Winning The Fight Against Terrorism
Losing On The Home-front
(Editorial by Leo C. Helmer)
The War goes well, so say the Generals, the Pentagon, the
Bush administration, and other assorted spokesmen who report on such things. Well, good! That’s great! Wonderful news! And,
other accolades form the masses. The
Bush Administration is doing a great job, right? Well, I guess so, if you are only thinking about the war. And, sure enough we all are paying attention. We all are watching the news. We
all want justice for our lost loved ones, our heroes, our citizens.
I suppose that is as it should be, and we need to know
how ‘our guys’ are doing. After
all, this is one of our ‘just wars,’not some ‘new Nam’ we don’t
belong in. But, are we paying too
much attention to what is going on elsewhere and forgetting what is happening at
home? Are we too caught up in doing
what is necessary to win the war on terrorism, that we are forgetting the liberties won
in past wars?
“Yes!” is my answer to both
questions. Little, by little,
mostly unnoticed, things are happening that will wake us with a start. Once the battle is won we will be stunned at what we have lost. Senator Patrick Leahy, Democrat, Vermont, and Chairman of the senate Judiciary
Committee, in a recent article states: “The
Constitution does not need protection when its guarantees are popular, but it
very much needs our protection when events tempt us to ‘just this once’
abridge its guarantees of our freedom.” This was said
while making decisions on Attorney General Ashcroft’s many proposals to make
‘necessary’ changes in order to fight our war on terrorism. This guy (Ashcroft) was dumped in Missouri, because he did nothing for Missourians,
but now Mr. Bush has forced him on America. And, not only did Mr. Bush push him on us, he has pushed him to push
changes in our Constitution ‘just this once while we fight terrorists.’ If these policies are passed, and if and when we finally win, will everything go back the way it was? I wonder.
Let’s look at some of the
little things that we didn’t notice Mr. Bush doing to us while our minds are
on winning a war. Here are some
things that are gathering little public attention. Not only is the Administration advancing anti-worker fiscal, retirement,
and economic stimulus policies, but it’s using administrative fiat, legal
action, and the legislative process in an all out campaign to roll back hard won
protections and rights.
In recent weeks:
- The Bush administration shut down the Department of
Labor’s Women’s Bureau and shut its 10 regional offices. The bureau’s main duties included the responsibility to advocate and inform women directly, and the
public as well, of women’s work rights and employment issues. That action also eliminated the Women’s Bureau Equal Pay Program. Earlier Bush shut down the White House Women’s Initiative Office.
- Bush and congressional Republicans insisted on massive
corporate tax breaks and refused to include needed healthcare assistance and
adequate income help for working families, in spite of massive layoffs,
because of 9/11.
- The House narrowly passed a bill that would provide
big corporate tax breaks, but extend unemployment benefits for just some
laid-off workers and give some a tax credit to buy private health insurance,
but no immediate help to pay premiums for their families. When the senate was asked to extend benefits for all laid-off
workers, Republican Leader, Trent Lott, blocked the move.
- The Department of Labor released a regulatory agenda
for 2002 that does not include any action on a new ergonomics regulation. It withdrew or halted action on 16 pending Occupational Safety and
Health Administration, and 13
Mine Safety and Health Administration safety actions.
- The Bush Administration repealed a federal
‘responsible contractor’ rule that required scrutiny of the legal track
records of companies seeking lucrative government contracts. This (repealed) rule made it clear that compliance with federal labor, consumer,
tax, antitrust, workplace safety, environmental, and civil rights laws are
all part of the test for being deemed a ‘responsible contractor.’ This rule also prohibited contractors from using government funds
(tax dollars) for activities that discourage employees from seeking a voice at
work by forming a union. A
recent General Accounting Office study found that 261 federal contractors
who had racked up over 5000 infractions of health and safety laws received
38 billion in federal contracts, and another 80 firms that broke labor laws
won 23 billion in taxpayer financed projects.
- On January 11, Mr. Bush appointed Eugene Scalia, (who
has written that ergonomics is ‘qwakery’ and has taken strident anti-worker
stands as a corporate lawyer), to be the Department of Labor’s solicitor,
or chief attorney. With
Congress out of session, Bush used a ‘recess’ appointment, which
prevents Congress from voting on the appointment.
- On January 7, Mr. Bush issued an executive order
revoking union representation for hundreds of workers in five Departments of
Justice offices involved in law enforcement, intelligence, and
investigations. The White
House claimed it was to prevent strikes by federal workers engaged in the
war on terrorism, but current law already prevents these workers from
- Bush also fired the 7 members of the Federal Service
Impasses Panel. Because federal
workers do not have the right to strike this panel is, or was, the last
resort for workers seeking resolve on issues pertaining to work rules.
Well, there you have it. This is just a little
of what the Bush Administration has "accomplished" for the Home Front while we are all
watching the War Front. Keep this
in mind when we vote in November; and I hope we all can ‘stay free’
until November 2004.