The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, August 18, 2000

With George W., 'compassion' is in the eye of the beholder

By The Building Tradesman

A compassionate conservative? The record of George Bush during his years as Texas governor indicates otherwise.

Chosen earlier this month at the Republican National Convention as that party's candidate for U.S. president, Bush's record in office indicates that he "is more a corporate conservative than a compassionate one," said Wall Street Journal opinion writer Albert R. Hunt.

Bush has built his campaign around themes like health care reform, tax cuts, private retirement accounts to supplement Social Security, and no-excuses educational reform.

For the six years Bush has been in office as Texas governor, there's substantial public record of how his policies, votes and viewpoints have affected the nation's second largest state. Following is his record on a few of the bigger issues:

Health care: "On health care, Texas looks more like a Third-World backwater than the progressive, compassionate, 21st century workplace heralded at the convention," wrote Hunt. "It has the second-highest percentage of kids without health insurance. Although flush with money from the tobacco settlement, George W. Bush incredibly sought to deny coverage of the low-income Children's Health Insurance Program to children of families making between $25,000 and $35,000 a year."

Bush's plans for health care include overhauling Medicare to allow people a choice of health care plans, increasing the size and availability of medical savings accounts and expanding coverage for low-income families. He has not indicated how he will pay for those ideas, especially taking his proposed tax cuts into account.

Campaign finance reform: "When it comes to looking out for his affluent constituents, Mr. Bush has never displayed such stinginess," (as he did with the Children's Health Insurance Program), Hunt said. "Like most states, Texas has enjoyed huge surpluses during these boom times. Considerably more money has gone to affluent contributors than to poor children left behind."

Coincidentally, Bush's choice for vice president, oil-industry executive Dick Cheney, "give the GOP an 'all-Big-Oil ticket,' " Newsweek said.

Education: In the first in a series of nationwide town hall meetings June 29, union workers told how Texas school children have lost millions of dollars in state aid because of Gov. Bush's plan for private school vouchers.

Public employees say they have struggled to win small pay raises, only to see them eaten away by rising health care costs - while Bush carries on his drive to privatize public services.

"Don't be fooled. I am here to tell you that George W. Bush is no friend of education, no friend of school children and no friend of working families," said San Antonio eighth-grade teacher and AFT Local 1356 member Minnie Sanchez.

Sanchez said one of Texas' poorest school districts lost millions in state aid because of a privately funded voucher scheme blessed by Bush. The district lost some 700 students, and because Texas school funding is based on the number of students per district, the impact was disastrous.

"It was almost $4 million - money that could have been used to modernize schools, reduce class size, hire more teachers," Sanchez said.

Taxes: George W. has a lot of tax cuts in mind, including doubling the child tax credit to $1,000, ending the so-called marriage penalty and cutting the highest middle-class tax rate from 28 to 25 percent.

"Bush's plan also includes goodies for wealthy voters," Newsweek said, "he'd slash the highest tax rate to 33 percent instead of the current 39.6 percent and eliminate the estate tax so Uncle Sam could no longer take a bite out of an inheritance. Critics say the plan would cause deficits and benefit the rich over the poor."

Wage standards - Bush believes that the Davis Bacon Act and state prevailing wage laws are wasteful. His campaign stated, "Davis-Bacon laws artificially inflate the cost of federal construction projects." (The Commercial Appeal, April 20, 2000).

The average manufacturing wage in Texas in 1998 was almost 10 percent below the U.S. average. In Dallas, union laborers earn an average $7.58 per hour, according to the U.s. Department of Labor.

Bush opposes a national minimum wage law, and Texas workers employed in agriculture or domestic service are covered by the state minimum wage law - which pays $3.35 an hour rather than $5.15 per hour.

"George W. Bush is the most dangerous politician I've ever met, and when you look at my gray hair and wrinkles, you all know I've met a lot of them," said Texas AFL-CIO President Joe Gunn.

Things are bigger in Texas, including social problems

The State of Texas, which George W. Bush has governed for two terms, has the following numbers among the 50 states to show for the work of its chief:

  • 50th in spending for teachers' salaries
  • 49th in spending on the environment
  • 48th in per-capita spending on public health
  • 47th in delivery of social services
  • 41st in per-capita spending on public education
  • 5th in percentage of population living in poverty
  • 1st in air and water pollution
  • 1st in percentage of poor working parents without insurance
  • 2nd in percentage of children without health insurance