Less than one day after President Bush addressed the nation to detail
perhaps the country’s largest reconstruction effort in history, White
House officials are explaining what he really meant.
Administration officials have ‘clarified’ that their Katrina
recovery program will not interrupt an agenda of robust tax breaks for the wealthiest
American families and corporations.
Katrina recovery efforts should not be funded out of spending cuts in Medicaid,
education, and veteran's programs, but by repealing tax cuts for the wealthiest
individuals and corporations in the country.
This week the President vowed that the government would provide, "whatever
it costs" to rebuild the Gulf region, but it is now clear that the cost
of the reconstruction efforts will be borne by poor Americans who depend the
most on government housing programs, after school programs and Medicaid that
have already been starved by Bush Administration cuts.
President Bush cannot credibly preach that he will eradicate a ‘legacy
of poverty’ while his Republican allies work to cut $10 billion from Medicaid,
a health program serving the country’s poorest families. The President
has pledged to cut unnecessary spending, but he has ruled out the option of
amending his tax breaks for the rich, which will cost the government trillions
of dollars over the next several years.
The President is using the victims of Katrina as guinea pigs in a
conservative policy experiment instead of turning to proven, effective programs
of disaster relief. The devastation of the Gulf Coast is a national
tragedy but Republicans consider it a golden opportunity to further a radical
policy wish list by ignoring environmental laws and fair labor practices while
lining the pockets of big government contractors. The needs of the families
of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama must drive the reconstruction efforts,
not the desires of ideological zealots and corporate contractors. We need oversight
of government contracts not overcharges from companies like Halliburton that
are rushing to take advantage of this national crisis.
Katrina’s destruction has shined a spotlight on the deep-rooted problem
of American poverty. As the President commits to rebuild homes and restore hearts
in the region, I hope he will reassess his agenda which has been leaving the
37 million Americans in poverty behind.