Fool Me Once 

It helps to watch what the president does, not what he says.

"We will not pass along our problems to other Congresses, to other presidents, and other generations."

-- George W. Bush, State of the Union address

The question is, does the president believe himself?

"To lift the standards of our public schools, we achieved historic education reform, which must now be carried out in every school, in every classroom, so that every child in America can read, and learn, and succeed in life."

The president's first education budget after he signed his much-touted No Child Left Behind Act proposed $22.2 billion, a cut of more than $90 million below the previous year and more than $7 billion less than Congress had authorized. They need to change the name of the law to the Quite a Few Children Left Behind Act.

"To insist on integrity in American business, we passed tough corporate reforms, and we are holding corporate criminals to account."

Bush opposed the corporate reform bill until the very last minute, until the political pressure had built to such a point that the bill was passed in the Republican House without a single dissenting vote. The reform bill was then sent to Bush's man, Harvey Pitt, at the Securities and Exchange Commission. Pitt, who is still SEC chairman despite having been fired on election night, has proceeded to screw up the proposed reforms to such an extent that shareholders and employees may now actually be at greater risk than they were before the Enron debacle.

This is the most cynical gutting of reform legislation since Bush appointed Michael Toner, a vehement opponent of campaign finance reform, to implement the McCain-Feingold legislation. Bush initially proposed an SEC budget for 2003 that was 40 percent less than authorized by Congress. After he signed the bill, it raised that, but it is still 26 percent less than full funding.

"This tax relief is for everyone who pays income taxes. ... Ninety-two million Americans will keep this year an average of almost $1,100 of their own money."

One third of all Americans will never see a dime of that tax cut. Half of all taxpayers will get less than $100 from the Bush tax cut. Those who make more than $1 million a year will get an average cut of $92,000. That may average out to $1,100, but it ain't going to the average family. As The New Yorker recently noted, if Bill Gates walked into a soup kitchen serving 60 bums, the average worth of the people in that room would be $1 billion each. But it would still be Bill Gates and 60 bums.

I would quote Bush's words on the environment, touting his energy plan, "Clear Skies" legislation, and the "Healthy Forest Initiative," but they make me too sick. Everyone who cares about the environment knows what this administration is doing to environmental protections every day, relentlessly, with regulatory change after regulatory change: dirtier air, fouled streams, polluted rivers, vanishing wetlands, drilling in national parks, the Powder River Basin destroyed. The list is already interminable, with more to come.

And Bush has adamantly resisted every effort to improve automobile fuel efficiency standards. The coup de grace came just a week before his speech with the news that businesses will now get a bigger tax break for buying SUVs and pickups. The deduction has been raised from $25,000 to $75,000 and can be claimed right away. Pay $75,000 for a Hummer, and you get to write the whole thing off.

Let us close with some final words from our president: "There's an old saying in Tennessee -- I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee -- that says: 'Fool me once, shame on -- shame on you. Fool me -- you can't get fooled again.'" n

Molly Ivins writes for Creators Syndicate and the Fort-Worth Star-Telegram.


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