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Monday, January 30, 2006

Is there anybody in Washington with guts?

The president is a miserable failure when it comes to American citizens. Perhaps, as this NYTimes editorial seems to suggest, Congress can move things forward? (my emphasis)

Louisiana in Limbo

New Orleans waits. While some heroic efforts at rebuilding are taking place, hundreds of thousands of residents have put their lives on hold until they know what the government's next steps will be, leaving the shells of their houses as placeholders. But the Bush administration has now rejected the most broadly supported plan for rebuilding communities while offering nothing to take its place.

It has been five months since Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast and for many the norm is still the claustrophobic new reality of tiny trailers and multiple families crammed into single apartments. Louisiana is trying. You can hear jackhammers pounding and buzz saws whirring on Canal Street in New Orleans. Dedicated workers endure a grinding daily commute from points north, like Baton Rouge, as they try to make the city and the region whole again. But the mission is far from complete and the challenge is beyond the scope of a broken city and a poor state.

New Orleans's crisis has little relation to anything the nation has faced in modern memory, and traditional solutions will simply not help. Homeowners — many very poor people whose houses had been in their families for generations — had varying degrees of insurance before the disaster. When entire neighborhoods are devastated, their mildewed furniture and drywall piled on the roadsides, it's impossible to tell the people who are well insured to rebuild and hope that the houses all around them will somehow be reclaimed somewhere down the line.

But the Bush administration refuses to support the plan of Representative Richard Baker, Republican of Louisiana, which would give everyone the capacity to rebuild and which had the backing of the mayor, the governor and the state's Congressional delegation. (To add insult to injury, two days after the White House shot down Mr. Baker's proposal, President Bush suggested at a news conference that Louisiana's problem was the lack of a plan.)

Instead of an alternate solution, the president's Katrina czar, Donald Powell, has offered sleight of hand, touting $6.2 billion in development money for Louisiana passed last year by Congress as if it were somehow a substitute. And in an attempt to narrow the scope of the problem, Mr. Powell says the government first needs to care for the roughly 20,000 homeowners without flood insurance who lived outside the federally designated flood plain. The real tally of destroyed or damaged homes in the region is well over 200,000. And the real need is housing for residents, whether they were renters or owners, insured or uninsured, living above the flood plain or trusting the federal government's levees to protect them from storms.

Perhaps too much emphasis has been placed on the wreckage of poor, low-lying New Orleans neighborhoods like the Lower Ninth Ward. That has sparked the unproductive, blame-the-victim debate revolving around whether people should have lived there in the first place. The Ninth Ward provides a misleading picture of the city, as do the relatively unscathed tourist areas like the French Quarter and the Garden District. Huge swaths of the city have the empty quality of a ghost town. Stores wait for residents to reopen; residents wait to see if neighbors will return. The city and surrounding parishes will not meet Mr. Powell's neat categories, when renters lived beside owners, insured next to uninsured. He is talking like an actuary when a leader is needed to rescue this region.

Now, Congress has a responsibility to follow its own lead rather than the president's. We were outraged once, shocked at the images on our television sets, at the poverty in our collective backyard and at the devastation of a great city. As the disaster threatens to become permanent, we have every reason to remain so.

Can you imagine the publicity that would result from a presidential veto if the House and Senate dared to moved the Baker Bill forward without the King's explicit approval?

Yes. My thoughts exactly.


  • At 9:26 AM, Blogger The Master said;


    Bush hasn't vetoed a single bill--no matter how poorly thought out or worthless--yet. The Baker bill would not be the first.

    The problem, as you have described, is that without leadership from the White House, the Baker bill is unlikely to ever come to a vote. Plenty of House and Senate Republicans just aren't interested or, like Dennis Hastert, think that the Federal government has done enough already.

    The Democrats are so fractured and fragmented that asking them to lead is like asking a kindergarten class to organize Mardi Gras. Right now many of the Senate Democrat's so-called leaders are all wrapped up in trying to put together a filibuster of the Alito Supreme Court nomination. This despite over 60 senators having either declared support for him or having declared that they will NOT support a filibuster. Madness.

    It's a good thing that the NYT has taken an interest in this massive failure of leadership. NYT editorials may be the only newspaper content the political class read on a regular basis. My bet is that unless editorials like this shame the Bush administration into following through on Bush's commitments made in Jackson Square, NOLA will still be in limbo at the start of the next hurricane season.

    Sad, indeed.

  • At 9:49 AM, Blogger Polimom said;

    While I agree that the Democrats are a fractured party, I don't see how that's relevant.

    Rep. Baker is a Republican, and initial indications from the bipartisan house committee indicated enormous support for the bill. (it passed out of the house committee 50-9 in favor).

    It looks to me as if Bush's non-deployment of the veto stems directly from congressional "leaders'" use of the reliable (and infantile) tactic used by intelligent children: ask daddy or mommy first before you do anything.

    Clearly, nobody can poot without prior approval from the Prez. I don't think it matters in the slightest whether they're Dems or Reps.

  • At 9:58 AM, Blogger Steve said;

    Good article Polimom, thanks for posting it. One does have to wonder though;where is all the outrage over the abuse of Louisiana and Mississippi? Why ARENT their more people raising hell? Things need to change...rapidly.

  • At 10:01 AM, Blogger Polimom said;

    Steve - I don't know where the outrage is, either. It's starting to frustrate me rather a lot.

    Looks like a national example of ADD.

  • At 8:03 PM, Blogger Mark said;

    You're right. The very high vote for any bill out of comittee that's not larded up with goodies for everyone is amazing. I worked on the Hill for about eight years, and in the current environment, that's incredible.

    Our nation (both parties) are led by the endocrinally-challenged invertebrates.

    I hear more and more people say the "S" word (think 1860), as casually as people up here discuss the school property tax reform initiative.

    I don't take is seriously as such (I've suggested as much myself), but I to take is seriously as an indicator of people's frame of mind.

    My reference to the civil war in today's blog post was not meant idly.

    Hell, when I get home, I may have to run for office. I'm sick of the pussy-footing and spinelessness. We need more people who are willing to call things by their names, to ask people if they'd feel the same way about the GOP's fear campaign against Gays if it was a campaign against Catholics, if they're really happy having the same standard of living as their parents, but with both people in the house working.

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