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BUSHWHACKS

Some of the ways Bush has hurt the country and the world

 

2007

OUTSOURCING PUBLIC HIGHWAYS TO PRIVATE INTERESTS

DANIEL SCHULMAN & JAMES RIDGEWAY, MOTHER JONES - Over the past few years, the federal government has rolled out the welcome mat for private road companies. The 2005 highway bill changed the tax code to allow private firms to raise tax-exempt financing for road projects, something that only governments were able to do up to now. (For congressional pork buffs, this was the same legislation that contained Alaska Republican congressman Don Young's "bridge to nowhere," and that, by way of homage to Young's wife, Lu, was named the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act - A Legacy for Users, a.k.a. SAFETEA-LU.) The bill also expanded eligibility for a transportation subsidy program that includes loan guarantees and lines of credit, and created a pilot program that lets participating states use tolling to finance interstate highway construction and invite private-sector participation on the projects. "It's a very, very sweet deal," says a veteran congressional transportation committee staffer who requested anonymity because of his role advising members on highway policy.

On June 29, 2006, Mitch Daniels, the former Bush administration official turned governor of Indiana, was greeted with a round of applause as he stepped into a conference room packed with reporters and state lawmakers. The last of eight wire transfers had landed in the state's account, making it official: Indiana had received $3.8 billion from a foreign consortium made up of the Spanish construction firm Cintra and the Macquarie Infrastructure Group of Australia, and in exchange the state would hand over operation of the 157-mile Indiana Toll Road for the next 75 years. The arrangement would yield hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks for the consortium, which also received immunity from most local and state taxes in its contract with Indiana. And, of course, the consortium would collect all the tolls, which it was allowed to raise to levels far beyond what Hoosiers had been used to. By one calculation, the Toll Road would generate more than $11 billion over the 75-year life of the contract, a nice return on MIG-Cintra's $3.8 billion investment.

The deal to privatize the Toll Road had been almost a year in the making. Proponents celebrated it as a no-pain, all-gain way to off-load maintenance expenses and mobilize new highway-building funds without raising taxes. Opponents lambasted it as a major turn toward handing the nation's common property over to private firms, and at fire-sale prices to boot.

The one thing everyone agreed on was that the Indiana deal was just a prelude. . .

http://www.motherjones.com/news/feature/2007/01/highwaymen.html

MILITARY SPENDING KILLS FREEWAYS AS WELL AS DECENT HEALTH CARE

ERIC KELDERMAN, STATELINE - State highway officials warned of a looming $11 billion hole in federal highway funds and said the growing shift toward tolls and private leases of roads can't generate enough money to meet the nation's short or long-term transportation needs. Instead, the federal gas tax of 18.4 cents per gallon, last raised 14 years ago, would have to go up at least 3 cents by 2009 and 7 cents more by 2015 just to maintain the current highway system and keep pace with the fast-rising cost of roads, according to a new report by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.

http://www.stateline.org/live/details/story?contentId=187179

WALTER REED: THE LABOR UNION CONNECTION

JENNY MANDEL, GOV EXEC, 2006 - The Government Accountability Office dismissed a protest filed on behalf of employees at the Army's Walter Reed Medical Center, ruling that the employee group had no standing to challenge the outcome of a public-private job competition initiated prior to January 2005. GAO's decision concluded that Alan King, Walter Reed's deputy garrison commander, was not an "interested party" with standing to pursue the protest on behalf of the federal employee group bidding in the competition. The dismissal means that GAO will not consider King's challenge of a contest for base operations support services at Walter Reed. The competition began in January 2000. The in-house employee team won in September 2004, but the award was the subject of numerous appeals and a round of revisions leading to an award to Cape Canaveral, Flordia-based IAP Worldwide Services last month. . .

While the initial employee bid was $7 million less than that of IAP Worldwide Services, a mid-stream solicitation change resulted in a recalculation of the bids by all parties and in IAP's bid coming in $7 million lower, said John Threlkeld, a lobbyist for AFGE. Threlkeld said the process for recalculating the employee bid was flawed, resulting in the inflation of the estimate that rendered it uncompetitive with IAP's bid. . .

The entire five-year contract is valued at more than $120 million, according to the IAP press release, and includes support and environmental services, transportation functions, community activities, information management, logistics and public works

http://www.govexec.com/dailyfed/0206/022406m1.htm

AFGE, 2006 - In a recent letter to Army Secretary Francis J. Harvey, U.S. Senators Paul Sarbanes (D-MD) and Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) highlighted the controversial and costly nature of privatization reviews. Specifically, they requested a list of all privatization expenses from June 2000 through the present related to the Walter Reed privatization review, "including but not limited to costs related to consultant services, training courses, travel, supplies, legal representation, and pro-rated salaries of all employees who have participated in the privatization review.". . .

Walter Reed employees, represented by the American Federation of Government Employees, initially won the $120 million base operations support services contract in 2004. However, the Army failed to complete the privatization review in the time allowed by law. The Army tried to cancel the privatization effort, but DOD officials refused the request. Earlier this year, over the objections of Walter Reed managers, the Army reversed its earlier decision and awarded the work to a contractor.

http://www.afge.org/Index.cfm?Page=PressReleases&PressReleaseID=613

UNBOSSED - There has been a real war going on for years, if you haven't noticed. In this case, not the one in Iraq. It's the war at home in which the Bush Administration has used every means at its disposal to destroy unions, loot the public treasury, and funnel money to special administration friends. Now with Walter Reed and the privatization money train to IAP, we have the collision of both wars, making visible what was once invisible. . .

Here are some of the things I've picked up relevant to the Walter Reed disaster.

In late 2005-early 2006, AFGE was trying to fight corruption: John Gage, President of the American Federation of Government Employees has asked Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to appoint a special counsel to launch a criminal investigation into the Veterans Affairs Department's alleged misuse of federal funds for deciding whether to contract out work. Rather than spend money allocated for health care on health care, the VA is using the money to privatize VA operations. . .

About this time and throughout this time, AFGE was fighting an attempt by the administration to take away collective bargaining protections for civilian employees of the Department of Defense. . .

AFGE, JUNE 21 2006 - Calling it a "wasteful " and illegal, John Gage, president of the American Federation of Government Employees today applauded the effort led by Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) to stop the Army from carrying out an OMB Circular A-76 privatization review at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. . . Although a decision was made in favor of the contractor in January 2006, the award was not finalized until June, and the work is not scheduled to be formally handed over to the contractor until October. The battle now shifts to the Senate.

http://www.unbossed.com/index.php?itemid=1357

WALTER REED INQUIRY: FOX IN THE HEN HOUSE?

WIKIPEDIA - In early 2006, under [Donna] Shalala's leadership, the [University of Miami] was involved in a hugely controversial custodial workers' strike, a dispute between the university's then non-unionized custodial workers (now represented by the SEIU labor union) and the university's contractor, UNICCO. The strike, which lasted from February 28 to May 1, 2006, generated extensive campus and off-campus criticism of UM and UNICCO's labor relationship with its UM-based custodians. While various studies had shown that UM's custodial workers were among the lowest paid university-based custodians in the nation, Shalala failed to act on their wages until the strike. Shalala also drew criticism from some striking workers and protesters for appearing to take the side of UM's contractor on how a union vote should be taken and for not acting earlier to prevent the strike, following the publication of a report that had clearly revealed UM's custodial workers not earning a living wage. Still, Shalala failed to act until the strike forced her involvement. . . After some pressure from Shalala, UNICCO granted partial raises and benefits to its workers; however the union supporters elected to continue the strike (their demands not being met), causing disruptions in UM life, most notably their occupation of the Ashe Administration Building, where Shalala's office was located, and disrupting Shalala's own class.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donna_Shalala

WALTER REED: THE BACK STORY

PROGRESS REPORT - Despite a dramatic increase in demand on the Veterans Administration from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, federal spending on veterans' medical care since 2001 has "actually lagged behind overall national health spending." Veterans are now charged for formerly free services, including hundreds of dollars each month for food, so the VA can save money. The VA has a backlog of 400,000 benefit claims, including many concerning mental health. More important, two months before the invasion of Iraq, the Veterans Health Administration, "which previously offered care to all veterans, introduced severe new restrictions on who is entitled to enroll in its health care system."

On Friday, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee headed by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) released an internal memo from Sept. 2006 describing how the Army's decision to privatize support services at Walter Reed was causing an exodus of "highly skilled and experienced personnel," placing the entire hospital and its patient care services "at risk of mission failure." In Jan. 2006, against the wishes of numerous progressive members of Congress, Walter Reed finalized a five-year, $120-million "cost-plus" contract to IAP Worldwide Services for hospital support services, including facilities management. IAP is led by Al Neffgen, a former senior Halliburton official who testified in 2004 "in defense of Halliburton's exorbitant charges for fuel delivery and troop support in Iraq," and former Vice President Dan Quayle serves on the board. IAP has "grown exponentially in recent years in part because of contracts in Afghanistan and Iraq"; in 2005, it received a contract to deliver desperately-needed ice to victims of Hurricane Katrina, but "millions of pounds of ice were sent to storage, some as far away as Maine." As Waxman writes, "It would be reprehensible if the deplorable conditions were caused or aggravated by an ideological commitment to privatize government services regardless of the costs to taxpayers and the consequences for wounded soldiers."

http://americanprogressaction.org

HOW BUSH'S BUDGET HITS RURAL VOTERS

SENATOR JON TESTER - President Bush's budget will hurt rural Montanans - especially family farmers, ranchers and small businesses, Montana Senator Jon Tester said. Tester and eight of his colleagues outlined the cuts in a Rural Report Card. Some of the key results:

- Agriculture: The President's Farm Bill proposal cuts crop safety net and insurance programs by close to $14 billion over ten years and does not provide disaster assistance for farmers.

- Rural Health Care: The President proposes slashing rural hospital flexibility grants, the rural and community access to emergency devices program, and area health education centers, which provide vital health and health education services to rural areas.

- Rural Firefighting: The proposed budget eliminates funding for the Department of the Interior's rural fire assistance and eliminates the state and local fire assistance program.

Rural Economic Development and Energy: The President's budget cuts nearly $260 million from Rural Housing Assistance funding grants. Loans to rural utilities would be cut by more than $1.3 billion from the last fiscal year. The budget also contains severe cuts to the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, and it cuts funding for wind energy development.

Rural Education: The President's budget freezes funding for two vital programs that benefit children in rural America.

Rural Law Enforcement: The President's budget would cut $1.4 billion in funding for all state and local law enforcement programs in the Department of Justice, including programs specifically designed to help rural communities.

http://tester.senate.gov

2006. . .

EPA CLOSING LIBRARIES, DESTROYING IMPORTANT DOCUMENTS

UNION OF CONCERNED SCIENTISTS - The Environmental Protection Agency has begun closing its nationwide network of scientific libraries, effectively preventing EPA scientists and the public from accessing vast amounts of ata and information on issues from toxicology to pollution. Several libraries have already been dismantled, with their contents either destroyed or shipped to repositories where they are uncataloged and inaccessible.

The scientific information contained in the EPA libraries is essential to the agency's ability to make fully informed decisions that carry out its mission of protecting human health and the environment. Members of Congress have asked the EPA to cease and desist.

On the EPA's own library website, the five libraries that have been closed to date have been removed from the list and had their websites partially or completely shut down:

ucsaction.org/campaign/12_1_06_EPA_Library_Closures

BUSH REGIME DESTROYING CHILD PROGRAMS

RUTH ROSEN, TOM PAINE - According to a new 50-state report on child care policies just released by the National Women's Law Center, the Bush administration has successful dismantled government services for children. State funds for child care assistance have fallen for the fifth year in a row. The problem will soon become catastrophic when large numbers of single mothers bump up against their five-year life limit on welfare. . .

Low-income children are denied critical early learning experiences. Parents find it difficult to access the child care they need to work. And providers, who are often low-income women themselves, face earning less or going out of business. Poor working mothers face other barriers as well. Two-thirds of the states have raised the income eligibility and co-payments for child care and 18 states have long waiting lists. All of these barriers to adequate childcare make it extremely difficult for women to work, feel confident that their children are safe and to get off welfare.

http://www.alternet.org/stories/42507/

BUSH: SANCTITY OF LIFE DOESN'T APPLY TO IMMIGRANT BABIES

ROBERT PEAR, NY TIMES - Under a new federal policy, children born in the United States to illegal immigrants with low incomes will no longer be automatically entitled to health insurance through Medicaid, Bush administration officials said Thursday. Doctors and hospitals said the policy change would make it more difficult for such infants, who are United States citizens, to obtain health care needed in the first year of life.

Illegal immigrants are generally barred from Medicaid but can get coverage for treatment of emergency medical conditions, including labor and delivery. In the past, once a woman received emergency care under Medicaid for the birth of a baby, the child was deemed eligible for coverage as well, and states had to cover the children for one year from the date of birth.

Under the new policy, an application must be filed for the child, and the parents must provide documents to prove the child's citizenship. . .

BUSH JIHADISTS EXTEND ABSTINENCE CAMPAIGN TO ADULTS - 90% OF WHOM HAVE SEX WITHOUT BUSH'S PERMISSION

SHARON JAYSON, USA TODAY - The federal government's "no sex without marriage" message isn't just for kids anymore. Now the government is targeting unmarried adults up to age 29 as part of its abstinence-only programs, which include millions of dollars in federal money that will be available to the states under revised federal grant guidelines for 2007. The government says the change is a clarification. But critics say it's a clear signal of a more directed policy targeting the sexual behavior of adults.

"They've stepped over the line of common sense," said James Wagoner, president of Advocates for Youth, a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit that supports sex education. "To be preaching abstinence when 90% of people are having sex is in essence to lose touch with reality. It's an ideological campaign. It has nothing to do with public health."

http://digg.com/politics/Abstinence_message_targets_adults_now

BUSH WANTS TO TURN SPACE OVER TO THE MILITARY

THERESA HITCHENS AND HANINAH LEVINE, DEFENSE TECH - After four years and some 35 drafts, the Bush White House has finally released its long-awaited rewrite of the U.S. National Space Policy. . . When asked about the document, White House Press Secretary Tony Snow replied: "What, this old thing? Just something we inherited from our Uncle Bill." . . . In a further indication that the administration intends to downplay the significance of the document, insiders have been characterizing the new NSP as "nothing new," just a variation on the themes set by the Clinton administration in the last NSP. . .

Slap down the new NSP, signed by President Bush on Aug. 31, and the old one, signed by President Clinton in 1996, side by side, and . . . it's quickly apparent that we are dealing with two very different beasts. . .

While the Clinton version focuses on civil and commercial space, the Bush NSP gives primacy to national security and military space. Example: of Clinton's five goals for U.S. space programs, two mention national security; of Bush's six goals, four are related to national security and defense.

While the Clinton policy aimed to highlight international cooperation and collective security in space, the Bush NSP takes a go-it-alone stance, using strong language that asserts U.S. unilateral rights in space while possibly also being intended to "negate" the rights of other space-faring nations. In ominous tones, the document threatens in one section to "dissuade or deter others from either impeding [U.S.] rights or developing capabilities intended to do so" - raising the specter of preemptive action against other nations' dual-use space technology.

Indeed, even as the Bush policy emphasizes the importance of space security, it goes out of its way to make clear that this security may not, under any circumstances, come from (shudder) international law: "The United States will oppose the development of new legal regimes or other restrictions that seek to prohibit or limit U.S. access to or use of space. Proposed arms control agreements or restrictions must not impair the rights of the United States to conduce research, development, testing and operations or other activities in space for U.S. national interests"

While the new NSP doesn't go as far as some space hawks wanted it to in openly endorsing the strategy of fighting "in, from and through" space, neither has it served to put a blanket - even a thin one - on those ambitions. And in taking a decidedly "us against them" tone, it is likely to further cement the view from abroad that the United States has taken on the role of a "Lone Space Cowboy.".

http://www.defensetech.org/

BUSH DECLARES HIS REGIME IMMUNE FROM ECO-WHISTLEBLOWING

PROGRESS REPORT - Recently, a senior EPA scientist accused the agency of "relying on misleading data about the health hazards of World Trade Center dust." The Bush administration is now reversing nearly two decades of precedent by declaring "itself immune from whistleblower protections for federal workers under the Clean Water Act." The Secretary of Labor's Review Board "has ruled federal employees may no longer pursue whistleblower claims under the Clean Water Act. The opinion invoked the ancient doctrine of sovereign immunity which is based on the old English legal maxim that 'the king can do no wrong.'" The Environmental Protection Agency has taken the more extreme position that absolutely no environmental laws protect its employees from reprisal. Approximately 170,000 employees working within federal environmental agencies will be affected by the loss of whistleblower rights.

MICHAEL BROWN SAYS WHITE HOUSE WANTED HIM TO LIE ABOUT KATRINA

UPI - The ousted head of the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency says the White House wanted him to lie about the response to Hurricane Katrina. Former Director Michael Brown told ABC News' "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" Sunday he stood by comments in a Playboy interview, and President Bush wanted him to take the heat for the bungling. "The lie was that we were ready and that everything was working as a team. Behind the scenes, it wasn't working at all," Brown said. "There were political considerations going into all the discussions. There was the fact that New Orleans did not evacuate and the mayor (Ray Nagin) had no plan." Brown said it was natural to "want to put the spin on that things are working the way they're supposed to do. And behind the scenes, they're not. Again, my biggest mistake was just not leveling with the American public and saying, 'Folks, this isn't working.'"

http://insider.washingtontimes.com/articles/view_upi.php?StoryID=20060827-021802-1523r

BUSH REGIME PLANNING TO UNDERMINE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION LAWS

RICHARD WILLING, USA TODAY - The federal government will pay a Texas law school $1 million to do research aimed at rolling back the amount of sensitive data available to the press and public through freedom-of-information requests. Beginning this month, St. Mary's University School of Law in San Antonio will analyze recent state laws that place previously available information, such as site plans of power plants, beyond the reach of public inquiries. Jeffrey Addicott, a professor at the law school, said he will use that research to produce a national "model statute" that state legislatures and Congress could adopt to ensure that potentially dangerous information "stays out of the hands of the bad guys.". . . Critics say the research plan overstates the need for secrecy and is likely to give state and federal governments too much discretion to withhold material. "Restricting information (for) security and efficiency and comfort level, that's the good story," says Paul McMasters, a specialist in public information law at the First Amendment Center in Arlington, Va. "The bad story is that it can also be a great instrument of control. ... To automatically believe that the less known the better is really not rational."

http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2006-07-05-foia-research_x.htm

70% OF BUSH TAX CUT BENEFITS WENT TO TOP TWO PERCENT

CNN - President Bush's tax cuts for investment income have significantly lowered the tax burden on the richest Americans, reducing taxes on incomes of more than $10 million by an average of about $500,000, according to a report Wednesday. An analysis of Internal Revenue Service data by The New York Times found that the benefit of the lower taxes on investments was more concentrated on the very wealthiest Americans than the benefits of President Bush's two previous tax cuts. . . According to the study, taxpayers with incomes greater than $10 million reduced their investment tax bill by an average of about $500,000 in 2003, and their total tax savings, which included the two Bush tax cuts on compensation, nearly doubled, to slightly more than $1 million. These taxpayers, whose average income was $26 million, paid about the same share of their income in income taxes as those making $200,000 to $500,000 because of the lowered rates on investment income.

http://money.cnn.com/2006/04/05/news/tax_cuts/index.htm?section=cnn_topstories

BUSH WANTS TO SHIFT MEDICAID COSTS TO STATES

NEWS STANDARD - An independent economic analysis released yesterday found that under the president's proposed budget, states would have to pick up billions in Medicaid expenses, most likely forcing some to reduce services. The federal spending cuts would come on top of funding those already approved by Congress this month and after several states unexpectedly began picking up the tab for the program's recently enacted prescription-drug benefit.

The White House budget released earlier this month would hack more than $35 billion in federal Medicaid expenditures over the next ten years, about $30 billion of which would be transferred to the states, the progressive think tank Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reported yesterday. The analysis found that most of the cuts are regulatory and need no congressional approval. . .

The regulatory cuts include ending payments for the transportation and administrative expenses that school districts incur in educating youths with disabilities, leaving local and state governments to cover the costs, the study said. In addition, the Medicaid program would no longer pay matching funds for developmental treatment and therapy for people with disabilities and mental illness.

http://newstandardnews.net/content/index.cfm/items/2820

BUSH WANTS TO SELL OFF TENS OF THOUSANDS OF ACRES OF NATION FOREST LAND

HAL BERNTON SEATTLE TIMES -The Bush administration on Friday proposed the largest Forest Service land sale in decades, listing 309,421 acres in more than 30 states - including nearly 7,500 acres in Washington state. The plan, which requires congressional approval, would funnel the money from sales to rural counties, in part to replace proposed cutbacks of federal dollars that now help pay for schools and roads. Most of the Forest Service tracts are small, isolated parcels adjacent to private or state land. Successful bidders could develop, or possibly log, these lands so long as they complied with state and local land-use laws

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/politics/ 2002798263_landsales11m.html

BUSH REGIME PLANS BIZARRE ANIMAL ID PROGRAM

NO NAIS - The National Animal ID program was originally designed to give the big beef producers help in getting export markets which required disease controls. The idea is that every single livestock animal in the United States will be identified and tagged. All livestock animal movements will be tracked, logged and reported to the government. The benefit is to the big factory farms who probably do need this type of regulation. They get to do single IDs for large groups of animals. Small farmers, pet owners and homesteaders will have to tag and track every single animal.

There are no exceptions - even small farms that sell direct to local consumers will be required to pay the fees and file all the paper work on all their animals. Even horse, llama and other pet owners will be required to participate in NAIS. Homesteaders who raise their own meat and grandma with her one egg hen will also have to register their homes as 'farm premises' and obtain a Premise ID, tag all their animals and submit all the paperwork and fees. Absurd? Yes - There are no exceptions under the current NAIS plan. The USDA has slipped this plan in the back door without any legislation.

http://nonais.org/?page_id=6

2005 ...

SENATE KILLS MINIMUM WAGE BOOST

HELEN THOMAS, HEARST NEWS - U.S. senators -- who draw salaries of $162,100 a year and enjoy a raft of perks -- have rejected a minimum wage hike from $5.15 an hour to $6.25 for blue-collar workers. The proposed increase was sponsored by Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., and turned down in the Senate by a vote of 51 against the boost and 49 in favor. . . All the Democrats voted for the wage boost. All the negative votes were cast by Republicans.

Four Republicans voted for it. Three of the four are running for reelection and were probably worried about how voters would react if they knew that their well-heeled senators had turned down a pittance of an increase in the salaries of the lowest paid workers in the country. The minimum wage was last increased in 1997.

http://www.wesh.com/helenthomas/5183628/detail.html

WOMEN HIT HARDER BY BANKRUPTCY, NEW LAW WILL MAKE IT WORSE

SANDRA GUY, WOMENS E-NEWS - This year, more than 1 million women are expected to file for bankruptcy, outnumbering men by about 150,000 if trends hold. Critics say that means the new U.S. bankruptcy law, which makes it harder for filers to expunge debts, is particularly onerous for women. They expect the law to saddle women with higher debts for longer periods and erode their economic security and ability to recover from financial crises not of their own doing.

"Filing for bankruptcy is the financial equivalent of going to a medical emergency room," said Karen Gross, president of the New York-based Coalition for Consumer Bankruptcy Debtor Education. "The new law significantly increases the barriers of getting in, the costs once inside and the hurdles of leaving.". . .

One new provision of the law, for instance, requires bankruptcy attorneys to verify that they have investigated the debtor's information and believe it to be accurate. This added attorney time is expected to drive up filing costs, on average, by between $1,000 to $2,000. The actual filing fees with the court will also rise slightly along with the amount of time a lawyer will take to prepare a bankruptcy petition, said Howard Ehrenberg, a lawyer and Chapter 7 court-appointed bankruptcy trustee for the Central District of California.

In order to emerge from bankruptcy, filers must attend mandatory credit counseling and debtor education. While some of these courses are free, they can cost as much as $50 for a 90-minute session.

People may obtain a waiver of those fees if they are destitute but the new law makes it harder for filers to prove they are unable to pay.

In April, a nationwide survey by Visa USA and the Consumer Federation of America found that 42 percent of women who responded had less than $500 in emergency savings, and 55 percent of women age 25 to 34 did not maintain an emergency savings account of at least $500.

http://www.womensenews.org/article.cfm?aid=2504

BUSH LABOR DEPARTMENT MADE SWEETHEART DEAL WITH WAL-MART

STEVEN GREENHOUSE, NY TIMES - The Labor Department's inspector general strongly criticized department officials yesterday for "serious breakdowns" in procedures involving an agreement promising Wal-Mart Stores 15 days' notice before labor investigators would inspect its stores for child labor violations. The report by the inspector general faulted department officials for making "significant concessions" to Wal-Mart, the nation's largest retailer, without obtaining anything in return. The report also criticized department officials for letting Wal-Mart lawyers write substantial parts of the settlement and for leaving the department's own legal division out of the settlement process.

The report said that in granting Wal-Mart the 15-day notice, the Wage and Hour Division violated its own handbook. It added that agreeing to let Wal-Mart jointly develop news releases about the settlement with the department violated Labor Department policies

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/11/01/national/01labor.html

BUSH REGIME GIVES FLORIDA OKAY TO SLASH MEDICAID

ROBERT PEAR, NY TIMES - The Bush administration approved a sweeping Medicaid plan for Florida that limits spending for many of the 2.2 million beneficiaries and gives private health plans new freedom to limit benefits. The Florida program, likely to be a model for many other states, shifts from Medicaid's traditional "defined benefit" plan to a "defined contribution" plan, under which the state sets a ceiling on spending for each Medicaid recipient. Children under the age of 21 and pregnant women will be exempt from the spending limits. Florida's plan says "the state will set aside a specific amount of money for each person enrolled in Medicaid," based on the person's medical condition and historic use of health care. . .

Joan C. Alker, a senior researcher at the Health Policy Institute of Georgetown University, said, "Florida's proposal is one of the most far-reaching and radical proposals we've seen to restructure Medicaid. The federal government and the states now decide which benefits people get. Under the Florida plan, many of those decisions will be made by private health plans, out of public view.". . .

BUSH'S WAR AGAINST SMALL FARMS

DAILY KOS - Poultry fanciers and keepers of small flocks are facing a grave threat from a proposed government intrusion into their innocent choice of pastimes and way of life. For several years, the USDA has been working with the largest-scale animal industry organizations (for example, the National Pork Producers, Monsanto Company, and Cargill Meat) to develop a mandatory "National Animal Identification System".

However, most small scale livestock producers, people who raise animals for their own food, and people who keep horses or livestock as companion animals do not know about the USDA's plans.

The NAIS will drive small producers out of the market, will make people abandon raising animals for their own food, will invade Americans' personal privacy to a degree never before tolerated, will violate the religious freedom of Americans whose beliefs make it impossible for them to comply, and will erase the last vestiges of animal welfare from the production of animal foods. . .

Every person who owns even one horse, cow, pig, chicken, sheep, pigeon, or virtually any livestock animal, will be forced to register their home, including owner's name, address, and telephone number, and keyed to Global Positioning System coordinates for satellite monitoring, in a giant federal database under a 7-digit "premises ID number." . . .

Every animal will have to be assigned a 15-digit ID number, also to be kept in a giant federal database. The form of ID will most likely be a tag or microchip containing a Radio Frequency Identification Device, designed to be read from a distance. . .

The plan may also include collecting the DNA of every animal and/or a retinal scan of every animal. . .

The owner will be required to report: the birthdate of an animal, the application of every animal's ID tag, every time an animal leaves or enters the property, every time an animal loses a tag, every time a tag is replaced, the slaughter or death of an animal, or if any animal is missing. Such events must be reported within 24 hours. . .

Third parties, such as veterinarians, will be required to report "sightings" of animals. In other words, if you call a vet to your property to treat your horse, cow, or any other animal, and the vet finds any animal without the mandatory 15-digit computer-readable ID, the vet may be required to report you. . .

If you do not comply, the USDA will exercise "enforcement" against you. The USDA has not yet specified the nature of "enforcement," but presumably it will include imposing fines and/or seizing your animals. There are no exceptions -- under the USDA plan, you will be forced to register and report even if you raise animals only for your own food or keep horses for draft or for transportation. . .

Eradication of Small Farms - People with just a few meat animals or 40-cow dairies are already living on the edge financially. The USDA plan will force many of them to give up farming.

The NAIS is touted by the USDA and agricorporations as a way to make our food supply "secure" against diseases or terrorism. However, most people instinctively understand that real food security comes from raising food yourself or buying from a local farmer you actually know. The USDA plan will only kill off more local sources of production and further promote the giant industrial methods which cause many food safety and disease problems.

Extreme Damage to Personal Privacy - Legally, livestock animals are a form of personal property. It is unprecedented for the United States government to conduct large-scale computer-aided surveillance of its citizens simply because they own a common type of property. (The only exceptions are registration of motor vehicles and guns, due to their clear inherent dangers - but they are registered at the state level, not by the federal government.) The NAIS would actually subject the owner of a chicken to far more surveillance than the owner of a gun. Surveillance of small-scale livestock owners is like the government subjecting people to surveillance for owning a couch, a TV, a lawnmower.

Will the government next want to register all cats, dogs, and parakeets, and demand the global positioning coordinates of their owners' houses and apartments?

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2005/10/17/01223/213

THE BUSH MEDICARE DRUG SCANDAL: SENIORS AND STATES DUE TO BE RIPPED OFF

ROBERT PEAR, NY TIMES - The Bush administration notified states on Monday that they would have to pay billions of dollars to the federal government next year to help finance the new prescription drug benefit for people on Medicare. Administration officials said the 2003 Medicare law required them to charge the states, in exchange for taking over the states' Medicaid drug costs. But state officials immediately took issue with the calculations, saying federal officials had overstated the amounts owed by some states.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the required state contributions, also known as clawback payments, will total $6 billion in the current fiscal year and $124 billion from 2006 to 2015. Some states, including Texas, are openly resisting the requirement for such payments. But federal officials said that if states did not comply, the money could be deducted from federal payments to the states for other programs like Medicaid.

One purpose of the 2003 Medicare law was to relieve states of prescription drug costs for low-income Medicare recipients. But as states do the arithmetic, many have concluded that they will lose money because they must give back most of the savings.

USA TODAY - Most seniors don't understand the new prescription-drug program being offered under Medicare and don't plan to sign up for coverage, even after months of salesmanship by the Bush administration. A USA TODAY - CNN - Gallup Poll shows 37% say they understand the program at least somewhat well, but 61% don't. Those figures haven't changed much from polls in July and August.

About one in four seniors, 24%, say they plan to join the program, compared with 54% who say they don't. Twenty-two percent have no opinion. . .

"The (poll) numbers suggest an abysmal program," says Robert Hayes of the Medicare Rights Center, an advocacy group. "This benefit was designed to make it impossible for consumers to understand it.". . .

Advocates for seniors say the array of choices can make things more difficult. Ten plans will be sold nationally. In some states, seniors will have more than 20 companies offering competing versions. Plans vary. Monthly premiums range from $1.87 to nearly $100. Deductibles range from zero to $250. Co-payments differ from one plan to another, as do benefit packages.

http://prorev.com/2005/10/bush-medicare-drug-scandal-seniors-and.htm

GONZALEZ WANTS TO CONTROL COURTS, TOO

JERRY SEPER, WASHINGTON TIMES - Federal judges should be required to adhere to sentencing guidelines that set mandatory minimums for prison sentences, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales said yesterday, citing a "a drift toward lesser sentences" since a landmark Supreme Court ruling challenged the guidelines. Mr. Gonzales, in urging Congress to approve legislation mandating new rules governing federal sentencing, said too many convicted criminals were getting sentences lighter than outlined in the nearly 20-year-old guidelines because of the high court ruling. . . The Supreme Court voided mandatory guidelines in January, making them voluntary in a ruling that said they violated a defendant's Sixth Amendment rights to a jury trial. The court's ruling affirmed that juries, not judges, must determine any facts used to set the length of prison sentences. In a complex set of three opinions, the high court criticized the federal guidelines and made them advisory, potentially opening the way for an avalanche of appeals of federal sentences.

TOBACCO DEAL

MICHAEL JANOFSKY AND DAVID JOHNSTON, NY TIMES - A Justice Department decision to seek $10 billion for a stop-smoking program in its suit against the country's leading tobacco companies, instead of the $130 billion suggested by one of its expert witnesses, set off a firestorm. Several Democratic lawmakers with a longtime interest in smoking and health issues attacked the department for what they said was a politically motivated decision, as did public health groups. Judge Gladys Kessler of Federal District Court, who is presiding in the trial here against the companies, took note of the sudden change, telling the court on Wednesday, "Perhaps it suggests that additional influences have been brought to bear on what the government's case is."

The move infuriated lawmakers who have long been critics of the tobacco industry. "It reeks of an administration whose heart isn't really in this case," said Senator Frank R. Lautenberg of New Jersey, at a news conference with other Democrats who suggested that Justice Department officials with ties to the tobacco industry might have grown uncomfortable with a large financial demand as part of the government's case against the companies. The payments are intended to finance a stop-smoking program that a government witness said would cost $130 billion over 25 years. In court on Tuesday, a government lawyer, Stephen D. Brody, said the government would ask for a program costing only $10 billion to be paid out over five years

PROGRESS REPORT - According to multiple news sources, the abrupt shift was the result of intense pressure from Deputy Attorney General Robert D. McCallum, who until 2001 was a "partner in an Atlanta law firm that represented one of the defendants in the case, R. J. Reynolds." McCallum ordered the cut "despite objections from career lawyers who have worked on the trial, in some cases years." Rep. Henry A. Waxman, along with six other members of Congress, have requested that the Department of Justice Inspector General investigate "whether the Justice Department's reversal was the result of improper political influence" and "the role played by Mr. McCallum and other political appointees."

The Washington Post reports, "Government lawyers asked two of their own witnesses to soften recommendations about sanctions that should be imposed on the tobacco industry." Matt Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said he received a phone call on May 9 from the lead trial attorney saying he "wanted him to scale back the recommendations he had made in written testimony." Myers refused. Another witness, scientific expert Michael Eriksen, apparently complied with a request to weaken his testimony. Both witnesses "were considered crucial in helping the government establish financial penalties and other sanctions to be imposed on cigarette manufacturers to help prevent young people from becoming smokers."

On the campaign trail in 2000, Bush said, "I think we've had enough suits. I don't think you can sue your way to policy. ... The lawyers I talk to don't feel [the DOJ has] a case." Upon assuming office in 2000, Attorney General John Ashcroft "allocated $1.8 million to keep the lawsuit going, instead of the $57 million the department's lawyers said they would need to mount a vigorous case." The move "undermined the government's negotiating strength... paving the way for a potentially weak settlement."

BUSH'S HIDDEN PLAN TO KILL GOVERNMENT AGENCIES HE DOESN'T LIKE

OSHA GRAY DAVIDSON, ROLLING STONE - The spending plan that President Bush submitted to Congress this year contains 2,000 pages that outline funding to safeguard the environment, protect workers from injury and death, crack down on securities fraud and ensure the safety of prescription drugs. But almost unnoticed in the budget, tucked away in a single paragraph, is a provision that could make every one of those protections a thing of the past. The proposal, spelled out in three short sentences, would give the president the power to appoint an eight-member panel called the "Sunset Commission," which would systematically review federal programs every ten years and decide whether they should be eliminated. Any programs that are not "producing results," in the eyes of the commission, would "automatically terminate unless the Congress took action to continue them.". . .

In practice, the commission would enable the Bush administration to achieve what Ronald Reagan only dreamed of: the end of government regulation as we know it. With a simple vote of five commissioners -- many of them likely to be lobbyists and executives from major corporations currently subject to federal oversight -- the president could terminate any program or agency he dislikes. No more Environmental Protection Agency. No more Food and Drug Administration. No more Securities and Exchange Commission.

BUSH PREFERS CARING FOR UNBORN FETUSES OVER LIVING POOR
http://www.americanprogressaction.org/site/pp.asp?c=klLWJcP7H&b=124597

PROGRESS REPORT - President Bush is proposing slashing health care funding for the poorest Americans, leaving cash-strapped states to pick up the pieces. The administration's budget proposes reducing the federal share of funding for Medicaid - the joint federal/state program that provides health insurance for more than 50 million low-income Americans - by $60 billion over ten years. At the winter meeting of the National Governors Association, the Bush administration tried to convince state leaders to accept the cuts in exchange for "flexibility." Democratic and Republican governors aren't buying it. Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D-KS) said, "If flexibility comes with $60 billion worth of cuts, that will give us the flexibility to cut off people from health care that they desperately need." Sebelius echoes the sentiments of Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR), who said previously, "people need to remember that to balance the federal budget on the backs of the poorest people in the country is simply unacceptable. You don't pull feeding tubes from people. You don't pull the wheelchair out from under the child with muscular dystrophy."

President Bush has no problem spending $2.1 trillion over 10 years to extend his tax cuts for the wealthy, but calls $60 billion in federal Medicaid spending unaffordable. The administration suggests states could make up for the funding shortfall by requiring "low-income people to make a co-payment before receiving Medicaid benefits." Secretary of Health and Human Services Mike Leavitt tried this as governor of Utah and ended up reducing hospital admissions, clinic visits and access to prescription drugs for the state's poorest residents. In other words, the plan would "price the neediest people out of basic medical treatment and drive up the number of uninsured people."

Nevertheless, Leavitt claimed that "he has support among the nation's governors" for the proposal. That's not true. Interviews conducted by the New York Times "with numerous governors suggest that the consensus described by Mr. Leavitt does not exist."

U.S. ALREADY MOVING TO FLAT TAX
http://www.csmonitor.com/2005/0414/p03s01-usgn.html

DAVID R. FRANCIS, CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR - Billionaires are paying not much more taxes, proportionately, than those Americans who are merely prosperous. It's a sign that, even without the formal adoption of a so-called "flat tax," America's tax system is getting flatter. . . Chalk up President Bush as not just a tax cutter but also a tax flattener. Under Mr. Bush and a Republican Congress, big tax cuts since 2001 have given major tax reductions to those wealthy individuals presumed, up to now, to be able to afford paying a bigger chunk of their income in taxes. By one measure of the federal, state, and local tax burden, just 3.4 percentage points separate the effective tax rate paid by the top 1 percent of earners from the other 99 percent of American households.

PUBLIC RELATIONS GETS BIGGER BOOST FROM BUSH THAN PROGRAMS
http://www.prwatch.org/spin

PR WATCH - Along with doubling spending on external PR contracts, the Bush administration has increased PR positions inside government agencies, called public affairs. Public affairs staffs grew by 9 percent since 2000, "even faster than the federal work force," for a cost increase of more than $50 million. The Pentagon "added the greatest number of PR officials." Other increases occurred at the State, Agriculture and Interior Departments and the Social Security Administration. The Forest Service's Communications Director said "a growing number of advisory panels required by Congress and a controversial program that opens some forests to logging" necessitated the PR boost.

BUSH PUTS FOX IN HOMELAND SECURITY CHICKEN COOP

DECLAN MCCULLAGH, CNET NEWS - The Department of Homeland Security has named Claria, an adware maker that online publishers once dubbed a "parasite," to a federal privacy advisory board. An executive from Claria, formerly called Gator, will be one of 20 members of the committee, the department said. . . Claria bundles its pop-up advertising software with ad-supported networks such as Kazaa. Recently, the privately held company has been trying to seek credibility by following stricter privacy guidelines and offering behavioral profiling services to its partners. . . In the past, Claria's pop-up ad software has riled some users who claimed it was annoying, installed without permission, and not easy to delete. Publishers also were irked about pop-up ads for a rival's product appearing next to their own Web sites. Catalog retailer L.L. Bean sued Gator for alleged trademark infringement.

BUSH SLASHES IRS SERVICES TO THE PUBLIC
http://www.nytimes.com/2005/04/10/politics/10irs.html

NY TIMES - After widely publicized hearings seven years ago, Congress passed a law ordering the Internal Revenue Service to enhance services to taxpayers, improvements that were financed by cutting enforcement of the tax laws to make sure telephones were answered and forms were readily available. That era is now ending.

The I.R.S. will close up to 105 of its 367 walk-in centers, which dispense forms and advice, said Mark W. Everson, the agency's commissioner. Hours when the I.R.S. answers telephone calls will also be reduced, he said. After the current tax return filing season ends on Friday, people with simple tax returns will no longer be able to file using a touch-tone telephone. Last year 3.8 million taxpayers, most of them with low incomes, used this Tele-File system.

SPECIAL COUNSEL DISMISSES MORE THAN 1,OOO WHISTLEBLOWER CASES, TAKES FEW TO COURT
http://www.commondreams.org/news2005/0223-02.htm

[From Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility]

The U.S. Special Counsel has dismissed more than 1,000 whistleblower cases in the past year, according to a letter from the Bush-appointed Special Counsel. The Special Counsel appears to have taken action in very few, if any, of these cases and has yet to represent a single whistleblower in an employment case.

In a letter dated February 14, 2005 and addressed to U.S. Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA), Special Counsel Scott Bloch defends his stormy 13 months in office by pointing to a sharp drop in backlogged whistleblower cases. "Everyone agrees that backlogs and delays are bad but they are not as bad as simply dumping the cases altogether," stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that this letter is the first account that Bloch has released of his tenure and that his office's report for FY 2004, which ended in October, is overdue. "If the Office of Special Counsel under Scott Bloch is not helping whistleblowers then there is no reason for the office to continue to exist. . .

"According to Scott Bloch there is no waste, fraud or abuse in the federal government that deserves investigation," stated Ruch, noting that there may be even more dismissals than Bloch reported because the numbers cited above are limited to what was defined as a backlog and do not include new cases.

PEER LETTER
http://www.peer.org/docs/osc/2005_23_2_blochltr.pdf

BUSH BUDGET HITS STATE ECONOMIES HARD
http://www.americanprogressaction.org/site/pp.asp?c=klLWJcP7H&b=124597

PROGRESS REPORT - Recent studies by budget and policy groups shed new light on how President Bush's new budget could devastate state economies. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, one-third of President Bush's proposed $5.9 billion cut in overall domestic discretionary funding in 2006 would come from cuts to programs that provide funding to states and localities. But many states "are ill-prepared to absorb such cuts." For example, 26 states already facing 2006 budget deficits would be forced to absorb $32 billion worth of additional budget shortfalls.

NORTH CAROLINA: North Carolina is already facing a projected $1.2 billion shortfall in revenue and struggling to finance hurricane relief. President Bush has responded by slashing federal money for railroads, police programs and Medicaid, as well as endorsing massive cuts in funds for community development grants used to "rehabilitate older homes, pay for after-school programs and provide housing for people in unsafe homes." He also wants to eliminate a key public housing program, HOPE VI, which enabled the state to rebuild public housing complexes in Raleigh and Durham. According to the Charlotte Observer, the cuts will force local governments to "cut services or raise taxes."

GEORGIA: Georgia would lose $297.6 million in discretionary grants, with education funding hit especially hard. State programs connected to No Child Left Behind would be underfunded by $366.8 million and Georgia would be one of eleven states to lose 75 percent or more of its federal adult education funding. Included in that cut would be the Even Start family literacy program - Bush said it was "abundantly clear" the program wasn't working, but education officials in Georgia say that's "simply not true.

TENNESSEE: The state is slated to lose $303.9 million in discretionary grants, including $37.3 million for community and economic development and $3.2 million for low-income home energy assistance (LIHEAP). Health care and public housing were hit hard in the Volunteer State. According to FamiliesUSA, the budget would cost Tennessee $1.2 billion over 10 years in Medicaid funding, affecting "thousands of Tennessee children and senior citizens." In Memphis, local officials are concerned that "huge cuts" to HOPE VI and other federal housing programs will "severely curtail" plans to rehabilitate several older and decrepit neighborhoods

PR WATCH - Scientists employed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service say they have been told to change their research findings concerning the protection of plants and animals. A survey of USFWS biologists, ecologists, botanists and other science professionals sponsored by the Union of Concerned Scientists and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility finds:

"Nearly half of all respondents whose work is related to endangered species scientific findings (44 percent) reported that they 'have been directed, for non-scientific reasons, to refrain from making jeopardy or other findings that are protective of species.'

"One in five agency scientists revealed they have been instructed to compromise their scientific integrity - reporting that they have been 'directed to inappropriately exclude or alter technical information from a USFWS scientific document,' such as a biological opinion.

"More than half of all respondents (56 percent) knew of cases where 'commercial interests have inappropriately induced the reversal or withdrawal of scientific conclusions or decisions through political intervention.'"

http://www.prwatch.org/

NY TIMES - Handing President Bush a significant victory, the Senate overwhelmingly approved a measure that would sharply limit the ability of people to file class-action lawsuits against companies. . . The measure would prohibit state courts from hearing many kinds of cases they now consider, transferring them to federal courts. Experts say many cases will wind up not being brought because federal judges have been constrained by a series of legal precedents from considering large class actions that involve varying laws of different states. . .

The measure has been attacked by civil rights organizations, labor groups, consumer organizations, many state prosecutors and environmental groups, who say it would sharply curtail important cases and provide new protections for unscrupulous companies. Many federal and state judges and state lawmakers have also criticized the bill, saying it would strip states of an important role in judging such contests and could add a considerable number of cases to already burdened federal dockets.

"This bill is one of the most unfair, anti-consumer proposals to come before the Senate in years," said Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the minority leader. "It slams the courthouse doors on a wide range of injured plaintiffs. It turns federalism upside down by preventing state courts from hearing state law claims. And it limits corporate accountability at a time of rampant corporate scandals

[This anti-class action lawsuit is also another assault on the 10th amendment trampling on the rights of states to decide for themselves how to handles such cases]

KATHLEEN CULLINAN CAPITAL NEWS SERVICE - The Pentagon unveiled new personnel rules that would replace the current pay scale with a performance-based pay system and would reduce bargaining rights for civilian employees. Labor unions quickly threatened to sue over the sweeping new rules, which the leader of the American Federation of Government Employees decried as "a joke."

The new system, which could eventually affect almost 700,000 civilian Defense Department workers, was announced just days after the Department of Homeland Security proposed a similar reform of civil service rules for about 110,000 of its workers.

http://wtop.com/?sid=417214&nid=116

PROGRESS REPORT - At a time when overseas outsourcing has left many American workers - especially in the manufacturing sector - out of work, President Bush will propose cutting federal spending on job training by a half-billion dollars. Federal job training programs, including dislocated-worker training, will be cut by $200 million. Federal aid to states for job training, including funding to train veterans, will be cut by $300 million.

The administration's budget is expected to reduce federal grants to local police forces from $600 million to $60 million. Grants to local firefighters would be cut by $215 million dollars.

The Bush budget "would more than double the co-payment charged to many veterans for prescription drugs and would require some to pay a new fee of $250 a year for the privilege of using government healthcare." Richard B. Fuller, legislative director of the Paralyzed Veterans of America, calls the $250 fee "a health care tax, designed to raise revenue and to discourage people from enrolling."

Prices for home heating oil are skyrocketing. Nevertheless, Bush's budget proposes cutting the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance program, which helps people pay their heating bills, by 8.4 percent. At last year's funding levels, only one-sixth of low-income families who qualified for the program were able to receive assistance. Last year's funding for LIHEAP was 23 percent lower than in 2001.

President Bush is relying on some highly manipulative math tricks to meet his far-reaching goal of cutting the deficit in half by 2009. To begin with, though he has vowed to cut the 2004 deficit in half, he is not starting with the actual 2004 deficit but rather "the projected $521-billion deficit" from the OMB's year-old estimate. By using the estimated figure, President Bush conveniently is dealing with a deficit that is $54.5 billion less. Another example is that the proposed deficit halving is "not in dollars but as a share of the economy," which makes the incredible shrinking deficit decline when the economy grows, as it is expected to, "even if it does not shrink by a single dollar."

On top of all this, the budget does not include the $80 billion supplement for Iraq and Afghanistan nor the $754 billion costs of the proposed Social Security private investment accounts. As Isabel Sawhill of the Brookings Institution puts things, "It doesn't quite compute." Conveniently, more and more conservatives are now turning their backs on fiscal discipline; Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform and unofficial White House advisor, now claims, "The deficit is merely the uninteresting difference between two very interesting numbers."

http://www.americanprogressaction.org/site/pp.asp?c=klLWJcP7H&b=124597

BUSH REGIME DISMANTLING CIVIL SERVICE
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A39934-2005Jan26.html

CHRISTOPHER LEE, WASHINGTON POST - The Bush administration unveiled a new personnel system for the Department of Homeland Security yesterday that will dramatically change the way workers are paid, promoted, deployed and disciplined -- and soon the White House will ask Congress to grant all federal agencies similar authority to rewrite civil service rules governing their employees. The new system will replace the half-century-old General Schedule, with its familiar 15 pay grades and raises based on time in a job, and install a system that more directly bases pay on occupation and annual performance evaluations, officials said. The new system has taken two years to develop and will require at least four more to implement, they said. . .

The White House will propose legislation within a month to allow all agencies to restructure their personnel systems in a similar way, said Clay Johnson III, deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget. . .

Leaders of federal employee unions, however, immediately denounced the new DHS system and any plans to expand it government-wide. They said the system would undermine the morale of homeland security employees and make it harder to attract and keep talented workers. They said they would file a lawsuit to block its new restrictions on collective bargaining and employee appeals. They conceded that such a move would do nothing to curtail the new pay system, however, which by 2009 will cover at least 110,000 of the department's 180,000 employees.

BUSH REGIME TO GUT COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMS
http://www.americanprogressaction.org/site/pp.asp?c=klLWJcP7H&b=124597

AMERICAN PROGRESS REPORT - One of the many controversial proposals in Bush's upcoming 2006 budget will "drastically shrink the Department of Housing and Urban Development's $8 billion community branch." While some of the programs are being slashed outright - economic development projects and rural housing programs - other anti-poverty efforts are bound to be lost in the shuffle when they are transferred over to the Labor and Commerce Departments, where they will be forced to compete for monies in a new arena with a budget that won't make room for them. Though administration officials claim the shift is meant to consolidate duplicates and eliminate the inefficient, Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) revealed the truth behind the simply "appalling" proposal: "I'm always willing to look at consolidations, but clearly they're using consolidation as a shield for substantial budget reductions." Ultimately, the proposal could lead to HUD losing "a quarter of its $31 billion budget."

BUSH THINKS ASBESTOS VICTIMS SHOULD DIE QUIETLY WITHOUT SUING COMPANIES
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A57480-2005Jan7.html

[Even for Bush, the false logic here is remarkable. Corporations - including a subsidiary of Haliburton - are properly in trouble for creating a product that kills people, and Bush thinks it's unfair that victim should seek rencompense in "junk" lawsuits.]

PETER BAKER, WASHINGTON POST - President Bush urged Congress to find a way to settle tens of billions of dollars in claims by victims of asbestos in hopes of stanching a flood of litigation that he blamed for driving scores of companies out of business. "This is a national problem . . . that requires a national solution," the president said at a forum he hosted here in this Detroit suburb. "These asbestos suits have bankrupted a lot of companies, and that affects the workers here in Michigan and around the country.". . .

The appeal was the president's third event in as many days promoting restrictions on what he calls "junk lawsuits," one of his top legislative priorities for the beginning of his second term. . .

BUSH REGIME FOISTED ILLEGAL, FAKE VIDEO ON TV STATIONS
http://www.nytimes.com/2005/01/07/national/07drug.html?oref=login

JOHN FILES, NY TIMES - The Government Accountability Office, an investigative arm of Congress, said on Thursday that the Bush administration violated federal law by producing and distributing television news segments about the effects of drug use among young people. The accountability office said the videos "constitute covert propaganda" because the government was not identified as the source of the materials, which were distributed by the Office of National Drug Control Policy. They were broadcast by nearly 300 television stations and reached 22 million households, the office said. The accountability office does not have law enforcement powers, but its decisions on federal spending are usually considered authoritative.

ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS TOOK PAYOLA FROM WHITE HOUSE
http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2005-01-06-williams-whitehouse_x.htm?POE=click-refer

GREG TOPPO, USA TODAY - Seeking to build support among black families for its education reform law, the Bush administration paid a prominent black pundit $240,000 to promote the law on his nationally syndicated television show and to urge other black journalists to do the same. The campaign, part of an effort to promote No Child Left Behind, required commentator Armstrong Williams "to regularly comment on NCLB during the course of his broadcasts," and to interview Education Secretary Rod Paige for TV and radio spots that aired during the show in 2004. Williams said Thursday he understands that critics could find the arrangement unethical, but "I wanted to do it because it's something I believe in."

PROGRESS REPORT - The budget President Bush submitted to Congress yesterday imposes $5.3 billion in new, regressive taxes. (They are conveniently listed in table 18-3 on page 305 of the Analytic Perspectives supplement to the budget.) The administration's budget contains new taxes that will increase the price of a six pack of beer, an airline ticket and prescription drugs for veterans.
http://www.americanprogressaction.org/site/pp.asp?c=klLWJcP7H&b=124597

The budget includes over a billion dollars in revenue from drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, even though Congress hasn't authorized such drilling and has rejected President Bush's proposal to open ANWR to oil exploration for the last four years. Budget Director Josh Bolten defended the move, claiming, "the budget is the right place to present the entirety of the president's policies, so all of his proposals are reflected in there." Really? The Bush budget excludes all funding for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and the administration's $2 trillion Social Security package.


The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities sums it up: "The number of poor went up for the third straight year in 2003, the share of total income that goes to the bottom two-fifths of households has fallen to one of its lowest levels since the end of World War II, and the number of people lacking health insurance rose to 45 million in 2003, the highest level on record." Yet the Bush administration is cutting programs that help people get back on their feet. For example, the administration's budget proposes "a five-year freeze on child care funding that...will result in cutting the number of low-income children receiving child care assistance by 300,000 in 2009." The Bush budget also cuts $45 billion from Medicaid, the program that provides basic health coverage to the poor.

Apparently, President Bush isn't concerned that abstinence-only programs are misleading the nation's children about sex. A study last year found that some of the most popular programs pushed lies, such as claiming that mutual masturbation can cause pregnancy and condoms fail to prevent the transmission of HIV 31 percent of the time. President Bush's budget increases funding for abstinence-only education by $39 million, to a total of $209 million.

President Bush proposes reducing federal funds states use to improve water quality by $369 million. The federal contribution to the program is now just $730 million, down from $1.98 billion four years ago.

2004

AND THE WINNER IS. . .

ERIC LICHTBLAU, NY TIMES - The big winner in the president's budget among law enforcement agencies - as it has been since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 - is the Federal Bureau of Investigation, with state and local police agencies again facing major cutbacks in federal assistance. The budget proposes an 11 percent increase in financing for the F.B.I., to $5.6 billion. The proposal continues the sharp rise in F.B.I. financing since 2001, when the bureau's budget was $3.3 billion.

. . . Some members of Congress have sharply criticized the way the F.B.I. has spent its money, particularly in the lagging, half-billion-dollar effort to shore up its computer capabilities.

. . . But as the administration has done for the last several years, the budget moved to curtail sharply spending for some local law enforcement programs.

WHAT THE BUSH ECONOMY HAS COST YOU

PROGRESS REPORT - With the federal government cutting funding for programs, states are stuck with the tab. Across the country, that means higher property taxes. And according to the Christian Science Monitor, "the levies are squeezing the middle class and senior citizens - leaving them less to spend on everything from restaurants to roof repair." Lehigh County in eastern Pennsylvania, for example, is considering a 70 percent hike in property taxes. In New York, "Mayor Michael Bloomberg is proposing a 25 percent hike, which he says is needed to bridge a projected $6.5 billion budget gap next year. In Westwood Hills, an upscale suburb of Kansas City, residents are facing a 19.2 percent property-tax hike. And in Philadelphia, hundreds of homeowners are appealing recent recent property tax increases as high as 100 percent."

According to a new study by the AARP, drug prices over the past year rose an average of 7.4 percent, "or more than three times the 2.3 percent rate of general inflation in that period." The reason? The AARP "didn't examine the reason for the price trends, but noted that the Medicare drug-discount cards came out in June." To get ready for the discount cards created by the White House's industry-backed Medicare bill, many companies decided to protect their profits by jacking up the price of their most popular medications.

It's getting more expensive to go to college and, thanks to the White House, harder to pay for it. The average tuition for a four-year public university "jumped 10.5 percent this year." In the omnibus spending bill President Bush signed last week, the formula used to calculate financial aid in the form of Pell grants has been adjusted to to "adjust" its formulas for calculating financial aid, a move which will "reduce grants for 1.2 million students and cut off aid completely to about 90,000."

The growth in wages fell dramatically over the past four years. In 2000, median weekly wages grew by 4.9 percent. This fell to a mere 2.0 percent in 2003. Adjusted for inflation that means "that wages fell slightly in real terms in 2003 for the first time since 1996." This trend continued in 2004. After taking account of inflation, earnings in October 2004 were below those in December 2003.

Twenty-five years ago, the federal government spent $27.3 billion on the federal job training program. Today, that's been cut by over 84 percent, to about $4.4 billion. Federal job training budgets have dropped $597 million since 2000 alone, making it that much harder for Americans trapped in poverty to find work and get off government assistance.

EPA'S DEAL WITH CHEMICAL COMPANIES TRIPLES RAT POISONING RATE IN KIDS - ORGANIC CONSUMERS - In 2001, the Bush led EPA struck a deal with chemical companies to remove two important rat poison regulations designed to protect the safety of children. Specifically, the safety measures had required rat poisons contain an ingredient that makes the candy-like pellets taste bitter to kids and a dye to make it more obvious to adults when a child has ingested the poison. As a result of no longer requiring those safety additives, the nation is now seeing a record number of children poisoned by the toxic pellets. This year more than 50,000 children were poisoned by rodenticides, which is three times as many as were affected prior to the removal of safety regulations. According to a recent article in the Los Angeles Times, the EPA met five times behind closed doors with representatives of the chemical industry, which ultimately resulted in the removal of the safety regulations.

BUSH REGIME GIVES OUT FALSE SEX INFORMATION: CECI CONNOLLY WASHINGTON POST - Many American youngsters participating in federally funded abstinence-only programs have been taught over the past three years that abortion can lead to sterility and suicide, that half the gay male teenagers in the United States have tested positive for the AIDS virus, and that touching a person's genitals "can result in pregnancy," a congressional staff analysis has found. Those and other assertions are examples of the "false, misleading, or distorted information" in the programs' teaching materials, said the analysis, released yesterday, which reviewed the curricula of more than a dozen projects aimed at preventing teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease.

In providing nearly $170 million next year to fund groups that teach abstinence only, the Bush administration, with backing from the Republican Congress, is investing heavily in a just-say-no strategy for teenagers and sex. But youngsters taking the courses frequently receive medically inaccurate or misleading information, often in direct contradiction to the findings of government scientists, said the report, by Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), a critic of the administration who has long argued for comprehensive sex education. . .

Among the misconceptions cited by Waxman's investigators:

- A 43-day-old fetus is a "thinking person."

- HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, can be spread via sweat and tears.

- Condoms fail to prevent HIV transmission as often as 31 percent of the time in heterosexual intercourse.

One curriculum, called "Me, My World, My Future," teaches that women who have an abortion "are more prone to suicide" and that as many as 10 percent of them become sterile. This contradicts the 2001 edition of a standard obstetrics textbook that says fertility is not affected by elective abortion, the Waxman report said.

BUSH REGIME TRASHES CONFLICT OF INTEREST RULES - WASHINGTON POST - The timing was perfect: On Nov. 23 -- exactly three weeks after the election and as a flurry of top Bush administration officials announced their departures -- the Office of Government Ethics declared that it was relaxing prohibitions on lobbying by former Cabinet secretaries and other top officials. Until now, senior officials at Cabinet departments and agencies had not been allowed to lobby former colleagues for a full year after leaving office -- a rule designed to prevent an obvious conflict of interest. But, in a notice in the Federal Register, the ethics office issued a new rule invoking its power to declare that "a former senior employee who served in a 'parent' department or agency is not barred . . . from making communications to or appearances before any employee of any designated component of that parent."

180,000 HOMELAND SECURITY WORKERS CAN'T REPORT WRONG DOING - Leaders of two government unions called on Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge to stop requiring all 180,000 department workers to sign nondisclosure agreements that prohibit them from sharing sensitive but unclassified information with the public.

GOP ENDS BARGAINING RIGHTS FOR TEMPS - Temporary workers will no longer be able to bargain for job benefits as part of a unit with permanent employees, the National Labor Relations Board has ruled, reversing a Clinton-era precedent. In a 3 to 2 vote that was issued Friday, the three members appointed by President Bush -- Robert J. Battista, the chairman; Peter C. Schaumber and Ronald E. Meisburg -- said there is a difference between temporary and permanent workers.

CUTTING BACK STUDENT LOANS - The federal government will be able to require millions of college students to shoulder more of the cost of their education under the new spending bill approved yesterday by the House and Senate. The government moved to change its formula for college aid last year, but was blocked by Congress. Now, however, no such language appears in the appropriations bill lawmakers are considering, clearing the way for the government to scale back college grants for hundreds of thousands of low-income students. Nearly 100,000 more students may lose their federal grants entirely, as Congress considers legislation that could place more of the financial burden for college on students and their families. -New York Times

FROM PETER DIZIKES, SALON

- SENATE COMPUTER THEFT: From 2001 to 2003, Republican staffers on the Senate Judiciary Committee illicitly accessed nearly 5,000 computer files containing confidential Democratic strategy memos about President Bush's judicial nominees.

- HALLIBURTON'S NO-BID BONANZA - In February 2003, Halliburton received a five-year, $7 billion no-bid contract for services in Iraq. The Army Corps of Engineers' top contracting officer, Bunnatine Greenhouse, objected to the deal, saying the contract should be the standard one-year length, and that a Halliburton official should not have been present during the discussions.

- HALLIBURTON: PUMPING UP PRICES - Halliburton overcharged the army for fuel in Iraq. Specifically, Halliburton's subsidiary Kellogg, Brown & Root hired a Kuwaiti company, Altanmia, to supply fuel at about twice the going rate, then added a markup, for an overcharge of at least $61 million, according to a December 2003 Pentagon audit.

- HALLIBURTON'S VANISHING IRAQ MONEY - In mid-2004, Pentagon auditors determined that $1.8 billion of Halliburton's charges to the government, about 40 percent of the total, had not been adequately documented.

- MISAPPROPRIATION OF AFGHAN FUNDS - According to Bob Woodward's "Plan of Attack," the Bush administration diverted $700 million in funds from the war in Afghanistan, among other places, to prepare for the Iraq invasion.

- BOEING SCANDAL - In 2003, the Air Force contracted with Boeing to lease a fleet of refueling tanker planes at an inflated price: $23 billion. The problem: The deal was put together by a government procurement official, Darleen Druyun, who promptly joined Boeing.

- PAYOLA TO MEDIA TYPES - The Department of Education paid conservative commentator Armstrong Williams $240,000 to promote its educational law, No Child Left Behind.

- INSIDER DEALING - In early 2001, chief White House political strategist Karl Rove held meetings with numerous companies while maintaining six-figure holdings of their stock -- including Intel, whose executives were seeking government approval of a merger.

- SCALIA'S LEGAL CONFLICTS - Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia refused to recuse himself from the Cheney energy task force case, despite taking a duck-hunting trip with the vice president after the court agreed to weigh the matter.

- FALSE STATEMENTS ABOUT WMDS - Bush and many officials in his administration made false statements about Iraq's military capabilities, in the months before the United States' March 2003 invasion of the country.

- NIGER FORGERIES - In his January 2003 State of the Union address, Bush said, "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa." The problem: The statement was untrue.

- TORTURE - American soldiers physically tortured prisoners in Iraq and kept undocumented "ghost detainees" in the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.. . . The U.S. military is also alleged to have abused prisoners at the U.S. Navy's base in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

FROM KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL, NATION

- MORE HALIBURTON CURRUPTION - Nine different reports compiled by the GAO, the Coalition Provisional Authority's IG and the Defense Contract Audit Agency faulted Halliburton's performance in Iraq.

- MORE ILLEGAL PROPAGANDA - In May [2004] the GAO concluded that the Health and Human Services Department conducted a secret propaganda campaign that illegally spent taxpayer money to produce and distribute videos touting the administration's Medicare prescription drug law. And this January, the GAO said that the Office of National Drug Control Policy ads warning of the dangers of drug abuse (aired just before last year's Super Bowl) were a form of "covert propaganda" because they promoted their policies without identifying their origin.

- SEX MISEDUCATION - A report that comes thanks to Rep. Henry Waxman revealed that most of the government-funded abstinence-only sex education programs were giving students false information. One curriculum rejects "the popular claim that condoms help prevent the spread of STDs [sexually transmitted diseases]" because it "is not supported by the data."

- MISESTIMATING THE COST OF THE WARS - In July the GAO criticized the administration for underestimating by $12.3 billion the cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

ENVIRONMENT WORSENED UNDER BUSH IN MANY AREAS

SETH BORENSTEIN, KNIGHT RIDDER - Over the past 30 years, the nation's air and water have become dramatically cleaner, but the steady improvement has stalled or gone into reverse in several areas since Bush took office, according to government statistics. On Bush's watch, America's environment deteriorated in many critical areas - including the quality of air in cities and the quality of water that people drink - and gained in very few.

Knight Ridder compiled 14 pollution-oriented indicators from government and university statistics. Nine of the 14 indicators showed a worsening trend, two showed improvements and three others zigzagged.

Statistics that have worsened:

Superfund cleanups of toxic waste fell by 52 percent.

Fish-consumption warnings for rivers doubled.

Fish-consumption advisories for lakes increased 39 percent.

The number of beach closings rose 26 percent.

Civil citations issued to polluters fell 57 percent.

Criminal pollution prosecutions dropped 17 percent.

Asthma attacks increased by 6 percent.

There were small increases in global temperatures and unhealthy air days.

There were signs of pollution improvement, though. Major air-emissions from smokestacks and tailpipes dropped 9 percent, and greenhouse-gas emissions were reduced by 0.5 percent.
Statistics that have fluctuated are the number of people living in smoggy cities; the number of people drinking from tainted water supplies; and overall toxic pollution releases by industry.
In land-use policy under Bush, another 12 indicators reveal record-low additions to national parks, wilderness, wildlife refuges and the endangered species list. The Bush administration also approved 74 percent more permits to drill for oil and gas on public lands in its first three years than were granted in the previous three years. Bush also has ordered dozens of sweeping changes to existing environmental policies, usually to benefit business interests. He reversed the government's course on global warming, power plant emissions, roadless areas of national forests, environmental law enforcement and agricultural run-off.

THE LIST
BUSH SCANDALS

[Compiled by Shaun in Upper Left]

1. Cheney's secret Energy Task Force

2. Ashcroft's illegal campaign contributions in 2000

3. Boeing I - the $23 billion tanker lease deal

4. Boeing II - the $1.3 billion surveillance aircraft boondoggle

5. Bush-Cheney 2000's failure to report $14 million spent on "recount" activities

6. Haliburton in Iraq

7. Haliburton in Nigeria

8. The Valerie Plame outing

9. Withholding information about the Medicare bill costs

10. Daniel Montgomery, Director of the ATSB, accepting illegal gifts from airlines.

11. John Korsmo, FHFB chair and his wife Michelle, a DOL official, illegal political fundraising

12. The suspension of Parks Police Chief Teresa Chambers in violation of Title 5 whistleblower protections.

13. The Iraqi National Congress' use of government funds to lobby for war.

14. Misuse of the Secret Service and other security to shield the President and Vice President from dissent on the campaign trail.

15. Abuse of the Presidential Records Act, to shield Reagan, Bush I and Bush II from scrutiny, and leaking information about Clinton pardons.

16. DOJ and Interior blocking the investigation of oil leases that cheated American Indian nations.

17. Charges by John Dean that Bush knowingly violated the terms of the Iraq war resolution

18. Diversion of $700 million in Afghan war funds to preparations for Iraq invasion

19. Failure to account for $40 billion in 9/11 emergency response funds

20. Use of IRS web site to disseminate political messages from RNC press releases

THE LIST
CONGRESSIONAL SCANDALS

[Compiled by Shaun in Upper Left]

1. Senate Judiciary Committee computer theft.

2. The Nick Smith bribe

3. Tom DeLay's illegal Texas legislative contributions.

4. Tom DeLay's bogus "Celebrations for Children" charity, used as a front for political receptions.

5. Tom DeLay's abuse of Treasury Department personnel for political purposes by ordering a partisan analysis of John Kerry's tax plan.

6. Bill Frist's financial stake in a medical malpractice insurer, while pushing malpractice "reform" in the Senate.

7. Rep. Henry Bonilla's American Dream PAC, which has contributed less than 9% of its funds to the minority candidates it was chartered to assist.

8. The NRCC's illegal transfer of $500,000 in soft money to ineligible recipients during the 1999 primary season.

TOP TEN BUSH LIES WE ALREADY KNOW ABOUT

[From the New Hampshire Gazette]

10. "I have been very candid about my past."

9. "I'm a uniter not a divider."

8. "My [tax] plan unlocks the door to the middle class of millions of hard-working Americans."

7. "This allows us to explore the promise and potential of stem cell research."

6. "We must uncover every detail and learn every lesson of September the 11th."

5. "[We are] taking every possible step to protect our country from danger."

4. "I first got to know Ken [Lay] in 1994."

3. "Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised." And, "[Saddam Hussein is] a threat because he is dealing with Al Qaeda."

2. "We found the weapons of mass destruction."

1. "It's time to restore honor and dignity to the White House."