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By Bill Gallagher

DETROIT -- The presidency of George W. Bush is a domestic and international disaster and it's bound to get worse. The swaggering Texan's poll numbers remain in the stratosphere as the American people buy the string of lies, distortions and deceptions that buttress the administration's agenda at home and around the world.

The Bush economic plan is the greediest, most reckless and rapacious raid on the public treasury in American history. The corporate robber barons and monopolists of the 19th century stole from and exploited the poor while the government looked the other way. This band of thieves uses government to rob from the poor to reward the rich, and sends the bill to the children and grandchildren of the middle class.

George W. Bush simply doesn't care. The deliberate creation of structural deficits is aimed at forcing drastic cuts in Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare, while sparing the administration's sacred cows -- military spending and corporate welfare.

When the reality of his recklessness comes home, Bush will be back at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, enjoying the benefits of his dirty work and the praise of his corporate sponsors, the ones who made it all possible.

The radical shift of tax obligation from the rich to the middle class will already be done, and all the fat cats will have to do is play golf and cash their fat dividend checks. People looking for work, living on paychecks, paying mortgages, college tuition and medical bills -- they can just eat cake.

"Praise God and the Republican sense of distributive justice!" they're shouting at the Petroleum Club down in Houston. Others should pray and cling to their wallets.

The deficit-financed $350 billion tax-cut package really costs $800 billion when you toss out the silly "sunset" provisions, which were put in the package to make the cost seem smaller, and to let the handful of Republicans in Congress who can actually add and subtract find some cover. Sunset provisions assume the tax cuts will expire after certain dates and will not be permanent, something no sane person believes will happen.

The Concord Coalition, a bipartisan group of deficit hawks, estimates that the Bush sunset deceptions hide more than half of the revenue loss from recent tax cuts.

The three tax-cut packages enacted since 2001 have a 10-year impact on the Treasury of $1.3 trillion, according to the Bush administration and Republican Congressional leaders.

But if you toss out the sunsets, the estimated revenue loss swells to $3.1 trillion. That little shuffle gives new meaning to "fuzzy math."

New York Times columnist and ace economist Paul Krugman's got it figured out. "The tax cut ... will raise the after-tax income of most people by less than 1 percent ... but people with incomes over $1 million per year will, on average, see their after-tax income rise 4.4 percent."

The devil is always in the details, but the telling angel of truth also lurks in the Bush tax-break priorities. Two details scream out about where this administration is and isn't when it comes to tax relief. The legislation raises the child tax credit from $600 to $1,000, and most families with kids can expect a $400-per-child check this summer. But the Bushies and House Majority Leader Tom Delay's gang in Congress "forgot" some families. The final bill cut out child tax credits for families with incomes between $10,500 and $26,625, leaving this group of working people, many with minimum-wage jobs, and their nearly 12 million children, with none of those benefits. Those things never happen by accident.

The administration grabbed that $3.5 billion from the mouths of the poor to keep the tax package under the phony $350 billion limit. This outrageous hypocrisy comes from the most fiscally irresponsible wild bunch ever to occupy power in Washington.

The conservative British Financial Times has a keen eye on engineer Bush as he puts the United States on track for a fiscal trainwreck. The paper found the Bush administration shelved a report commissioned by its own Treasury Department that shows a future of chronic federal deficits that will top $44.2 trillion.

That equates to 10 times the publicly held debt, four years of the entire economic output of the United States and 94 percent of all U.S. household assets.

Those who don't see this as a serious problem have been inhaling the smoke which Bill Clinton says he didn't. The evidence suggests the Bush economic advisors never exhaled.

The tax cuts on stock dividends is another joke that will do little to help invigorate the economy, will do nothing for the poor, but will make the already rich even richer.

Warren Buffett, the multibillionaire investment wizard, offers a candid assessment of the Washington Post blasting the Bush administration's "voodoo economics" and "Enron-style" accounting.

Buffett, a true "compassionate conservative," offers this constructive plan. "Enact a Social Security tax 'holiday' or give a flat-sum rebate to people with low incomes. Putting $1,000 in the pockets of 310,000 families with urgent needs is going to provide far more stimulus to the economy than putting the same $310 million in my pockets."

The Bush administration is devoid of such practical and equitable wisdom, and the tax break they gave for gas-guzzling, road-hogging SUVs shows that.

Small business owners -- that includes doctors, lawyers, ranchers, oil well operators -- and just about anyone who's self-employed can now have a $100,000 tax deduction for SUVs and Hummers used for business purposes.

No tax breaks for smaller, fuel-efficient cars, but anything over 6,000 pounds -- the kind of vehicles the people in Crawford, Texas, like to tool around in -- are eligible for the tax loophole the government now provides. That is disgusting and a perfect illustration of the deception George W. Bush sells as helping "working Americans."

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, in a stunning moment of candor, admits the furor over weapons of mass destruction in Iraq was essentially just a convenient political excuse for war. The extraordinary admission comes in an interview in the July issue of "Vanity Fair" magazine. "For bureaucratic reasons we settled on one issue, weapons of mass destruction, because it was the one everyone could agree," Wolfowitz tells the magazine. Pentagon flacks immediately cry foul and pump out a news release saying the well-known war monger was quoted out of context.

So herešs the "official" version.

"The truth is that, for reasons that have a lot to do with the U.S. government bureaucracy, we settled on the one issue that everyone could agree on, which was weapons of mass destruction, as the core reason."

In the thrust of the quotes, there's really not a dime's worth of difference. The important context is Wolfowitz's position. He's wanted a war with Iraq for at least 10 years, long before Sept. 11 or any bizarre notion that Saddam Hussein's Iraq posed an imminent threat to the security of the United States. He just got caught in a surprising utterance of truth.

Colin Powell quickly jumps in and insists the intelligence reports he relied on to argue authoritatively that Saddam had huge arsenals of weapons of mass destruction were reliable.

But over on the other side of the Atlantic, London's Guardian reports British Foreign Minister Jack Snow and Powell both privately expressed serious doubts about the quality of the intelligence on Iraq's banned weapons program.

And who was responsible for feeding them the shaky information? Why, none other than Paul Wolfowitz's Pentagon office, using weapons of mass deception.

An Amnesty International report finds the world is more filled with fear and insecurity as the result of the war on terror, and Washington and London are using the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks to introduce draconian laws.

"What would have been unacceptable on Sept. 10 is now becoming almost the norm. What would have been an outrage in Western countries during the Cold War -- torture, detention without trial, truncated justice -- is readily accepted in some countries today," Amnesty International Secretary General Irene Khan laments. We can thank George W. Bush, John Ashcroft and a gutless Congress for the outrageous erosion of fundamental human rights.

As predicted in this space months ago, the Bush administration is not cooperating with the Sept. 11 commission and is refusing to release information contained in a congressional report.

The key areas are the president's daily briefing documents prior to Sept. 11, which included warnings about possible al-Qaeda attacks and evidence the White House had that Saudi government operatives may have provided aid for the hijackers.

Most Americans, their minds numbed by the endless flow of government propaganda from corporate media sources, don't seem to care about these issues, and George W. Bush continues to enjoy soaring approval ratings.

The nation is in a mess at home and around the world. George W. Bush made it that way. Even though this is a minority view, that doesn't diminish its truth.

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 gallaghernewsman@aol.com.

Niagara Falls Reporter www.niagarafallsreporter.com June 3 2003