WASHINGTON - September 14 - The presidential administration that was unprepared to respond to Hurricane Katrina is moving with astonishing speed to use this human crisis to push an anti-worker, right-wing agenda that it has been unable to move otherwise.
The floodwaters had barely begun to recede when President Bush took wage protections from construction workers who will rebuild the Gulf Coast. Now his administration is planning to abuse low-paid service workers the same way.
Bush and his advisors—including Karl Rove and allies at ultra-conservative think tanks—are out to do much more than take pay from workers. They are callously trying to turn Katrina’s aftermath into a bonanza for the radical right and rich contractors who want to eliminate government services and regulations and enrich corporations.
It is profiteering – political profiteering – and it cannot be tolerated.
- The administration already has awarded no-bid relief and recovery contracts to companies with strong ties to the administration and the Republican party. It’s also deferred affirmative action requirements for contractors and weakened preferences for small and minority-owned businesses.
- Bush allies are crafting plans to push vouchers for private schools—a long-time ultra-conservative goal—as the way to get displaced students back into classrooms.
- They’re pandering to anti-government ideologues by cooking up a mix of vouchers and tax breaks as the answer to health care coverage for hurricane survivors.
- Don’t be surprised when they want to replace other critical aid for survivors—from food stamps to job retraining—with minimal vouchers rather than funding existing government programs to meet real needs.
- They’re even trying to use Katrina to justify privatizing Social Security. A Bush spokesman recently said the high cost of the hurricane’s impact means we will have to “change Social Security, which threatens to strain the budget in coming years.” Keep in mind Bush’s privatization plan would cost us—individuals and the government—much more than it would save.
Rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina will require administration action—but not this kind. The White House should be working to use its authority to do some good for survivors, by improving Disaster Unemployment Assistance, addressing the serious health and safety needs of recovery and rebuilding workers and providing Medicaid health coverage. It is nonsense to think that we can help Katrina survivors by lowering wages, undermining public education, weakening health care for low income people giving rewards to special interests instead of rebuilding our communities -- exacerbating the very problems that plague them and working people nationwide.