And the State of the Union Is ... None of Your Business
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Soon George Bush will deliver his second State of the Union address. As we all know, it's been a tough couple of years, so as we approach the President's second address, I think it's time to take a careful look at our current condition.
The U.S. economy is sliding into a double-dip recession, with possible deflation, and this isn't good. It would be intellectually dishonest to blame this only on the Bush administration: I vividly recall the week in April 2000 when my E-Trade account, heavy in high-tech and telecommunications stocks, cut its value in half overnight. However, nearly three years later the tidal waves of layoffs are still hitting companies as varied as WorldCom and McDonalds.
More worrisome is an ominous trend reported in the New York Times recently. Despite a 5-year-old HUD program designed to curb home foreclosures, national foreclosure rates are the highest in 30 years. Lenders foreclosed on 135,000 family home mortgages, or about four out of every thousand, in the second quarter alone. Is the real-estate bubble about to burst, too?
If so, hundreds of thousands of working families may find themselves upside-down on their mortgages just as companies nation-wide are laying off even more employees. This invites predatory real-estate investors and lenders who snatch up the foreclosed properties on the cheap and rent them. This creates a vicious cycle: Homeowners become renters and property values deflate sharply.
What exactly is the Bush administration doing about all this? Not a lot. After eight years of shrinking government, reduced budget deficits, and a record boom economy, the Bush administration ballooned government spending by hundreds of billions of dollars while cutting taxes for corporations and the rich. Who pays for the massive Bush debt? We all will, and our children, and their children.
Moving on from the economy, let's take a look at the new White House foreign policy. The U.S. is becoming a forward-deployed militaristic empire that makes little distinction between friends and foes. The U.S. threatens preemptive military action against anyone even slightly offensive to us.
The war drums for Iraq were beating within seconds of the new administration taking office. The tragic events of September 11 gave the hawks new impetus. The Bush administration openly says the U.S. will invade Iraq regardless of what Congress, the U.N., or the American people want.
Not much attention has been paid to other U.S. deployments, but since last year, American troops deployed all over the globe; with new military bases in the former Soviet Republics, troops deployed in Indonesia, the Philippines, South Asia and the Horn of Africa.
Despite all the military and diplomatic activity, the people who actually attacked us, al-Qeada and Osama Bin-laden, are still at large.
All over the world, many people wonder who's next on the U.S. invasion list, and how soon will they see U.S. tanks outside their doors? Soon, other countries will be asking themselves, what will appeasement (or a lack of it) to the U.S. mean?
Sober patriots among us ask: is the U.S. on the road to starting a third World War where the U.S. acts as the aggressor? Let's pray it isn't so.
On the home front, things are just as worrisome. The grossly misnamed Patriot Act codified the most severe assault on American Constitutional liberties since the dreaded McCarthy Era.
"Terrorist organizations" are redefined as any group of two or more people who have threatened to use violence for any reason. Terrorism is defined as any attempt to use coercion to influence political activity. If you give money to a local health care clinic which is also funded by a foundation which also gives money to Hamas, you are associated with terrorists.
If you go to a political rally and participate in civil disobedience where the police arrest you, the law calls you a terrorist. The new definitions are overly broad and subject to wide abuse.
Of course, in the new America, you don't have to be a terrorist to get locked up. Today, there are American citizens being held without access to attorneys, without charges, without benefit of constitutional protections, solely on the word of the attorney general. While one of those was captured on a battlefield, another was arrested in an American city. I'm not aware of any exceptions in the Constitution that say the basic fundamental rights of Americans apply only until the President says otherwise.
Here is a list of a disturbing collection of too much power concentrated in one branch of government:
-Today, right now, the government can search your home without telling you, and without a warrant.
-Today, the government can find out what you've read at the library and what you've bought at the bookstore, again without a warrant.
-The government can arrest the local librarian for telling you the government asked about your reading habits.
-The government can listen in on conversations between you and your attorney and use the information against you.
-The government can declare an emergency and forcefully vaccinate you and your family, without exception, using both approved and experimental drugs. And if you, as a civilian, get sick from the shots (as thousands of Gulf War veterans did), you won't have any legal recourse.
-The government has a new Homeland Security Department rivaling the powers of the KGB. There is little oversight. There are no labor law protections for the workers who blow the whistle on waste, fraud and abuse. Like the KGB, the work of Homeland Security will be conducted in secret, as the Freedom of Information Act was gutted last year.
Today, we have a government more concerned with secrecy than open government, more concerned with corporate rights than human rights, and more concerned with dishing out huge defense contracts to campaign contributors than assisting unemployed workers facing foreclosure.
In January of 2003, President Bush will tell you things are good, that the U.S. is standing tall. He will say the economy is good. He will say the war on terror is on track. He'll say invading and occupying Iraq, even with all the death and destruction, is good for the U.S. national interest and our need for oil.
He'll say Osama is no big deal anyway, the real perpetrator of 9/11 was Iraq, and killing Saddam Hussein is good. He will portray himself as our benevolent father figure and protector during these difficult times.
Maybe he'll tell us that War is Peace, and Freedom is Slavery.
Be very concerned. We the people need to stand up and demand accountability and stop Bush's outrages. Unless we do, by 2004 the State of the Union may be classified: Our freedom will be eroded, and the status of our foreign wars and our beleaguered economy will be a secret; it won't be any of our business.
Charles Sheehan-Miles, a Gulf War veteran and a co-founder of Veterans for Common Sense, is a former president of the National Gulf War Resource Center and the author of "Prayer at Rumayla" (XLibris, 2001).