By MARC McDONALD
No doubt, George W. Bush's handlers must have looked on with envy when Sen. Jim Webb spoke eloquently about America's increasing economic polarization in his Democratic rebuttal to Bush's tepid SOTU address.
Clearly, Webb's well-received speech struck a chord among millions of working class Americans, who are working harder than ever these days for increasingly less and less pay.
One of the key tactics in politics is to never let your opponents define an issue (and to get behind the eight-ball on any issue that strikes a chord among the people).
But when Bush's team had him speak out today about excessive CEO pay, it smacked of extreme desperation from an increasingly out-of-touch White House. Bush speaking out against spiraling CEO compensation is like Charles Manson speaking out against violence.
Bush has presided over six years of the most vicious screw-the-working-class policies in the history of this nation. Only the Ronald Reagan years would come close to the lousy deal that working people have faced under Bush.
Americans are working longer hours than ever these days. Median workers' pay continues to stagnate or decline. Worker benefits are vanishing. Unions are under assault from six years of hostile anti-labor legislation under Bush.
The only people who've benefited under Bush have been wealthy stockholders and CEOs, whose pay has soared into the stratosphere (even as their taxes have plunged under Bush).
Bush's criticism of CEO pay was, quite frankly, bizarre. For a quarter of a century, Republicans have been trying to convince America that unbridled, brutal, dog-eat-dog capitalism is the way to go. Under this logic, there is really no such thing as "excessive" CEO pay.
Surprisingly large number of Americans initially bought into this bullsh*t when Reagan first proposed it. But 25 years later, ordinary Americans have woken up to the reality that only the wealthiest 5 percent of Americans are benefiting from this concept, while the rest of us are falling further behind every year.
Webb is one of a growing number of Democratic leaders who have spoken eloquently about America's economic polarization. He's clearly struck a nerve among America's shafted working class.
But for Bush to try to pick up the ball and run with it on this issue is laughable. Even right-wing talk radio and the fascist nutcase right-wing blogosphere must be scratching their heads in puzzlement.
A decade ago, the NeoCon movement was brash, bold and arrogant. Its members were cocky and confident that they could sell ordinary voters on their vision of a new America, completely deregulated and privatized, with no cumbersome unions or labor laws (or anything else to put on crimp on corporate profits).
Nothing has demonstrated the complete and utter failure of the NeoCon movement than its own crown prince, Bush, taking aim at excessive CEO pay. (Or at least pretending to: no one in his right mind really thinks that Bush cares about how much CEOs pull down---or that he will take any action whatsoever to curb CEO pay).
Americans have finally woken up to the concept that if you let corporations run amok, with no regulation, they will screw everything in sight (from the environment to their workers) and the only people who'll benefit are CEOs and rich stockholders.
In fact, Americans are increasingly becoming aware that the Bush economic model goes beyond even screwing workers and outsourcing their jobs, even as taxes on the wealthy plummet.
The worst part of Bush's economy actually isn't economic polarization, as bad as that is. The worst part is that Bush has conspired to turn America's economy into nothing less than socialism for the rich. Halliburton is just the tip of the iceberg. In today's America, corporations pocket some $300 billion in corporate welfare annually (even as 60 percent of corporations pay zero taxes these days).
In fact, the tax burden in the U.S. over the years has been shifting from corporations to individual taxpayers. In the 1950s, corporations paid around half of all taxes. Today, their burden has shrunk to less than 10 percent (as has been documented by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists Donald Barlett and James Steele).
So after six years of screwing the working class and taking our money and handing it over to his wealthy friends and contributors, Bush is now suddenly styling himself as a populist "man of the people"? For an administration that has long been noted for lies, deceit and corruption, this has got to be Bush's most cynical move yet.