Sending to Congress the “tightest” budget ever, President Bush pushes on quickly to implement what he calls his election mandate. So far, he has transformed the Iraq war from a bust into at the very least a stupendous PR victory. As for Democratic qualms about the president’s Social Security reform, it should be noted that numerous Democrats in Congress during the Clinton administration warmly debated the shape of a new system that involved private accounts handled by Wall Street. To date, Enron’s 401(k) fiasco and its 2001 tanking on Wall Street have had remarkably little effect on politicians of either party. There is no move toward serious pension reform or tighter regulation of the mutual fund industry, which underlies the 401(k). Politicians of both parties read the ticker every day and enthusiastically pocket Wall Street campaign contributions.
All told, Bush is off to a good start, and he now is moving on to propose dramatic changes in our environmental laws, rewriting the Clean Air and Clean Water acts, along with the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act. Bush wants to relax ozone pollution laws and reduce pollution standards for SUVs, cars, and diesel trucks. He wants to legislate rules allowing corporations to hide damaging environmental information from the public. He would weaken and/or drop suits aimed at forcing coal-fired power plants to curb pollution and carry through on his promise to the oil companies to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. As for climate change, right-wing politicians in D.C. don’t think the seas are rising and regard the scientists who warn of global warming as a bunch of lefty kooks.
What makes these Bush ideas truly salable, whereas before they often were viewed as isolated measures aimed at rewarding reactionary business interests, is the engine that drives Bush forward. It is an amalgam of conservative political ideology embedded in a theocratic shell. People might balk at a company ripping off the Alaskan wildlife refuge, but if they stop to think, and realize drilling has nothing to do with the grand scheme of things in which God will provide for us, why not just kick back and wait and see? Wait for what? Wait for the end times, when the Jews will either wake up and smell the coffee and become Christians or burn in hell and the good Christians will be raptured up to sit next to God and watch all the other miserable souls fester and burn. Oh, come on, you say, that’s kook talk. Not to many of Bush’s fundamentalist Christian supporters, it isn’t. And there are a lot of them.
A recent Gallup poll says one-third of the American electorate believes the Bible is literally true. In 2002 a Time-CNN poll found that 59 percent of the people polled believe that the prophecies described in Revelation will come true. Quoting Grist, the online environmental site, Bill Moyers, in a recent speech on our dawning theocracy from which much of this is drawn, says, “Why care about the earth, when the droughts, floods, famine, and pestilence brought by ecological collapse are signs of the apocalypse foretold in the Bible? Why care about global climate change when you and yours will be rescued in the rapture? And why care about converting from oil to solar when the same God who performed the miracle of the loaves and fishes can whip up a few billion barrels of light crude with a word?”
Additional reporting: Nicole Duarte and David Botti