The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 49.0°F | Light Rain

COLUMN

The Next Four Years

Michael J. Borucke

A couple weeks ago, as I was watching a regularly scheduled program on TV, it was interrupted by George “That’s my daddy” Bush’s acceptance speech. At the time, he had not been officially declared President, but the threat was real enough for me to shudder at the prospect of a Bush presidency. But now that all the votes have either been counted or discarded, and George W. Bush has been declared President-Elect, I thought I’d make some predictions about the state of the nation four years from now.

The economy will continue to do well. That great indicator of national prosperity will prove to the increasing millions of working poor how privileged they should feel to be free and starving in America. “Our” economic growth will also serve to justify the actions of our fearless leaders. Bush, like Clinton, will point to the healthy economy, to the low-wage, highly unstable jobs that brought unemployment to an all-time low, to the countless products the middle class was able to consume. That ninety percent of the public didn’t benefit from the GDP increase will be mentioned in passing in the media, but the light cast upon the booming economy will drown out any discussion about who is truly profiting.

One large reason for the healthy economy will be the continued increase in military spending. Bush is already talking about resurrecting Reagan’s Star Wars project. This brilliant strategy of shooting down nuclear weapons from space is still as physically impossible as it was in the eighties, but no matter. Research and development should only be in the hundreds of billions of tax dollars and our leaders will convince us that increases in military spending will be well worth the cost. Not having an enemy won’t be a problem. It surely won’t idle defense contractors like Raytheon. Bush will simply use the plan Clinton, Bush Sr., Reagan, Carter and so on have used before; he’ll invent an enemy. Once we have an authentic threat to national security, we have justification for insane defense systems as well as the production of more weapons of mass destruction. Potential foes include those dastardly guerrillas in Latin America and those oil-mongering Arabs in the Middle East. If these groups can’t be used to scare up support for military spending, rest assured that Bush will find a suitable alternative.

How will Bush’s military strategy translate domestically? More guns and less gun control will mean freedom and safety for all. More prisons will be built to hold an increasingly racially skewed number of criminals. More rights (namely, voting) will be stripped from those who cease being citizens once incarcerated. More prisoners will find themselves being railroaded to the death chair as the governor responsible for more executions than any other ascends to the presidency.

Perhaps the most devastation wrought by the president-elect will be on the environment, if we take Texas as a scaled version of what Bush plans to do with the nation. Deregulation will no doubt flourish under Bush’s “less government interference” administration. This means a new era of corporate freedom and pollution. But while the corporations will be safe from government intervention, the environment will not be. If Bush has his way (i.e. if a large grassroots movement does not act to stop him) the Alaskan National Wildlife Preserve will most probably be made open to oil drilling. Bush has never kept secret his desire to open the preserve or his ties to the oil community, but if he should succeed in Alaska, it will set a dangerous precedent. Clinton’s recent effort to preserve one-third of the nation’s forests was received not with cheers but with apprehension as to Bush’s future attempts to reverse the action.

If Bush’s plan for the environment is predictable, his tax plan is less clear. Though I don’t know the details of the plan, one thing is for certain: the plan will fail. The majority of Americans will be so dissatisfied with whatever plan he creates that tax reform will become a major issue in the 2004 presidential race. There will be no mystery as to why this will happen once we understand who profits from the tax cuts. One specific tax Bush plans to address is the estate inheritance tax. Known to Republicans as the “death tax,” it is a fraction of the value of estates that are inherited. The tax applies only to those estates valued at $600,000 and above, and it increases with estate value. Seeing as how the majority of the population will never inherit such an estate, any tax cut or increase in the minimum estate value subjected to the tax will continue to shift the tax burden to the middle and lower classes. George Bush mentioned on television that his tax plan was meant to benefit “the people.” Well, aren’t the richest half-a-percent of the population people too?

If Texas is any indication, Bush’s tax cuts will most likely affect the area of social spending. The “education governor” reduced Texas public school teachers’ salary, to the nation’s 38th highest level. As an indication of the attention given to the education needs of the youth, Texas ranked 44th or lower for three consecutive years in SAT scores. We can expect health care to continue being a right of the privileged, as Texas consistently ranked highest in categories of child poverty and lowest in categories of public health -- not a bright picture for anyone.

But the reader probably knows many of these facts already, and already has a sense of the times ahead. But this is Massachusetts and the reader probably voted for Gore, so why bother? The worst aspect of the upcoming Bush presidency is the liberal backlash it will cause. The world and the nation will suffer greatly, but the reaction will be to vote a liberal into the White House. Bush will be so bad that people will forget the damage that Democrats have done. It was a liberal president who did nothing to reverse the decades-long real wage decline or the expanding gap between rich and poor. It was a liberal president who supported the Taxpayer Relief Act which benefitted the upper class far more than any other. It was a liberal president who gave billions to Colombia to fight a phony drug war. It was a liberal president who passed the effective death penalty act making it easier for convicted people to be executed.

Bush is not an exception. He’s only an extreme example of a system that cares more about economic health than about human well-being.