Katrina and the Reagan legacy
Whenever the late President Reagan discussed the role of government in solving civic and social problems, he would flippantly declare that "government is the problem, not the solution." The Bush Administration has retained that ideological hostility toward the use of government to serve the public good. That anti-government mindset has been vividly displayed as Gulf coastal communities now struggle to recover from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.
Despite repeated warnings from the experts about New Orleans' vulnerability to hurricane damage, the Administration slashed funding for strengthening the city's levees and other flood-control measures and for safety-net programs for sick and impoverished Americans. Meanwhile, taxes for high-income citizens were cut and uncounted billions are being spent to finance an unnecessary war in Iraq. National Guard troops have been diverted from their fundamental role in domestic security to fight the war and the top Federal bureaucrat responsible for calamities like Katrina has shown himself to be an incompetent political crony.
The latest demonstration of the Bush Administration's mean-spirited perspective was the President's decision to suspend the law requiring employers to pay local prevailing wages--usually union-negotiated rates--to construction workers on federally financed projects. The suspension applies to the very Gulf coastal regions where there will now be a boom in new construction to replace the damage caused by Katrina.
But what can one expect from a President whose patrician mother, Barbara Bush, who upon seeing the New Orleans flood evacuees massed in the over-packed Houston Astrodome, exclaimed: "So many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this is working very well for them."
So much for compassionate conservatism.