Katrina: Another Excuse for Bush’s Failed Ideology

On Monday, the Washington Post quoted former Reagan chief of staff Ken Duberstein as saying that Bush needed to give an address to the nation, a proposal the White House accepted the next day. Duberstein said, “There needs to be a Bush vision for the future of New Orleans“¦ I think a very presidential speech reporting to the country on progress to date and, more significantly, a vision to the future of New Orleans and the region is something that needs to happen sooner rather than later.” Bush’s “vision” for New Orleans and the Katrina recovery effort is being slowly revealed, and unsurprisingly, it’s a vision that’s steeped in conservative ideologies of old that promise little help to actual victims Hurricane Katrina.

“SEPARATE BUT EQUAL” EDUCATION: The Wall Street Journal reports that Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings will ask Congress to waive a federal law that bans educational segregation for homeless children. The Bush administration is arguing, along with states like Utah and Texas, that providing schooling for evacuees – who, in this case, are likened to homeless children — will be disruptive to public school systems, so they want to have sound legal backing for creating separate educational facilities for the 372,000 schoolchildren displaced by Hurricane Katrina. The State of Mississippi is opposed to waiving the Act because they argue the law helps evacuees enroll in schools without red tape. [WSJ, “Schooling Evacuees Provokes Debate,” 9/14/05]

REFUSAL TO EXPAND ELIGIBILITY FOR HEALTH CARE: The Wall Street Journal notes that Medicaid, “the federal-state health program for the poor[,] has emerged as the main way to provide medical coverage for many evacuees.” “To me, each day that passes without us knowing … exactly what the Medicaid relief package is going to include is adversely affecting not only our state … but other states who are getting our evacuees,” said J. Ruth Kennedy, deputy director of Louisiana’s Medicaid program, which provided health care to one-quarter of the state’s population before the hurricane. But the Journal reports that the “White House appears cool to any expansion” of Medicaid for Katrina survivors, and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist was “not convinced” it was needed. [WSJ, “Katrina Lays Bare Medicaid Dispute,” 9/14/05]

LOWER WAGES FOR HURRICANE RECOVERY CONSTRUCTION WORKERS: On September 8, 2005, President Bush suspended application of the Davis-Bacon Act, a federal law governing workers’ pay on federal contracts in the Hurricane Katrina-damaged areas. According to the Washington Post, the Act “sets a minimum pay scale for workers on federal contracts by requiring contractors to pay the prevailing or average pay in the region. Suspension of the act will allow contractors to pay lower wages.” Congressman George Miller (D-CA) said, “In effect, President Bush is saying that people should be paid less than $9 an hour to rebuild their communities.” [Bush’s Order Waiving Davis-Bacon Act; Washington Post, 9/9/05]

LOWER WAGES FOR HURRICANE RECOVERY SERVICE WORKERS: The Washington Post reports, “the White House was working yesterday to suspend wage supports for service workers in the hurricane zone as it did for construction workers on federal contracts last week.” The article notes that anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist “is among those lobbying the White House to suspend wage supports for service workers in the hurricane zone.” [Washington Post, 9/14/05]