Many Americans are eagerly anticipating
strong economic growth during the 2004 fiscal year, despite recent
data that paint a less optimistic picture. As the holiday season
ends, economic reports from the shopping season suggest that an
economic recovery may not be as robust as predicted. For example,
last month’s Index of Consumer Sentiment fell from 93.7 to
92.6, marking the first fall in three months. However, recent
surveys suggest that consumers expect a 5.5-percent decline in
unemployment and a 4.5 percent increase in GDP by mid-2004. The
ability of the economy to make a successful rebound depends largely
on Bush’s handling of the economic situation. Unfortunately,
the 2005 budget plan and recent labor policy changes do not benefit
most Americans.

Kate Green

According to the White House, the purpose of the 2005 Bush
budget is to rein in domestic spending programs to “trim the
programs without damaging any essential services.”
Bush’s plan, however, causes serious harm to many crucial
programs. Under the White House proposal, many veterans will see
their healthcare costs increase, as prescription premiums are
expected to double. Spending for biomedical research is expected to
slow and some job training and employment programs will be
eliminated.

Equally disturbing is the new overtime pay policy coming from
the White House and Labor Department. While the new plan makes 1.3
million workers newly eligible for premium overtime pay, the
administration undercut its effectiveness by creating a series of
loopholes that allow companies to avoid paying overtime.
Ultimately, it seems the new regulations benefit business far more
than the workers. Indeed, the regulations were only proposed after
companies complained that employees were filing too many lawsuits
claiming that they had been denied overtime pay.

Even though the economy seems poised to make a rebound, dangers
still lurk. At this time, it is vital that positive leadership
emanates from the White House. The Bush administration’s
priorities are heavily weighted against typical American workers.
These constituencies may seem to lack political influence now, but
come election time, they should remember these policies when
deciding how to vote.

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