Like a master pickpocket, George W. Bush distracts the American people with one hand while reaching into their pockets with the other. The distraction comes through the flash and bombast of explosive social issues like abortion, gay rights, public displays of religion, end-of-life decisions and creationism, on which Bush has delivered little beyond rhetoric. The pilfering comes through initiatives that take from working- and middle-class Americans and give to Bush's corporate backers, to whom he has delivered the goods big time.
This summer, with the public preoccupied over whether Bush's nominee to the Supreme Court would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, Congress passed an energy bill with $14.5 billion in tax breaks, most of which will flow to companies like Exxon, which last year made about $25 billion in after-tax profits, enough to float a small country.
A number of other examples are given of distraction and sneaking in bills that favor big business. Then the following points are made:
But what all of this really amounts to is a political revolution in the United States, creating a form of conservative big government that promotes not the general interests of ordinary Americans but the special interests of big corporations. This creates a sharply upward redistribution of wealth and power that threatens long-term prosperity. Job growth has been well below predictions during Bush's term, for instance, and many analysts predict hard times for the economy in years ahead.
This revolution also is making government costlier and less fair, stifling individual freedom and democratic decision-making, and opening fissures between the wealthy and other Americans.
Liberals traditionally use their version of big government to reform society from the bottom up, funding welfare benefits, regulating business, empowering labor and advancing opportunities for minorities. Today's conservatives begin from the top down, subsidizing business and expanding its global reach, shielding corporations while punishing individuals for bad behavior, enforcing moral codes, and backing powerful military and police forces.
Beyond the way the government redistributes wealth, Republican big government also has a social agenda that has vastly expanded the federal government's authority to intrude into our private lives. The recently renewed Patriot Act, for example, authorizes the feds to look over our shoulders when we browse libraries or surf the Internet. And it gives law enforcement officials broad authority to secretly search our property or bug our private conversations.
Although justified by the need to fight terrorism, these restrictions are part of a value system that aggressively pursues policies against the empowerment of individuals. The president and his allies have enacted legislation that makes it more difficult for individuals to band together in class actions that challenge wrongdoing by corporations. They are on the verge of passing a bill that shields even negligent gun makers from lawsuits. And they are pursuing sharp limitations on jury awards in tort cases, even though data gathered by such authorities as the National Center for States Courts, the U.S. Department of Justice and the Congressional Budget Office deflate the myth of an economically wasteful "litigation explosion."
It is really sad that the government is implementing policies that work against the empowerment of individuals and it is especially ironic since the Republicans say they believe in individual responsibility. Still, they want to take away from individuals that which makes it possible to be responsible.