After the complete failure of the Bush regime to prevent or even quickly help Hurricane Katrina’s victims, the administration is also failing in its promise to rebuild New Orleans and address the poverty and racism that became so apparent after the hurricane.
The American Red Cross estimates that 850,791 housing units were damaged, destroyed, or left inaccessible by Katrina. The cost of rebuilding New Orleans has been estimated by the government at $200 billion. Despite Bush’s promise to “do whatever it takes” to rebuild New Orleans, little can be seen of actual measures that will do so. While the federal government is paying around $11 million per night to keep hurricane victims in hotels, the Bush administration hasn’t delivered the promised $200 billion or the legislation necessary for any kind of more permanent rebuilding of the gulf coast.
Cronyism and Profits
Much of the money the government has spent on rebuilding after Katrina was given to friends of the Bush administration such as Halliburton, which currently has Katrina contracts totaling $124.9 million.
This number is likely to grow. Big business will be raking in huge profits off this tragedy. The no-bid contracts for Halliburton and others just add to the already prevailing perception of cronyism that the Bush clique is known for.
This is taxpayers’ money that is being given to the corporations. In their hands, it will be guided by free enterprise logic, and will go where profits can be made, and there is little profit to be made in providing low-cost quality housing for the poor and working class.
The gulf coast needs to be rebuilt in the interest of the workers and poor people who live there, not in the interest of profits. We need a massive public works program to rebuild the gulf coast and provide quality, living-wage jobs to the people of the affected areas.
Prevailing Wage Laws
Bush and the Republicans are using this tragedy to push their pro-business agenda. They are using the guise of “emergency legislation” to suspend the so-called prevailing wage law, which says that companies receiving government contracts must pay their workers the prevailing wage in that area.
The prevailing wage for construction labor in New Orleans is about $9 per hour. Now corporations with government contracts don’t even have to pay that. Bush is allowing big business to take full advantage of a situation in which people are desperate for work and willing to work for less.
In order to pay for the rebuilding of the gulf coast, the Republicans are planning to cut programs for the poor, not tax big business.
Republican leaders in Congress are already preparing a package of cuts to Medicaid and other social programs, including student loans. House leaders said they are aiming to cut as much as $40 billion from various programs, in addition to the $35 billion in cuts called for under the fiscal year 2006 budget reconciliation process.
Though many small-government Republicans weren’t happy about Bush’s promise to spend so much rebuilding the gulf coast, they are being placated by these social cuts.
We call for a real relief effort, which is based on the needs of the poor and working class victims of Hurricane Katrina:
- Full care and compensation for Katrina victims All victims should be compensated for all losses by the federal government. Free medical care for all those in need. All those from the affected counties who have lost their jobs, have been displaced, or are in need should receive a living wage of $500/week for up to 3 years.
- Initiate massive public works program to rebuild and reemploy displaced Gulf Coast workers and the unemployed
- Stop racial and class discrimination in relief, compensation, rebuilding, and policing All relief money received through government and charity should not be put in the hands of big-business politicians and bureaucrats. Instead, oversight committees elected from the affected communities, evacuees, and relief workers should control the funding and administration of relief and rebuilding efforts.
- Stop profiteering off tragedy!
We need price controls on gas and other products to protect consumers.
- Pay for rebuilding by ending the war in Iraq and taxing big business
At least 20,000 evacuees from Katrina are still living in temporary shelters, around 125,000 people are in hotels, and more than 150,000 still living with friends and family across the nation, according to Helena Cunningham, president of the Louisiana Housing Finance Agency.