Socialist Worker

The Bush gang's domestic assault

Helen Shooter writes on George Bush's other war

Issue No. 1846

GEORGE BUSH and the gang who run the White House are waging a second war - at home on the majority of ordinary Americans. The names of those behind that war are the same as those ordering the bombers to pound Iraq. They include US government figures like Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz, right wing thinkers like William Kristol, and wealthy, corporate-backed groups they are linked to like the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute (AEI).

They all pride themselves on their 'neo-conservative' ideology, one that amounts to an assault on every form of welfare provision, contempt for the poor, fanatical US nationalism, with rabidly right wing views on everything from single parents to race and abortion. The scale of the domestic assault this group plan is becoming clear, and shocking many in the US.

'The central nutritional problem facing the poor is not too little food,' proclaims the AEI, while advocating a slashing of the food stamps welfare programme that is a vital lifeline for many of the poorest Americans. Welfare is a social toxin,' declares the Heritage Foundation. The more of this toxin is received by a child's family, the less successful a child will be as an adult. If America's children are to be saved, the current welfare system must be replaced. Recipients should be required to work for benefits.'

Single parents are a particular target for the neo-conservatives. 'Mother-only families contribute to crime,' declares the AEI. And they see the poor as an 'enemy within'. The AEI talks of the 'underclass' which has 'a distinctive separate code. Call it thug code' - people who specialise in 'cheating, deceiving and exploiting' the welfare system.

This hatred of welfare and the poor translates into a vicious assault in George Bush's latest budget. It pours billions into the military, slashes tax for the rich, and clobbers the poor, the elderly and the sick.

In all Bush plans to slash $10 billion off welfare spending. 'Millions of individuals and families could have benefits and services upon which they rely reduced or even eliminated,' says the Centre on Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington. Already the number of Americans living below the poverty line increased last year for the first time in eight years.

Bush's budget will ensure more people are driven further into desperate poverty. Bush's plans include:

HEALTH: There are two main schemes for state-funded healthcare in the US - Medicaid and Medicare.

Medicare is the system of healthcare insurance that provides for hospital treatment, but not prescription drugs, for the elderly and disabled. Of the 40 million pensioners on Medicare about a third don't have insurance that covers their drug costs.

That means they end up skimping on the drugs they need or have to go without. Medicaid is the other health insurance system, which provides for around 40 million low income families. But some 39 million Americans have no health insurance at all. Bush's budget plans to axe billions from the Medicaid budget.

He also wants to 'reform' the health insurance system - that is, open it up to competition from private insurance companies. 'Medicaid and Medicare would be in for changes that would push millions of senior citizens into private sector managed health plans,' says the Washington Post.

SOCIAL SECURITY: Tens of millions of people in the US are already too poor to buy the food they need or have to rely on emergency food provision. Wages are so low for millions of people that over a third of those who ask for emergency food assistance are actually in work.

Yet Bush wants an £8.3 billion cut in the food stamp programme. He is also freezing the minimum wage rate and axing billions from child nutrition programmes including free school lunches. Figures released this week show US unemployment rising, as recession looms. Yet Bush's budget includes a £1.7 billion cut in funding for unemployment benefits.

VETERANS: US troops in Iraq are being praised by Bush. But his budget includes a £17 billion cut in veterans' healthcare and benefits. Veterans are also hit by other cuts in Bush's budget. A shocking 40 percent of homeless men in the US are veterans. Yet Bush is cutting millions from public housing grants.

Tony Blair and New Labour are standing shoulder to shoulder with these US neo-conservatives over war on Iraq. What is just as sickening is that a conveyor belt of New Labour figures and their advisers have also travelled to the US to study their ideas on welfare, crime, and much more.


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Features
Sat 12 Apr 2003, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1846
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