Despite thousands in Louisiana having lost their homes, jobs, and life's possessions, the Wall Street Journal reports today that HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt said that extending health care benefits to hurricane victims is "unnecessary." The public is expected to accept this rationale as an explanation for why, as CBS News reports, the White House is "blocking a bipartisan $9 billion health care package for hundreds of thousands of evacuees" from the hurricanes.
Shocked at the Bush administration's indifference? Don't be - over the last few weeks, the Republican Party has made clear what its priorities really are in these very terms. Just take a look at what we now know the GOP thinks is "necessary" and "unnecessary" in the wake of the worst natural disaster in American history:
"NECESSARY" FOR THE GOP AFTER KATRINA - NEW TAX CUTS FOR THE WEALTHY: The Financial Times reports that the White House is still saying that President Bush's "tax cuts still need to be made permanent" even with skyrocketing costs for Gulf Coast reconstruction and the Iraq War. Similarly, the Associated Press reports that "Hurricane Katrina means long-planned Republican tax cuts will be delayed but not abandoned." Then-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) said, "We found that there's plenty of time to do everything that we want to do."
"UNNECESSARY" FOR THE GOP AFTER KATRINA - STOPPING $336 BILLION IN NEW TAX CUTS FOR MILLIONAIRES: In his first nationally-televised interview after Hurricane Katrina - with Americans literally still drowning, starving and fighting for their lives in New Orleans - President Bush reiterated to ABC's Diane Sawyer that he would refuse to rescind his previous tax cuts. Over the next five years, the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans - those who make an average of $1 million a year - are slated to receive $336 billion in new Bush tax cuts.
"NECESSARY" FOR THE GOP AFTER KATRINA - CUTTING PROGRAMS THAT SERVE MILITARY FAMILIES: The Navy Times reports that congressional Republicans are pushing a post-Katrina proposal that would force troops to "accept reduced health care benefits for their families" and closures of elementary and secondary schools that serve children of soldiers.
"UNNECESSARY" FOR THE GOP AFTER KATRINA - STOPPING $200 BILLION IN NEW TAX CUTS FOR MILLIONAIRES: The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reports that even after Hurricane Katrina, the GOP is poised to permit two new tax provisions to pass that would cost roughly $200 billion. These provisions primarily benefit the wealthy. As CBPP notes, "The highly respected Urban Institute-Brookings Institution Tax Policy Center reports that households with incomes of more than $1 million a year — the richest 0.2 percent of the U.S. population — already are receiving tax cuts averaging $103,000 this year, before these two new tax cuts take effect. The Tax Policy Center finds that the two tax-cut measures in question will give these millionaires nearly another $20,000 a year in tax cuts, when the measures are phased in fully."
"NECESSARY" FOR THE GOP AFTER KATRINA - INCREASING AUDITS OF THE WORKING POOR: The Washington Post reports that congressional Republicans are pushing a post-Katrina proposal to increase audits of those working poor who receive the Earned Income Tax Credit. EITC tax fraud is estimated to account for just 3 percent of the billions in missing tax revenue each year.
"UNNECESSARY" FOR THE GOP AFTER KATRINA - CRACKING DOWN ON WEALTHY AND CORPORATE TAX CHEATS: Even as they push to increase audits of the poor, the Washington Monthly's Kevin Drum notes the GOP "doesn't seem to think that increasing the IRS budget to go after that other $250 billion is worth thinking about." That's right - none of the Republicans' proposals include any discussion of recovering revenue for Gulf Coast reconstruction by cracking down on corporate and wealthy tax cheats.
"NECESSARY" FOR THE GOP AFTER KATRINA - SKEWING TAX RELIEF FOR VICTIMS TO THE WEALTHY: The Associated Press reported that when Congress recently passed a package of tax breaks for hurricane victims, many provisions "would do more for wealthier taxpayers." For instance, the Washington Post reported that "national gambling companies would be granted access to millions of dollars in tax breaks" under President Bush's proposal.
"UNNECESSARY" FOR THE GOP AFTER KATRINA - INDEPENDENT COMMISSION TO FIND OUT WHAT WENT WRONG: AP reported two weeks ago that Senate Republicans scuttled Democratic efforts "to establish an independent, bipartisan panel patterned after the 9/11 Commission to investigate what went wrong with federal, state and local governments' response to Hurricane Katrina."
"NECESSSARY" FOR THE GOP AFTER KATRINA - MORE OIL INDUSTRY TAX BREAKS: The Hill Newspaper reports that congressional Republicans are planning to use the Gulf Coast disaster as an excuse to push another energy bill, chock full of tax breaks and regulatory waivers for the oil industry.
"UNNECESSARY" FOR THE GOP AFTER KATRINA - CRACKING DOWN ON OIL INDUSTRY PROFITEERING: So far, congressional Republicans and the White House have rejected Democratic calls to institute a windfall profits tax on the oil industry profiteers who are using Katrina to bilk consumers. Polls show the public strongly supports a windfall profits tax.
"NECESSARY" FOR THE GOP AFTER KATRINA - LOWERING WORKERS' WAGES: Immediately after Hurricane Katrina, President Bush signed an executive order suspending the Davis-Bacon law in the Gulf Coast. The law forces federal contractors to pay their workers the prevailing wages in a given area. Now, contractors, who are once again receiving no-bid contracts from the Bush administration, can take billions in taxpayer cash while lowering workers' wages.
"UNNECESSARY" FOR THE GOP AFTER KATRINA - TAKING FEMA DIRECTOR OFF THE FEDERAL PAYROLL: CNN this week reported that FEMA official Mike Brown, who supposedly left the government after his mishandling of the Katrina aftermath, is still "being paid as a consultant to help FEMA assess what went wrong in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina."
What more can you really say? The GOP has made clear where it stands on most of the major issues facing this country. It is up to us to simply let Americans know how far out of the mainstream these right-wing zealots have gone. That shouldn't be too hard - as you can see here, the story really tells itself.