Think it's hyperbole to say that President Bush's tax cuts significantly contributed to the disaster that followed Hurricane Katrina? Think again. As meticulously documented in this new cover story for In These Times magazine, the White House repeatedly ignored desperate calls to better-fund flood/hurricane prevention infrastructure in recent years, and instead pushed more and more tax cuts for the very wealthy.
Just look at the timeline included in the article - year after year explicit decisions were made to ignore the Gulf Coast's crumbling infrastructure in order to pay for more tax breaks for the wealthy. It all begs one question: when will the tax cut madness end?
Over the next five years, the wealthiest one percent of Americans (those who make an average of $1 million a year) are slated to receive $336 billion in new tax cuts. This at the same time that America is facing record deficits, an expensive war, and a need to rebuild the Gulf Coast and America's crumbling infrastructure before another disaster strikes.
We also face a need to beef up protection of our critical economic assets. Our country narrowly escaped another hit to our energy assets when Hurricane Rita weakened - but another storm on the Gulf Coast in the future is inevitable, whether it comes next week or a few years from now. Are we going to just wait until that storm hits, or are we going to take the necessary steps to protect the oil refineries and other assets so vital to our economy? And if we do take those steps, will the Bush administration force taxpayers to pick up the tab, or will we force the profiteering energy industry to protect itself?
These questions all point to a choice: will America sit by as all these challenges go unmet and unfunded even as the wealthy get more tax breaks? Or will we demand that the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy are immediately repealed? Some Democrats and a few Republicans have stepped up and said we should look at the latter. But, as I have written before, it is going to take a full-on campaign to make repeal a reality. And as the In These Times article shows, if we don't act soon, we will once again fail to prevent another all-too-preventable disaster in the future.