Bill Gave Us Peace and Prosperity
                     By Denis Hamill     www.nydailynews.com

                   Nine years ago, about one of four people I
                   met in Brooklyn were either getting laid off from
                   a job or were already out of work.

                   The biggest talk on everyone's mind in the
                   saloons, diners, launderettes and unemployment offices of the city
                   was work. If you grew up and lived in the working-class
                   neighborhoods of the outer boroughs, you were usually defined by
                   your work status.

                   Terms like "downsizing" were entering the American lexicon.
                   Full-time jobs were being broken into two part-time jobs so
                   employers wouldn't have to pay benefits. My first column for the
                   Daily News in 1992 was about the subject of work, and what it
                   meant to average New Yorkers.

                   "How ya doin'?" was the working class refrain. "Workin' or wha'?"

                   After 12 years of union-busting and voodoo Reaganomics, a lot of
                   people were hurting. We were still reading George Bush's lips. But
                   only those fortunate enough to have a j-o-b were paying those new
                   taxes he swore we would never have to pay. The rest were signing
                   for unemployment checks. Unemployment reached 7.4% and
                   inflation was at 4.2%. The Dow Jones was as low as 2,470.

                   Everywhere I went, people worried about work. And health
                   insurance, rent, tuition and Christmas. Times were terrible. Unless
                   you were a Texas oilman, like George Bush, life in America stunk.

                   That year, 1991, also was the year Bush did NOT win the Gulf
                   War. I never thought we should have shed a single drop of American
                   blood for oil, but Bush needed something to improve his approval ratings.
                   And if the war was going to be about oil, it was at least close to his heart.

                   So Bush ordered up a live TV war.

                   Some 800,000 troops from 30 nations went after 545,000 entrenched
                   Iraqis. And after 148 Americans were killed in battle, Kuwait was
                   "liberated" when Iraq surrendered after 100 hours. But Bush decided not
                   to let Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf go into Baghdad and finish the dirty job.

                   And so today, Saddam Hussein is still around, smirking, making an
                   A-bomb for laughs. Hoping to use it as leverage against another
                   oilman named George W. Bush, if we're silly enough to elect him.

                   That year, everybody watched the Gulf War on TV. It was all there
                   was to do, since so many people were out of work, sitting on sofas
                   in places like Bay Ridge and Ozone Park, tuned to CNN, waiting for
                   the mailman to deliver the unemployment check. Which was mostly
                   worthless in the high inflation economy.

                   At George Bush's side through all of this was a guy named Dick
                   Cheney, his ultra-conservative oilman defense secretary, who this
                   week was named by George W. Bush as his vice presidential
                   running mate. Which was really Bush's father, with his hand up the
                   back of Junior's shirt, saying "read my lips" all over again.

                   But, in 1991, after being distracted by that live reality-TV war,
                   rooting for the home team, waving American flags, belching
                   jingoistic anti-Arab slogans, and rallying around Bush for a
                   half-hour, America soon went back to being out-of-work. And
                   scrounging to make ends meet.

                   When the presidential election rolled around the next year, the slogan
                   of the Democratic Party from sea to polluted sea was
                   "It's the economy, stupid."

                   And a guy from Arkansas named Bill Clinton, whom most of us
                   never heard of, was elected. A lot of those votes came from
                   working-class people in places like Norwood, Red Hook and
                   Elmhurst who were tired of signing their names on unemployment
                   checks and praying that their kids wouldn't get sick at a time in their
                   lives when they had no health coverage.

                   After four years of Clinton/Gore, the Dow went up to 6,500,
                   unemployment dropped to 5.4% and inflation fell to 3.3%. Clinton
                   was reelected. After eight years of Clinton/Gore, there was a very
                   dumb scandal that didn't make anyone I know miss a day of work.
                   But the Dow is now over 10,000, unemployment is 4%, and inflation
                   is 2.5%. Crime is also down nationwide in double digits.

                   And most importantly, no Americans are coming home in
                   body bags to help boost anyone's approval ratings.

                   Many of the people who I met cashing unemployment checks nine years
                   ago in Brooklyn, are now gainfully employed, new homeowners, bragging
                   about their 401-K plans and playing the stock market.

                   Meanwhile, George W. Bush Jr. teams up with the same busted
                   valise who helped us NOT win the Gulf War, another anti-choice,
                   pro-gun Texas oilman, for a rerun of his father's vision of America.
                   Their slogan might be "Read Our Lips No More Jobs."

                   If Al Gore really wants to win all he needs is a simple slogan:
                   "Are you better off than you were eight years ago?"

                   Because, in places like the working-class neighborhoods of the outer
                   boroughs, in this election, it's still the economy, stupid.
 

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