The real looting of New Orleans begins
north america / mexico |
opinion / analysis
Friday September 30, 2005 18:21 by Anarcho
Do not say that Bush does not act swiftly to help the greedy. He was already suspended the Davis-Bacon law which requires prevailing wages for public construction contracts. He did so under the provision allowing him to waive the law during a national emergency. And so the Bush Junta is using the devastation of Hurricane Katrina to cut the wages of people desperately trying to rebuild their lives and their communities. And who is getting the no-bid, cost-plus contracts for reconstructing New Orleans? The same corporations that the Bush Junta gave contracts to for "reconstructing" Iraq -- at the forefront, the Vice-President's old corporation Halliburton.
The real looting of New Orleans begins
Like all politicians, Bush blames his problems over Hurricane Katrina
on a lack of power rather than having too much. Thus he sees the
solution to his government's lack of response in terms of providing
him with "greater federal authority and a broader role for the
Why this lack of authority explains why Bush ate cake and played
guitar on holiday while people died is hard to understand. Will
giving more power to, say, Condi Rice stop her shopping for shoes and
taking in a Broadway in the face of a natural disaster? Will it get
Bush or Dick Cheney to cut short their holidays or get them to
appoint people with experience to key posts? Hardly.
Nor should we forget that the old head of FEMA, Michael Brown, had
no expertise or experience for the post. He got the job because he
was friends with a Bush crony. And so who has Bush picked to oversee
the rebuilding of the region? Karl Rove, his political advisor. Now,
what qualifications or relevant expertise does Bush's chief political
operative have which qualify him to head America's largest domestic
reconstruction effort since its Civil War?
Little wonder Bush announced that he would investigate himself and
ignored calls for an independent enquiry over the debacle.
Yet this response is not without precedent. Just before 911 Bush
was on holiday and ignored a CIA memo entitled "Bin Laden determined
to attack inside the U.S." He refused, until pressurised by 9/11
survivors and their relatives, to hold an enquiry. History repeats
itself. For the second time he wants to use the tragic deaths of
thousands to demand more power for himself. If giving him so much
power first time failed so dramatically, why should it work now?
The problem is clear. Since 9/11, Bush has played the card that he
is a competent and decisive leader who can protect America. Given his
actual performance on 9/11 and the months leading up to it, it is
amazing that the charade was accepted by so many Americans. Katrina
exposed the reality behind the image. This means that next years
election a referendum on Republican governance and, after the Katrina
debacle, the right has lost its aura of competence -- if they cannot
get a coherent response to an approaching hurricane, how can they
keep America safe from a terrorist attack?
In reality, of course, was that the state already had too much
authority and it was concentrated in the hands of incompetent morons
who care little about working class people. And you do not make
incompetent government better by granting it more power. People are
dead because of this, because the Bush Junta had more important
things to spend money on -- like cutting taxes for the rich, no-bid
contracts to corporate donors, invading Iraq, seeking to end social
security. Only a fool would pretend otherwise -- or give these
muppets any more power.
Bush opined in his post-Katrina attempted poll-saving speech that
"there is also some deep, persistent poverty in this region as
well. And that poverty has roots in a history of racial
discrimination, which cut off generations from the opportunity of
America. We have a duty to confront this poverty with bold action."
His track record hardly supports these words. His tax cuts have
only enriched the rich. The poor have become poorer. Wages for
working people have, at best, stagnated and, at worse, fell. The
poverty rate has risen from 11.3% to 12.7%. For the first time on
record, household incomes failed to rise for five consecutive years.
Even Phillip Swagel, a scholar at the conservative American
Enterprise Institute, admitted that the "gains have gone to
owners of capital and not to workers."
But do not say that Bush does not act swiftly to help the greedy.
He was already suspended the Davis-Bacon law which requires
prevailing wages for public construction contracts. He did so under
the provision allowing him to waive the law during a national
emergency. And sothe Bush Junta is using the devastation of Hurricane
Katrina to cut the wages of people desperately trying to rebuild
their lives and their communities. And who is getting the no-bid,
cost-plus contracts for reconstructing New Orleans? The same
corporations that the Bush Junta gave contracts to for
"reconstructing" Iraq -- at the forefront, the Vice-President's old
corporation Halliburton. While it is doubtful that they will do a
better job of it, it is definite they will make as much money out of
This is crony capitalism at its worse. It is simply insulting.
Instead of refugees coming back to decent-paying jobs while they
reconstruct their communities, they are to get low-wages while
Bush-supporting companies get profits subsidised on the public dole.
Clearly, though, Bush thinks that corporations know how best to spend
the public's money rather than the public themselves.
Needless to say, the Bush Junta will not utilise this disaster
purely to enrich its corporate backers. It will exploit it for its
own ideological purposes. The disaster area will be, like Iraq, used
to create a Republican utopia. This is Bush's "Gulf Opportunity
Zone" -- a blank sheet upon which the far-right will unleash
their plans for social engineering. Children will go to school with
vouchers. Wages will be lowered and regulations waived to accommodate
the bosses. The entire area will become a free-enterprise zone. A
flat tax will be imposed. All under the guise of economic revival
premised on the belief that corporations freed from trades unions,
workers rights, environmental restrictions and taxes will reap huge
profits and those profits will grow the pie for everybody -- and at
least create some crumbs for the masses. As Americans have had thirty
years of this kind of bollocks, we know that "trickle down" is better
named "flood up."
All of which means that as well as the poor being harmed most by
the hurricane, they will suffer the same fate in the "reconstruction"
process. So, for American capitalists, there is an upside to Bush's
incompetence and his feeble attempts to improve his tarnished his
image as a great leader. His attempts to repackage himself as a
visionary rebuilder of New Orleans will not only make Halliburton
even richer but it will also allow the right the chance to reshape
major parts of a state without having to go through the motions of
winning an election or even the argument.
Not that the plans outlined Bush's speech from New Orleans helped
his opinion poll ratings. After it, 35% of Americans said he has done
a good or excellent job responding to Hurricane Katrina and its
aftermath. That's down from 39%. Another poll says that 41% give him
poor marks for handling the crisis. This is up from 37% before the
speech. The difference seems to rest with his base, the core of
conservative voters that seems impervious to his trail of
incompetence. Simply put, Bush's spending plan is not going down well
with them. Just 43% favour the huge federal commitment while 37% are
opposed. Following the speech, Bush's rating for handling the Katrina
crisis fell eight points among Republicans (from 71% good or
excellent to 63%).
So it appears that while you can allow 9/11 to happen, start two
wars, precede over torture and abuse, cause the deaths of over
100,000 civilians and cause economic misery for millions of working
people once you imply doling out money to the poor, then the
"compassionate" right will finally turn against you. The same can be
said for Republicans politicians, who are newly concerned over the
chronic lack of spending discipline and accountability by the Bush
Junta. While Republicans are now bothered about unbridled spending
here at home in response to the destruction of an American city and
region, they were happy to shovel money into the quagmire which is
Needless to say, the usual double standards apply, with the right
outraged about $2000 given to people who have lost everything but
curiously silent about the rebuilding contracts doled out to
companies with track records of defrauding the government. Perhaps
they will come around to Bush's spending spree once it dawns on them
that this $200 billion federal line of credit is aimed by corporate,
not human, welfare? And to put that in perspective, the US
state has already
spent $200 billion on a
war of choice on Iraq (an amount that increases by $8 billion
The latter spending is, of course, not an issue as it obviously
flows into the hands of big business and does not have any chance of
helping those who pay for it -- working class Americans.
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