Wednesday, February 2, 2005

No sacrifice too big for president

Commentary by Pat Murphy


Pat Murphy

No sacrifice by Americans was too painful for President Bush's first tem. His State of the Union speech tonight should hint how much more sacrifice he expects of Americans in the next four years.

Properly pumped up by Iraqi election results, would the Bush-Rove- Cheney-Rumsfeld council declare war on another "evil" country, claiming another imminent threat to the U.S. homeland?

A country swept up in President Bush's patriotic slogans and crusade to convert tyrannies into models of democracy doesn't seem to begrudge 1,400-plus GI lives so far in Iraq and thousands of others scarred for life, including lost limbs, lost sight and psychoses from combat—and yet more to come.

Except for busybody civil liberties lawyers and federal judges who preach about the U.S. Constitution, Americans seem resigned to shrinking personal freedoms under the Patriot Act and the uncivilized, officially condoned abuse of war prisoners that American presidents once would've condemned as Stalinist brutality inflicted in Siberian gulags.

Nor does the bare cupboard at Treasury create much hullabaloo. War in Iraq was to cost $50 billion by White House estimates. Economic adviser Larry Lindsay was fired for disputing the number and instead forecast over $200 billion. Well, last week's emergency request for $80 billion more right now brings the total to over $270 billion and counting. Oh, well.

While billions of U.S. dollars are diverted to Iraq, the American Society of Civil Engineers estimates the decrepit U.S. infrastructure that keeps the nation ticking at home—roads, dams, electrical transmission grids, bridges, airports, waste water and solid waste disposal plants, waterways, schools, rails—needs $1.6 trillion in repairs. That's what President Bush would borrow to make up for lost payroll taxes for his Social Security "private accounts" scheme.

Borrow? The Federal Reserve reports 40 percent of America's public IOUs are held by foreigners, and growing. More debt could lead investors to demand higher interest payments for their risks—adding more debt and sacrifice for Americans.

States are another bleak story. The president has drastically trimmed aid to states for lack of funds. The war in Iraq, you know.

Peace of mind also has been sacrificed to constant reminders of possible terrorism, color-coded alerts and a permanent culture of police-state citizen screening and surveillance.

Now, more sacrifice by workers who've watched jobs shipped overseas: the Bush Pentagon has picked a British-Italian helicopter design for the president's new $6.1 billion Marine One helicopter squadron, abandoning the American chopper pioneer Sikorsky.

"Compassionate conservatism" seems to have been sacrificed away, too.

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