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The Shameless and the Blameless

The weekly Economist, on the stands today, has it exactly right. With its cover featuring a ravaged New Orleans survivor whose distraught eyes stare out at readers, the British newsweekly’s editorial nails what Americans are only now starting to get: the Bush administration in Washington, D.C., is not just malevolent toward working people and the poor, it’s incompetent at even minding the store.

“Since Hurricane Katrina, the world’s view of America has changed. The disaster has exposed some shocking truths about the place: the bitterness of its sharp racial divide, the abandonment of the dispossessed, the weakness of critical infrastructure. But the most astonishing and most shaming revelation has been of its government’s failure to bring succor to its people at their time of greatest need.”

Whatever the world thinks of this country—whether nations admire or despise it and for good reasons or bad —the one assumption everyone shared was this, as the business magazine says: the US could always be relied upon to get the job done. No more!

That failure of brains if not nerve thankfully puts the Bush White House’s economic strategy on hold, with plans to gut entitlement spending while promoting additional tax cuts to the wealthy looking less than a sure bet. Conservatives fashioning a five-year plan to cut taxes by $70 billion and reduce entitlement spending by $35 billion, including ironically aid to hurricane victims, may be in retreat.   

As The Hill saw it: “Pressing ahead with budget legislation that would provide tax benefits to the well-off while trimming spending on programs, such as Medicaid, that benefit mainly low-income people would be politically difficult.”

To say the least.

But if your agenda consists of rewarding rich corporate friends  while sticking it to working people and the poor, there are more ways to do that than passing bad legislation. Yesterday, the president, squeezed between negative press reports on Hurricane Katrina and Cindy Sheehan, issued an executive order allowing federal contractors rebuilding infrastructure in Louisiana’s storm-ravaged parishes to pay below the prevailing wage. 


So the federal government means to save dollars by stealing from some of the same people who lost homes and loved ones to a natural disaster whose effects could have been predicted and minimized with adequate planning and better preparation. Ripping off working people during a national emergency comes from the same instinct that leads children to tear the wings off insects. Only in the nation’s capital, it’s called conservative fiscal policy.

The prevailing wage was $9 an hour, or $18,000 a year



  • 1 NYC Educator
    · Sep 10, 2005 at 8:00 pm

    Great post. I couldn’t agree more. But the propaganda machine is busily at work, and sadly, the mainstream media is likely to buy their line of bull any moment now.

    It’s awful, almost inconceivable, what’s happening in this country.

  • 2 kevinsmith5
    · Sep 13, 2005 at 10:27 pm

    This post is really bad. Statements like this are the type of knee jerk, politicized commnets that get teachers (and teachers unions) ignored by such a large slice of American society. Perhaps you have seen the polls that show the American people believe a greater amount of blame lies with the mayor of NO and the governor of LA than with FEMA of any other federal entity? Would your tendency to ignor the responsible parties have any thing to do with their political affiliations? The parties who were legally responsible for setting up shelters, coordinating evacuations, and spending the US Army Corps of Engineers budget allocated to the state (1.9 billion dollars in two years, largest in the nation) on the projects they endorsed? Do you really think that other teachers like me will have an easy time getting people to listen to me about serious issues like the problems with the way NCLB was designed if they think it is just a partisan political rant? Thnks a lot.

  • 3 divina
    · Sep 14, 2005 at 11:31 am


    Surely you jest. You must be deriving your ‘poll’ information from some pretty obscure sources, or, digesting information that you want to hear, and disguarding the rest.

    With poll numbers showing Bush’s acceptance level in the 30’s, I take it that you are among the hard core who will NEVER, under ANY circumstances, make the pronouncement that Bush no longer has your complete confidence.

    Even Bush himself has admitted to taking responsibility, something to my knowledge, he has never done for any other failing of his administration.

    Don’t automatically assume that all criticsm is partisan. As Tim Moran of ABC was quoted – “It’s not a blame game. It’s accountability! ”

    Sure Nagin and Blanco share some responsibility in what happened. But they did execute the approved disaster plan for the most part. FEMA fell far short on their part of the bargain and because of that hedging, many people died, needlessly.

  • 4 Edwize » Bush Administration Reversal
    · Oct 27, 2005 at 1:36 pm

    […] The UFT, along with countless labor unions, community groups, pro-working class politicians had called for a reversal of the executive order that allowed companies who had received contracts from the Federal Government to pay less than the prevailing wage in rebuilding efforts. It should be remembered that the prevailing wage in the area is only $9 an hour. […]