Earth to Bush

While the prez pats himself on the back, 5 million more Americans have slipped into poverty, hunger and homelessness

Bernie Sanders

Ground control to Mr. Bush: What planet are you living on? Today, tens of millions of Americans are experiencing a declining standard of living and yet you continue to insist that our economy is strong” and robust.” Rather than acknowledge the economic anxieties of American workers, you insist that they don’t know how good they have it.

Since you have been president, 5 million more Americans have slipped into poverty; hunger and homelessness have increased. Because you refused to raise the minimum wage for six years, millions of workers are continuing to work full time and live in desperation. Low-wage workers are often unable to find quality childcare and their kids enter school at a special disadvantage – many of them never to catch up. It is no coincidence, Mr. President, that we have both the highest rate of childhood poverty in the industrialized world as well as the highest rate of incarceration.

But it’s not only the poor who are suffering under your thriving” economy. The next generation will be the first to have a lower standard of living than their parents. From 2001 to 2005, all of the income growth in our country has accrued to the top 5 percent, while the bottom 90 percent of households experienced a 4.2 percent decline in their market-based incomes. Have your advisers told you, Mr. President, that 3 million Americans have lost their pensions during your presidency, aging people terrified about how they will cope in their golden years?”

Have your aides told you thatÊhome foreclosures are now the highest on record; and that the predatory lending practices that your administration encouraged have led to an extraordinary level of instability and volatility on the stock market? Do you know that the personal savings rate is lower than at any time since before the Great Depression and that wages and salaries are at the lowest share of gross domestic product since 1929? Have you been informed that a two-income family today has less disposable income than a one-income family had 30 years ago, and that the stressed-out American people are now forced to work the longest hours of any people in the industrialized world? Millions of workers in our country don’t have any vacation time at all. Does this really sound like a strong economy?

The sorry state of American healthcare is just another social injustice of the Bush era. Since you have been in office, nearly seven million Americans have lost their health insurance. Your home state of Texas has the highest rate of uninsured children in the country, and yet you are threatening to veto the State Children’s Health Insurance Program legislation that would provide health care for 3 million kids.

I suspect, Mr. President, when you look at the economy, you are solely interested in what’s happening with your wealthy friends. Since 2001, the richest 1 percent of Americans haven’t had it so good since the 1920s. According to the latest data, from 2001 to 2005, the top 1 percent of households gained $283 billion of total income – $183,902 per household. Yes, the economy is doing very well for them. On the other hand, the bottom 90 percent lost $272 billion or $2,071 per household.

Mr. President, in the coming months some of us in Congress will be fighting for economic and healthcare policies which are desperately needed by American working people. Based on your ideology and your long track record of top-down class warfare, I strongly suspect that you will oppose those initiatives. But whatever else you do or don’t do, please show some understanding of the economic realities facing the lives of ordinary Americans. Stop telling them how good the economy is – it insults their intelligence.

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Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2006 after serving 16 years in the House of Representatives. He is the longest serving independent member of Congress in American history. Elected Mayor of Burlington, Vt., by 10 votes in 1981, he served four terms. Before his 1990 election as Vermont’s at-large member in Congress, Sanders lectured at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and at Hamilton College in upstate New York. Read more at his website.
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