks, such as the Heritage Foundation, or obscure ones given new life, such as the American Enterprise Institute, were suddenly funded in lavish style by a bevy of ultra-conservative, ultra-rich families such as Coors, Mellon, Bradley, and Olin. They were ready to launch their highly ideological, right-wing agenda into the middle of American politics.

As the moderately conservative elite and the very conservative foundations mounted their offensive, they were joined, for various reasons, by a number of middle-class allies: fundamentalist evangelists who proclaimed the moral decline of the United States; "nativist whites" who worried that they would lose ground if economic and political opportunities were extended to Hispanics and Blacks and Asians; and a variety of home-owners and small business owners who were being pinched financially and wanted to have their taxes reduced, and so naively threw in their lot with big business.

The Arrival of Bush Gang I

In the '80s, these economic and political forces combined to establish a new ultra-conservative, Republican era of government that has dominated the United States ever since. This power shift to the extreme right, with its unabashed devotion to the needs of rich Americans and the biggest corporations, has been attributed to various factors over the years-for instance, to the "Reagan Revolution" in the early '80s, the "New Christian Right" in the late '80s, or Newt Gingrich's "Conservative Revolution" in Congress in the mid '9Os. Looking backwards from the 21st century, however, it is apparent that this has been the era of the "Bush Gang." The Bush family and their political allies have been the dominant influence in and around the White House and they are perfect representatives of the ascendant upper class.

Once in office, the Reagan and Bush regime immediately embarked on a campaign to lower taxes on the rich, cut regulation of business, restrict the activities of organized labor, and cut back on federal assistance for education, health, and other social needs.

... the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) was established in the 1930s to protect the right of Americans to bargain for a fair wage. The Reagan-Bush team did not abolish labor laws or the NLRB; it simply stacked the Board with appointees who were sure to take the side of big business in any disputes with labor unions. This tactic, combined with a reluctance to enforce regulatory laws on pollution and safety, allowed corporations to increase their profits without raising wages at the same time. Then, to make those profits even more valuable, income taxes on corporations and rich individuals were sharply cut. At the same time, many Americans experienced a decline in their wages and their standard of living, while almost all Americans were working more hours than they had in the 1970s and paying higher social security taxes.

Their first time through, riding into Washington on the coattails of Ronald Reagan, the Bush Gang and their associates pulled off a two-pronged assault on the stability of the economy. They approved large spending increases that benefited military contractors (their former business associates) by an inordinate amount. They let their campaign contributors and political pals play fast and loose with the nation's banking system. And through it all they got much richer.

Despite the shaky state of both the economy and the average family's finances at the end of the 1980s, the first Bush Gang kept basing its decisions on a very narrow foundation defined by parameters of accumulated wealth. When George I became President in 1989, he brought in three especially trusted associates with him: Secretary of Treasury Nicholas Brady, Secretary of State James Baker, and Secretary of Commerce Robert Mosbacher. These old friends not only shared Bush's upper class training and background, but they also had a collective net worth of about $250 million between them.

By 1991, the average American family with the median income of $37,340 was working much more than it had twelve years earlier (two-earner families increased their working hours by about 10%), but hardly making more than they had in 1979 (less than a 3% increase; according to figures provided by the U.S. Census Bureau, the gain was less than a thousand dollars). This typical family was paying 27.6% of their income in combined federal, state, and local taxes.

The richest Americans fared much better, increasing their before-tax incomes by over 60% over the same period, while their overall tax rates continually declined until they approximated those paid by average citizens. One prominent example was the household of President George H.W. Bush, whose income varied from $0.5 million to $1.3 million per year from 1989 to 1991. Their total tax rate-state, local, and federal-ranged from 18% to 27%. The rate would have been higher except that George I listed his residence as a hotel in Texas, not the White House or the family home in Maine. Texas has no income tax, whereas the District of Columbia and the State of Maine levy a healthy income tax on the rich.

By 1992 most Americans were left with a very bad taste in their mouths. Not only had they been deprived of growth in their incomes but they were also saddled with a worrisome federal deficit and a steep recession. Twelve years of Reagan and Bush budget deficits, largely caused by a failure to collect sufficient taxes from the rich and by the expense of a ballooning defense budget, had more than quadrupled the federal debt. It climbed from less than $1 trillion when they took office to more than $4 trillion when they left. The American economy was a wreck-the commercial banking and financial system had barely survived numerous scandals, while the savings and loan system had been so thoroughly looted that taxpayers were left to pick up the bill that would climb to $500 billion (when annual interest payments were applied).

During the Clinton years a combination of factors-higher rates of taxation on the rich, the Earned Income Tax Credit granted to many low-paid workers, an increase in the minimum wage, and a period of lower unemployment- seemed to slow the growth of income inequality. But on many other issues, Clinton caved into the pressure of the mounting challenges from the conservatives. His willingness to lower the capital gains tax from 28% to 20% signaled an enthusiasm for aiding the big financial and investment institutions and the people who profited from them. His unwillingness to keep pursuing health care reform betrayed most Americans, and especially lower-income working people.

During the Clinton years a combination | of factors-higher rates of taxation on the rich, the Earned Income Tax Credit granted to many low-paid workers, an increase in the minimum wage, and a period of lower unemployment- seemed to slow the growth of income inequality. But on many other issues, Clinton caved into the pressure of the mounting challenges from the conservatives. His willingness to lower the capital gains tax from 28% to 20% signaled an enthusiasm for aiding the big financial and investment institutions and the people who profited from them. His unwillingness to keep pursuing health care reform betrayed most Americans, and especially lower-income working people.

Clinton and Gore abandoned the natural constituency of the party that had been built up by the followers of Franklin Roosevelt during the Depression and the Second World War. That is to say, the Democrats were so busy trying to compete with the Republicans in wooing the wealthy and the upper-middle class that they did little of substance to serve working Americans. In fact, they often sided with the allies of the Bush Gang in promoting reactionary policies, such as the so-called "welfare reform," that punished the poor. No one was helping the wage and salary earners, the farmers and small business people, and the retired people ... had depended on strong government

... political discussion in the United States is usually restricted to the moderate to conservative range that precludes discussion of class conflict. If "class warfare" is mentioned, it is because a conservative wants to suggest that certain matters should be kept off-limits in American political discussion ...

According to The Washington Post, the president, the vice president, and their cabinet were the richest men ever to take over the executive branch of government. In particular, five of them-Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of the Treasury Paul O'Neill, Secretary of Commerce Donald Evans, and Secretary of State Colin Powell-were together worth about $600 million dollars, according to their own self-disclosure statements. George W's own wealth was a little more modest, in the $20 to $30 million range, but that estimate did not take into consideration large sums he might inherit from his parents some day.

Most of these men, and the larger raiding party they brought into government with them, had already served loyally under the Reagan/Bush I administrations and they knew the routine very well. In the first half of the year 2001 they immediately reverted to the modus operandi that had been set forth back in 1981:

* Give extraordinary tax relief to very rich citizens and corporations.
* Build up the military with rapid increases in defense spending and weapons procurement. * Assert a very aggressive posture in international relations.
* Offer every possible kind of deregulation of business activity.
* Overlook the criminal activity of the businessmen who support their agenda. * Disregard the very real possibility of large federal deficits.

The tax legislation of 2001 promised tax savings for all, which was only true to the extent that many average taxpayers enjoyed a small rebate on their 2001 tax payments (due to an amendment that originated in the Progressive Caucus in the House of Representatives, not in the Bush administration). The real money, however, was written into the full ten-year program-52% of the tax benefits went to the richest 1% of Americans ...

The Bush administration immediately renounced a series of foreign agreements, including the Kyoto Agreement on Global Warming and the International Criminal Court, that would have held it to true international standards. It also signaled the United Nations that it did not necessarily intend to comply with future U.N. decisions.

As the depth of the economic downturn became apparent, the Bush administration did not pursue a broad-based plan of economic stimulus. Although they might have used deficit spending in a positive way to revive the incomes of average Americans or invest in public infrastructure, the Bush Gang chose instead to follow the exact same course that had led to very wasteful deficits throughout the 1980s and early l990s. They kept expanding the tax cuts for the rich at the same time they were increasing expenditures on defense and new weaponry. Thus, within their first year of retaking office, Bush Gang 11 relinquished the entire government surplus that had been so carefully cultivated in the previous few years and set a pattern for incurring large deficits for the coming decade.

In short, the Bush Gang immediately delivered the goods in 2001 that wealthy Republican supporters had paid for in advance.

Bush Gang II wanted to eliminate the federal estate tax, the levy on inherited wealth that falls almost exclusively on the very rich. Currently, inheritance taxes only affect the top 2% of the population, and for most of those people who leave estates under $5 million, the consequences are generally mild. Estate taxes are designed to take the biggest chunk from a much tinier segment of the populace, the super rich-people like George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush. In 1999, for instance, half of all federal inheritance taxes were paid by only 3,300 estates that had an average value of $17 million apiece.

Robbing Us Blind

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