The Raw Deal

Having just succeeded in passing legislation imposing restrictions on class-action lawsuits, the Republican-controlled Congress is fast about seeing to the rest of President Bush's real agenda -- one that would impose severe constraints on the rights of Americans to seek legal redress.

We refer to the president's "real" agenda, because in the judgment of many, Bush won reelection last November based on the voters' sense that he saw things their way on a whole host of moral and social issues -- none of which, as it turns out, were prominently featured in the president's State of the Union address, and none of which ended up on the congressional calendar for immediate action.

It is difficult to disagree with those who see Bush as having played bait-and-switch with the so-called Red States. What is obvious, in any case, is that the issues that are on the calendar at the president's behest have never commanded much public support, in the heartland or anywhere else. Besides several misnamed "tort reform" measures, these include: "tax reform" of the sort we have already seen several times over, creating new loopholes for the wealthy; Bush's plan to privatize Social Security; and, on the docket as of this week, his intent to strike away those provisions in the bankruptcy laws that protect ordinary Americans.

The bankruptcy measure would even take away those provisions of existing law which give a modicum of protection to citizens whose debt has become uncontrollable because of medical emergency or loss of job. Democrats in Congress also proposed an exception for those on active duty in the military, but the Republicans would have none of it. But the bill does reinforce and expand those loopholes which shelter corporate bankruptcies. It's "compassionate conservatism" at its finest.

It has been observed more than once in recent months that the aim of the Bush administration and its allies in Congress is to reap the New Deal. They're on the way, not only to that but to the creation of something else to take its place: a Raw Deal.

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