It is no surprise that politicians will stretch the truth, whether through “mis-speaks” or bold lies. To balance this, our democracy depends on good information and accurate data to compare political claims to reality and make informed decisions on how we are being led.
More than ever, the administration of George W. Bush has systematically undermined this trust by suppressing negative data and fabricating truths where politically advantageous. The White House has manipulated vital data on health, unemployment, the economy, the environment and more.
In November Congress passed a bill to salvage Medicare by just five votes. Their decision was largely based on promises from the White House that $400 billion would do the job.
Last week, it was discovered that Bush’s top expert on Medicare costs was told he would be fired if he told Congress the truth – that the White House knew the price tag was more than $550 billion. Bold lies.
On top of this, the New York Times reported that the White House hired actors to play journalists in fictional “new reports” that championed its Medicare plan. These stories were then picked up as real news by television stations.
This is no better than the Iraqi Information Minister we were all laughing at last year. Anyone who finds this acceptable in the United States would probably also feel at home in Cuba, Myanmar or North Korea.
Then there’s jobs. According to payroll data and Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, the United States has experienced a net loss of almost three million jobs since 2001. Since Bush’s inauguration, the United States has lost 2.7 million manufacturing jobs, a figure partially offset by an increase in low-wage service jobs.
Although he has since backpedalled, Bush explicitly promised 2.6 million new jobs by 2004. Instead of just admitting it didn’t work out, he has decided to dodge the ball of truth by playing games with the data.
In attempt to disguise this downturn, the White House has considered reclassifying jobs in the fast food sector as manufacturing jobs. Under this system, flipping burgers would put one in the same category as building aircraft.
In comparison to real manufacturing jobs, many of which are being outsourced overseas, jobs in the fast food sector provide lower pay and lack benefits.
Typically, fast food jobs pay 21 percent less than real manufacturing jobs.
Ironically, in a Feb. 12 speech, Bush expressed concern about unemployment, saying that jobs had gone overseas.
In addition, the Environmental Protection Agency issued a report that benzene used by Vice President Dick Cheney’s oil and gas company contaminates ground water. After submitting this report to Congressional staff members, the EPA then reissued the report, conveniently saying that it the amount fell under government standards.
What prompts this leader to persist in the manipulation of facts?
According to a report by the National Association of Software and Service Companies, donations of more than $400,000 were made to Cheney’s campaign fund by companies that encourage the transfer of U.S. job opportunities in foreign countries. In addition, the Bush administration also received more than $3 million from these same companies.
Our irresponsibility has turned a blind eye to this manipulation for far too long.
While we expect a little fudging from politicians,changing scientific data removes any connection to reality for Americans. George Orwell wrote about a society that convinced people “2 + 2 = 5.”
As a nation that believes in the right to vote and the value of voicing personal opinion, it is up to the individual to decipher fact from fiction and political hubbub. Individuals need to separate fact from myth and consider the facts, especially when election time draws near.
Although honesty is something rare in the political world, it is not something that citizens can afford to give up without a fight.
Let’s keep the 1984 out of 2004.