Friday, November 2, 2007


From the Archives

(September 2005) Cindy Sheehan points out on that over 200 innocent Iraqis have been killed this week alone. Maybe GWB should ask his mother to make a statement about those murdered Iraqis after her next self-improvement workshop. Let me guess. Babs says They were underprivileged anyway.

Meanwhile, here I sit at my keyboard typing away and there I will sit in my safe automobile later, singing along to the radio as my tax dollars blow off another Iraqi's legs. It's all so clean, so sanitized, almost as if the entire country is one great big gated resort community at Epcot where the real-life consequences of our policies happen behind a sanitized curtain.

It amazes me that the same president who suspends federal wage laws for workers who are rebuilding the Gulf Coast has the gall to authorize another massive supplemental spending bill that will give more no-bid contracts to his incompetent chums at Halliburton and Bechtel, to donors who have done nothing but bungle Iraqi reconstruction at our expense!

Makes you wonder how Al Gore, a democrat familiar with the Tennessee Valley Authority model, would have handled the hurricane and those contracts, doesn’t it?

William Greider notes in The Nation that
in the totality of the Gulf Coast destruction, the economy and the society have been collapsed. As New Dealers understood, you cannot fix one without fixing the other. And only the federal government has the resources and authority to lead such a complex undertaking.

A new New Deal, that's what he's talking about.

Joshua Holland points out stark differences in how the two parties (shhh! don't tell Nader) are responding to the Hurricane Katrina debacle in Alternet's "It's the Governance, Stupid!"

Illinois Democrats Rahm Emmanuel and Barack Obama (please elect this man president) are pushing legislation to get tax refunds to hurricane victims faster but Republicans Jon Kyl (AZ) and Jeff Sessions (AL) are trying to find a dead person with enough money to pay estate taxes so they can push another repeal of what the GOPers insist on calling "the death tax."

I guess it hasn't occurred to the Republicans that few southerners—few people outside their circles, in fact—are wealthy enough to pay that tax to begin with.

Jim McDermott (D-WA) is working to extend benefits to children in need of relief even as the obscene Rick Santorum (R-PA) works to extend benefits to his donors.

Santorum got busy in the days following the disaster by advancing legislation that would keep the National Weather Service out of the business of predicting the next deadly storm, Holland notes.

And conservative legislators are pushing an amendment to cut the non-defense budget by 2.5 percent, even as Democrats propose "comprehensive, long-term aid to the stricken areas for housing, keeping kids in school and healthcare."

Meanwhile, the New York Times reports that GOP leaders and White Housers see opportunities in Hurricane Katrina to push controversial legislation "giving students vouchers to pay for private schools, paying churches to help with temporary housing and scaling back business regulation."

Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK)—who would no doubt insist that global warming couldn't possibly have raised water temperatures and thus increased Katrina's strength or that all those disappeared barrier swamps could have protected New Orleans from such devastation—has actually written a bill that allows the EPA to suspend environmental regulations during Gulf Coast reconstruction, giving the oil industry a big break. I can just see it: come on down and enjoy the newest New Orleans cuisine: oil-glazed alligator.

Ted Kennedy (D-MA), bless his heart, wants to create a Gulf Coast Redevelopment Authority based on FDR's Tennessee Valley Authority model.

(See, I did eventually loop back to Al Gore.)

William Greider notes that other

bold Democrats are doing what they haven't dared to do for many years, even decades: They are invoking their New Deal legacy and applying its liberal operating assumptions to the present crisis.

Former Senator John Edwards proposes a vast new jobs program, patterned after the New Deal's Works Progress Administration (WPA) and Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), in which the displaced and the poor are hired at living wages to clean up and rebuild their devastated communities. In the week after Katrina, Representatives Dennis Kucinich and Stephanie Tubbs Jones swiftly rounded up 88 House co-sponsors, including some from Mississippi and Louisiana, for a similar initiative.

As the dimensions of this challenge become clearer, reformers will discover other New Deal models they can emulate and adapt to present circumstances. For instance, in the 1930s Roosevelt's Reconstruction Finance Corporation was a central player in rebuilding the industrial economy, because it acted like a public-spirited investment banker empowered to channel startup capital to collapsed companies, provide temporary protection from creditors and impose equitable terms on how the private firms relate to social priorities. This time cities and schools need similar help.

Neither local school systems nor small-business employers can recover unless their communities have a large, reliable base of wage incomes—that is, government-financed jobs to sustain customers and taxpayers. You can't rebuild homes without tools and materials or temporary relief from mortgage defaults. You can't reopen schools if their tax base is gone. You can't prevent poor people from sliding back into desperate conditions unless government creates ladders of upward mobility. Recognizing such social-economic connections was the essence of New Deal innovation. Serious politicians need to jump-start their imaginations. This born-again New Deal spirit isn't backward-looking but instead can seize the opportunity to address grave issues—such as the myriad ecological dangers spawned by our hydrocarbon economy—that status-quo politics neglects, like the New Orleans levees.

And here's something worth noting:

The catastrophe, as many seem to grasp, is one of those big moments that jolt public consciousness and alter the course of national history. I would go further and describe it as an exclamation point that marks a dramatic breakdown for the reigning right-wing orthodoxy, the beginning of its retreat and eventual demise. This by no means insures the restoration of progressive alternatives, but events have at least reopened the argument conservatives thought they had won. A profound political question is suddenly on the table: Must the country continue to give precedence to private financial gain over human lives and public values?

That's a question worth repeating.

Ironically, Republicans rose to prominence by promising to liberate the citizenry from the government's intrusive powers, but now intrude on our private lives legally thanks to their fear-of-terrorism legislation. They have certainly succeeded in liberating us from public assistance, eh? And the sad reality is that the GOP leadership couldn't even intrude enough into our lives to move available water, medicine, food, and security to a place where the citizens are in harm's way.

Even Newt Gingrich is worried about his party right now and warning his co-conspirators that they'd better change their tune or face big losses. (Of course, the Newt is also urging the president to turn the Gulf Coast into a humongous tax-free zone for subsidized businesses and, like Sen. Inhofe, wants to relieve the oil industry [currently being sued for price gauging the citizenry] of those meddlesome environmental regulations that at least attempt to keep us healthy and safe.)

It seems obvious that GOP leadership is concerned not with protecting the average citizen, but with protecting wealthy donors—those 20 percenters who use over half of our goddamn resources that we can't get to flooded people in the richest country in the world.

Holland says it best: these acts are the very essence of poor governance: placing cronyism and ideology over the needs of devastated communities.

Maybe, just maybe, enough citizens will ask cui bono (who gains?) now, while the Republicans stew in their own fetid juices.

What’s that Molly Ivins line? Our legislators are a bunch of rubber-nosed woodpeckers in a petrified forest—and the only saving grace in this horrible mess is that the truth has finally caught up with the assholes/the truth has come home to roost.

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