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Bush, cronies making a mess of U.S.

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We found ourselves in a crowd of mainstream Americans, multigenerational, multiracial and of varying economic and political backgrounds. We had come not to praise John Ashcroft but to protest his policies.

Unfortunately, there is no shortage of policies to protest. President Bush and his neo-conservative cronies in Washington, D.C., have given a whole new meaning to the words "big government." Historically, Democrats have been identified with "big government" because they believe that government has a responsibility to its citizens to provide basic needs.

Republicans have been identified with fiscal responsibility. As each month passes under the Bush administration, both of these notions have been turned on their heads.

The fiscal irresponsibility of this administration has been well-documented and has grown from a $236 billion surplus to a $401 billion deficit that continues to rise along with thousands of unemployed. It is far more prudent to tax and spend than it is to borrow and spend.

This Congress and administration should be deeply ashamed of their finagling, which has resulted in a huge transfer of wealth to only 1 percent of our population. They should be further embarrassed by proposing legislation and rules changes designed to improve the bottom line of corporations at the expense of its employees, the environment and the other 99 percent of the population.

This administration's outrageous view of the role of government is frightening. It is trying its best to eliminate or privatize public social programs from education and health to the environment. It panders to the military-industrial complex and the WTO, weakens the judicial branch through executive fiat, legislates for special interests, all the while trying to control our freedom of thought, expression, movement and purchasing power.

Most disturbing are the Patriot Act and the ensuing executive orders that have been issued from the executive branch. There has been an outright assault by the White House on the legislative and judicial branches of government. These branches exist to provide the checks and balances so necessary to a functioning democracy.

Not only have more than an estimated 1,000 individuals been rounded up and detained far longer than the law allows, many of these individuals are American citizens. So far, these gross violations of our Constitution have resulted in only one terror-related conviction for planning to commit a crime that had not yet occurred and may never have occurred.

In the aftermath of 9/11, it is not surprising that Congress rushed to pass this largely unread legislation. In the light of day, it is time to reconsider that decision. The Patriot Act must be allowed to expire, especially since a lack of communication between intelligence agencies has been cited as the primary breakdown that led to 9/11.

Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Ashcroft, Wolfowitz and Perle have run our economy, credibility and Constitution into the ground while the Republican-controlled Congress has cheered from the sidelines. In 2004, why not vote out "big government" and fiscal irresponsibility and put a Democrat back in the White House? How could they possibly make it any worse?

Laura Bonham is the co-chair of the Utah Democratic Progressive Caucus.