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.