By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
WASHINGTON, D. C.The President's speech today celebrating the administration's economic successes will come as something of a shock to millions of people who already face a cold, economically grim winter.
In Washington, D.C. alone, natural gas, which heats many homes, has doubled in price, leaving residents looking at home heating bills of as much $1,000 a monthand with no relief in sight. To cut those costs requires capital investment of as much as $8,000 in new fuel efficient furnacesa far too costly prospect for many families. As a result, people are turning down the heat, closing off rooms, and turning to wood stoves and electric heaters.
But in his speech at Kernersville, N.C., today Bush focused not on energy costs but on so-called pension reform. He painted a rosy economic picture with jobs increasing by 215,000 in November. He asked Congress to extend tax cutswhich will go to the very rich. "This economy is strong and the best days are yet to come for the American economy," Bush said.
Meanwhile, the price of gasoline remains at all time highs, and the cost of home heating oil is climbing.
Bush's energy plan won't help the situation. He envisions increasing long term supplies of natural gas, in part by importing more gas from abroad via LNG tankers. It will take years and billions in investment to build the plants necessary to process the imported gas. And, while the President seeks to reduce the reliance on foreign oil and gas, the imported gas will in all likelihood come from the Saudi Arabia and elsewhere in the Middle East, an area where we are trying to reduce our dependence.
In other areas:The cost of medicine continues to rise. Bush's Medicare pharmaceutical plan is widely viewed as little more than a public relations gesture for millions of people who can't afford high priced drugs. The numbers of uninsured Americans continues to rise. The government is adamant about not regulating medical costs. Over the past few months Bush has spoken about pension reforms. But the only serious pension reform in play is the steady evisceration of the old fashioned, guaranteed monthly payments for an investment in the volatile mutual fund industry in the form of a 401K. During the last stock market declines, 401K holders lost as much a third of the value of their 401Ks. Under Bush, the government and right wing Congress have sharply cut social welfare programs, making it more complicated for poor people to get Medicaid and food stamps. As the deficit grows, we become more and more in hock to nations such as China which holds large amounts of US debt.