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Wednesday, Sept. 10, 2008 12:57 am

Professor Bush’s economic nostrum

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Working families across our land are struggling.

To help us understand how it came to this, let's reflect on the profound insight of that eminent economic theorist, George W. Bush. While campaigning for president in 2000, he explained his approach to economic policy with this theorem: "We ought to make the pie higher."

What the professor was trying to express is the old notion that by baking a larger pie, everyone can get a bigger slice.

Workers did their part, putting in longer hours, increasing output and getting more creative on the job. But the Bushites baked their pie with heaping cupfuls of anti-worker legislation, skewed tax cuts and assorted wage-busting policies. As a result, Bush has simply fattened the slice that goes to corporate profits and wealthy speculators, leaving the workaday majority of folks with even slimmer pickings than they had before.

Maybe so, say Bush and Company, but look at the 5 million new jobs created on our watch. Creating 5 million jobs in eight years is a pathetic record, not even keeping up with the 20 million new jobseekers who've entered the workforce during his tenure.

Besides, the issue is not jobs. Think about it: Even slaves had jobs. You could ask a waitress at a cafe or bar in your town if she's aware that Bush created 5 million new jobs, and she'll say, "Yeah, I know, I have three of them."

The issue is wages and middle-class income. That's how ordinary Americans measure prosperity, and that's the main reason that 81 percent of people now say that our current leaders have sent America in the wrong direction.

This is why there's now a populist stirring from coast to coast. American workers have had all the tinkle-down economics they can stand, and they are eager for a grassroots approach of percolate-up economics, investing directly in workaday people to renew middle-class possibilities. This means such steps as restoring the right to form unions, providing universal health care, initiating a multibillion-dollar national drive to build a green economy, enlisting millions to repair our neglected infrastructure, making a real commitment to public education and returning to progressive taxation.

Jim Hightower is a national radio commentator, columnist, and author.

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