by Bill Gallagher
Reprinted from the Niagara Falls Reporter with permission.
"I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky." -- President Bill Clinton.
"I came to this office to solve problems not to pass them off to future presidents and future generations." -- President George W. Bush.
DETROIT -- Pick your favorite presidential lie and measure its impact, especially on our children.
Bill Clinton's big lie was stupid, self-absorbed and degrading. It got him impeached and put the nation through a long, painful ordeal as the president squandered his leadership to protect his own hide.
Clinton's recklessness distracted us from more important matters, but as despicable as his private behavior and public lies were, they will have little, if any, consequence for future generations other than for historical curiosity.
George W. Bush's lie is ongoing and his reckless government spending and borrowing will do serious long-term harm to the U.S. economy and burden our children and grandchildren with unconscionable debt.
One of the great myths of our times is that Bush and company are fiscal conservatives striving to reduce the size of government and keep it out of our lives. The reality is that the Bush policies of radically increasing spending, creating an entirely new class of entitlements and cutting taxes at the same time are a formula for fiscal disaster.
Since Bush took office, federal spending has increased a staggering 23.7 percent. Forget entitlements for a moment. Discretionary spending under Bush has grown 6.5 percent annually. During Clinton's term that spending grew only 2 percent each year.
Federal spending as a percentage of gross domestic product, which declined during the Clinton years, has skyrocketed to 20 percent during Bush's watch, and his wild spending ways are far from over.
Oh, you think, and the White House wants you to, it must be defense spending and funds for homeland security. Press Secretary Scott McClellan actually said with a straight face, "The president has provided strong leadership to make sure we are doing what it takes to win the war on terror, our nation's highest priority, while holding the line on spending everywhere else."
That is pure crap.
Real conservatives and the fiscally responsible of all political stripes find the Bush administration's spend-and-borrow act appalling. Brian Riedl of the conservative Heritage Foundation says of the big-spending Bush, "The president isn't showing leadership."
Riedl tells the Washington Post he calculates that "55 percent of all new spending in the past two years, $164 billion of $296 billion, is from areas unrelated to defense and homeland security."
The Pharmaceutical and Insurance Industries Enhancement Act (I refuse to call it Medicare reform) is the most egregious example of wild, irresponsible spending in decades. Bush and the Republican leaders in Congress, with the help of some Democrats, crafted a brand new entitlement and made it law with hardly a passing afterthought about how to pay for it.
The prescription drug benefit under Medicare is expected to cost $400 billion over the first 10 years and the Congressional Budget Office figures the price tag could top $2 trillion over the next 10 years. Costs for such programs tend to be much more than early estimates.
How will we pay for it? Savings in other Medicare expenses is the quick answer from the Bush administration. Garbage. That will never happen and they know it.
Senior citizens do deserve some help with their drug bills, but we should pay for it now, instead of committing a grave generational injustice, which is what sticking our kids with the tab is.
Before the inclusion of the drug benefit entitlement, the Medicare trustees said the cost of the program is due to double as a share of gross domestic product over the next 30 years and triple over the next 60. Just pass the bill on, Bush and his enablers in Congress say.
Bob Bixby, executive director of the Concord Coalition, a bipartisan budget watchdog group, says, "My view is that this is the most fiscally irresponsible Congress we have had in years ... but the White House is very much a co-conspirator." I'll say.
The Republican Congress is engaged in some of the most gluttonous pork feasts in memory. The energy bill, with Dick Cheney's fingerprints all over it, is lard-laden. Jerry Taylor of the libertarian Cato Institute says the bill is "three parts corporate welfare and one part cynical politics ... a smorgasbord of handouts and subsidies for virtually every energy lobby in Washington."
One provision includes a $180 million grant for Shreveport, La. Your tax dollar will help pay for the town to get its first Hooters restaurant. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) says, "Congress is now spending money like a drunken sailor. And I've never known a sailor drunk or sober with the imagination that this Congress has."
But the tipsy Congress couldn't get away with it without the help of the former drunk, and frequently AWOL, national guardsman in the White House. George W. Bush has never vetoed an appropriations bill and won't as long as he gets the goodies he wants, like the prescription drug benefit and the $87 billion for the Iraq colony.
Here's where it gets hilarious. While the president does not give a hoot about the debt he's created at home, he names former Secretary of State James A. Baker III as a special envoy to try to deal with Iraq's crushing debt.
Presidential spokesman McClellan said, "The regime of Saddam Hussein saddled the Iraqi people with debt because they were more interested in building palaces and torture chambers and mass graves than helping people."
The president himself chimed in, "The future of the Iraqi people should not be mortgaged to the enormous burden of debt incurred to enrich Saddam Hussein's regime."
I guess it's OK to build a political empire and get votes at home with the enormous burden of debt, but the same public policy is unfair for the people in Iraq.
Baker is a telling choice and indicates the White House is really worried about the mess in rebuilding Iraq. Baker is the Bush family fixer, valet and political toilet unplugger. He tries to pass himself off as a serious statesman and important world figure, when he is, in fact, a money-grubbing lawyer, influence peddler and vile Texas politician.
Baker cashed in mightily from his public service, especially from Gulf War I. His Houston-based law firm, Baker Botts, claims special understanding and knowledge in the Middle East. The firm maintains an office in Saudi Arabia and Baker also does legal work for the Carlyle Group, the investment banking group with important oil and other investments in the Middle East.
George Bush the Elder has collected "consulting fees" from Carlyle. He won't say how much.
On its Web site, Baker Botts offers this pitch to would-be clients: "As Saudi Arabia and neighboring countries continue to encourage private sector investment, opportunities for U.S., European, and regional companies are growing. Baker Botts is able to assist clients with these opportunities with our depth of experience in the region."
The sales pitch is sealed with these lofty words: "The perspective and expertise of James A. Baker III, 61st U.S. Secretary of State, offers the firm's clients additional resources on which to rely regarding their activities in the region."
The "additional resources" mean access and influence, especially with the Saudi royal family. Baker, the Bushes and the House of Saud are thick as thieves, so to speak.
To wit, the Baker Botts firm is representing Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz, the Saudi Defense Minister, in a sticky little legal matter he's caught in. You see, the prince and several other Saudi royals are the targets of a $1 trillion lawsuit filed by the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
The suit claims Saudi money was used to finance the attacks. The prince's influential lawyers are trying to get the case thrown out, arguing the foreign nationals are not subject to U.S. courts.
In laying out that argument, however, Baker's minions may have revealed more than they intended. They produced evidence showing that, for 16 years, the prince made payments of $266,000 a year to the International Islamic Relief Organization, a group whose offices federal agents raided earlier this year.
"Newsweek" magazine reports U.S. officials are investigating a web of Islamic charities "widely suspected of covertly financing the operations of al-Qaeda and other international terrorist groups." International Islamic Relief is one of them.
Baker is so inextricably tied to Saudi interests and his clients, how can he possibly act in the best interest of the Iraqi people? Remember, though, with the George W. Bush gang, there is no such thing as a conflict of interest.
Just ask Richard Perle. He's a member and former chairman of the Defense Policy Board, a group that meets regularly and advises top Pentagon officials.
In August, Perle co-authored an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal, giving glowing praise to a deal in which the Air Force would lease 100 aircraft refueling tankers from Boeing. Critics howled that the plan to spend $20 billion to refit the 767s for military purposes was unnecessary and ridiculously costly.
Several weeks ago, I wrote about the stench of the deal, and now we learn the Air Force procurement officer who worked on the Boeing proposal was at the same time negotiating an employment contract to go to work for the aircraft manufacturer.
Dareen Druyan did become a Boeing vice president, but when the lid on her self-dealing blew, she and the chief financial officer were fired. Boeing's CEO, Phil Condit, later walked the plank. There should be a criminal investigation, but don't count on John Ashcroft's Justice Department.
Back to Perle. He's known as the intellectual visionary behind the war with Iraq and he used his influence to convince the defense establishment of the wisdom of the pre-emptive attack.
Perle since said the war was "illegal," but what the hell, it's been great fun and profit for all those who didn't actually have to fight and die in the process. It turns out Perle, the mental giant, is a moral pygmy.
The British Financial Times found out this dirty little secret about Perle, the Prince of Darkness. It seems Boeing invested $20 million in the venture capital fund he runs. That's one of the largest stakes in Perle's little enterprise.
But he insists all those millions had no influence on his thinking about Boeing and he is sure the people from Boeing who handed him all that money had nothing to do with the tanker deal.
For Perle and so many Bush associates, government service, public policy, corporate and personal gain are all part of a seamless garment of influence and power. They are looting the treasury for their own enrichment and will continue to do so until the American people realize what's happening.
George W. Bush and his sleazy gang have but one guiding principle that dominates all they do.
They use public power and influence for private gain and will do just about anything to keep the power in order to keep the gain.
Bill Gallagher, a Peabody Award winner, is a former Niagara Falls city councilman who now covers Detroit for Fox2 News. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.