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Sins of Omission

What is shoved under the rug seldom stays there.

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Sins of omission are so often so much more grave than our sins of commission. And we rarely pay for them in a timely fashion -- it is usually further on down the road that the gravity of whatever it was we should have done and failed to do becomes apparent. But the Bush administration seems to be an exception to this rule. The consequences of what the Bushies resolutely ignore, shove under the rug, or divert our attention from seems to come back to bite them with atypical speed.

I suspect the Bushies' gravest sin of omission does in fact follow the usual rule. It's a pretty good bet future historians and future citizens will curse this administration for ignoring the growing avalanche of evidence about global warming. But operating on the splendid principle that sufficient-unto-the-day-is-the-evil-thereof, Bush & Co. have decided to put off even thinking about or studying that rather menacing problem in favor of more important stuff, like Star Wars.

On the it-won't-go-away-if-you-ignore-it front, we find Osama bin Laden, the nation's health-care system, the Israeli-Palestinian problem, regulation of the financial industry, the environment, Afghanistan, dependence on foreign oil, dependence on fossil fuels, and a whole host more. In fairness, once you start in on any list of sins of omission, it can rapidly become endless.

Trying to determine historical causation is also notoriously tricky. Right now, the administration is stuck in a no-win fight with the commission investigating September 11th. The commission wants access to the president's daily intelligence briefings pre-9/11 for the obvious purpose of figuring what did he know and when did he know it. The Bushies resisted for months and then opened their marble hearts and generously offered a few commission members access to the briefings -- after they have been edited however the administration sees fit. I'm not that interested in the issue, but this is the kind of behavior that used to send the Clinton-haters screaming and howling into the topmost branches.

Ignoring bin Laden in favor of Saddam Hussein may yet turn out to be an even worse mistake than it now appears -- and the evidence accumulates that the decision to go after Saddam pre-dated September 11th.

On the health-care front, those warring parties -- the House Republicans and the Senate Republicans -- seem to have achieved a compromise on a truly bad bill about prescription drugs for seniors. Sen. Ted Kennedy, who has been working toward this end for decades, simply refuses to support the thing, it stinks so bad.

But while we are arguing about a weak and perhaps fatally flawed drug benefit for seniors, what are we missing? "For Middle Class, Health Insurance Becomes a Luxury," reads the headline in The New York Times. Medicare covers one in eight Americans -- but meanwhile, the other seven are in increasing peril.

One very real consequence is major public-health problems in the offing. For example, new, super-aggressive forms of tuberculosis already exist on the Texas border. How fast do you think they're going to move north when people can't afford to go to a doctor?

Here's the Bush administration hot to sell us on a new program that is supposed to make us want to increase our savings, weigh down our piggy banks, and beef up our 401(k)s. As usual with this administration, what they want to do mostly benefits the rich. But even setting that aside, don't you think it would be helpful if they started worrying about the fact that our 401(k)s are already being looted by the financial industry? Maybe they could even consider doing something about it -- such a concept.

It's not accurate to accuse this administration of ignoring the environment: It has an active program designed to undermine it. The media keep reporting this as though it were a political fight -- the Bush administration against the environmentalists. Actually, the two sides are those who make money by polluting the air, the water, and the earth and the people whose health is damaged by the results, especially children.

About 30 years ago, a citizen named E.W. Robinson was up for a hearing before the Texas Senate on his appointment to the laughably named Air Pollution Control Board. Robinson assured the senators he was against pollution that would be very harmful to people's health. Lead poisoning and such would be unacceptable, he allowed. What about pollution that causes asthma and allergies, he was asked. Well, you don't die of it, he replied with an air of great reasonableness.

We seem to be back to the Robinson standard: It doesn't count if people die of it sometime in the future. n

Molly Ivins writes for Creators Syndicate and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

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