Media Follies
Blue Dog Press
June 19th 2001
By Michael I. Niman

The Nightmare is Real

Imagine if a top Bush administration official did the unthinkable, moving the administration’s pro-corporate agenda of strip-mining the American economy to center stage by calling for the total elimination of corporate taxes.  Now let’s take it one step further and imagine the same official wanted to make-up the shortfall in revenues by shifting the tax burden to individual tax payers, raising income taxes on working Americans. 

And now for a doomsday twist, let’s imagine this same Rasputin called for eliminating Social Security and Medicare, in effect eliminating the final threads of our social safety net, and relegating poor senior citizen’s to a destitute life without health care or a marginal income for food or shelter.  And let’s add a bit of a sadistic kleptocratic twist and imagine this feller’s spokesperson clarified his statement, insinuating that even those senior citizens who paid into the social security system for the last 50 years would also be denied their duly paid for benefits and, in effect, could be out on the street. 

Eliminate Medicare, Social Security and Corporate Taxes

This nightmare is real.  There’s no waking up from it.  The official is George W. Bush’s Treasury Secretary, Paul O’Neill.  He made these comments one month ago in an interview with Amity Shlaes of the British Financial Times (published 5/19 & 5/22 available on-line at

According to The Financial Times, O’Neill “Absolutely” backs “the abolition of taxes on corporations.”  All Taxes.  This includes income taxes and capitol gains taxes.  O’Neil also called for the elimination of Social Security and Medicare, explaining, “Able-bodied adults should save enough on a regular basis so that they can provide for their own retirement and, for that mater, health and medical needs.  For O’Neill, who earned (actually “accumulated” is probably a more accurate word) approximately $61 million last year, saving for one’s own retirement and health care is a realistic possibility.  For a middle-class family, however, a few weeks in a hospital or nursing home could wipe out a financially secure family’s life savings.  For people working in the Wal-Mart sector, there are no life savings, and hence, no health care.

From Nursing Homes to Missiles

Under the O’Neill plan, when these savings are exhausted, without Medicare, sick senior citizens, destitute from hospital or nursing home bills, would be left without any way to pay for their continued care.  With this scenario in place, images of frail sick seniors wheeled out to the curb after being evicted from their nursing homes would be a haunting reality on a new deranged American cultural landscape.  The Financial Times reports that, according to O’Neill, who claims the president is working with him on “fixing this [tax] mess,” government’s primarily responsibility is national defense.  “All other outlays [of federal money] need review.”

 O’Neill also told The Financial Times that the U.S. needs to further challenge the concept of progressive taxation.  Bush’s current “tax cut” is one such attack on progressive taxation, shifting the tax burden from the rich to the poor and middle class.  Under the Bush plan, recently passed by Congress, O’Neill will receive a tax cut of well over $3 million for the year 2000.  Remember O’Neill during the coming months when you open your tax rebate envelope – that is assuming you are not among the 21% of Americans, who according to The Nation, won’t be receiving any tax rebate.  And also think of senior citizens without health care or housing as the Bush administration debates further tax redistribution.

O’Neill also supports the elimination of the estate tax, an inheritance tax dubbed by Bush spin-meisters as the “death tax,” which in reality only will affect the richest 1% of the US population.  Under this plan, O’Neill’s heirs would save, according to a study by The Nation, between $30 and $75 million.

The Media Blackout

Are you surprised to hear that George W. Bush’s Treasury Secretary, while claiming support from the president, unveiled the most radical and far reaching restructuring of the US government and hence society, possibly in our nations history?  You should be.  Neither The Buffalo News, nor ABC, CBS or NBC news, nor their local affiliates, nor The New York Times or The Washington Post, has yet to cover the story, despite the fact that a month has gone by since O’Neill unveiled his reactionary plan.  To date, according to Fairness and Accuracy in Media, The New York Daily News and New York’s Newsday are among the only mainstream newspapers in the US to cover the story.

Newsday’s Paul Vitello had trouble believing O’Neill’s comments were real, despite the fact that The Financial Times has a solid reputation for accurate, albeit extremely conservative, reporting.  He contacted a spokesperson in O’Neill’s office and asked, did O’Neill actually “mean to say that ExxonMobile and Time Warner should be treated as we treat the church – as tax exempt?”  He also asked (5/24/01) if the Secretary meant to say that people who paid into the social security system all of their lives would no longer be entitled to benefits under his plan.  O’Neill’s spokesperson said, “Yes, that is our position.”

For Senator Jeffords of Vermont, O’Neill’s remarks probably factored strongly in his disassociating himself from the pack of radicals now controlling the Republican Party in Washington.  O’Neill’s statements are an anathema to the American psyche and sense of social justice.  Yet, they betray the criminal intent of the Bush administration to transform the US into a feudal society.  If average Republicans learned what their party was really up to in Washington, many would consider joining Jeffords in denouncing the Bush regime and bolting from the party.  Without any media attention, however, most are ignorant about the direction the Bush White House wants to take the country.

The reasons why the corporate media is blacking out this story about eliminating corporate taxes are obvious.  Such a blackout, however, undermines our democracy.  Write to The Buffalo News and demand they cover this story. 


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