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The Masters of Disasters

By Mick Youther  Posted by Rob Kall (about the submitter)     Permalink
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It looks like President Bush hit the trifecta again with the Hurricane Katrina disaster. While everybody 's attention was riveted on the Federal Emergency Management Agency 's leisurely response to the disaster, the Bush Administration 's real emergency management team (Bu$hCo) was moving ahead at full speed. They may not know how to alleviate suffering or help people, but they sure know how to take advantage of a disaster. Rules get stretched, changed, bent and broken. Money runs free. The Republican Congress rubber-stamps everything. It is the governmental version of a "smash and grab " job, and Bu$hCo knew exactly what to do in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

First, President Bush suspended federal rules so FEMA and the Army Corps of Engineers could give no-bid contracts for rebuilding. By a strange coincidence, two of the big winners in the free money game are clients of Joe Allbaugh, President Bush's 2000 campaign manager and former head of FEMA. One client is good old Halliburton, which is always there when it comes to raking in taxpayer 's money. Allbaugh 's other client is the Shaw Group, which has already received a no-bid $100 million emergency FEMA contract for housing management and construction and a $100 million order from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. [Washington Post, 9/13/05]

The Republican Congress did its part to add to the spending frenzy by adding a provision to the Katrina Relief Bill that changed the amount government-issued credit cards holders can spend (from $15,000 to $250,000) per transaction, without requiring them to seek competitive bids. (TomPaine.com, 9/13/05)

However it gets there, the money for cleanup and construction work along the Gulf coast must be welcome news to the thousands of people who lost their jobs due to the hurricane. Contrary to Rush Limbaugh 's lies, people didn 't stay in New Orleans because they were waiting for their welfare checks. Most of the affected people had jobs; but sadly, in 21st century America, you can work hard and still not earn enough to rise out of poverty. Now at least, there should be lots of good paying jobs available to the people as they return to New Orleans --but wait, Bu$hCo already thought of that.

On September 8th, Bush used an executive order to suspend the Davis-Bacon Act, which requires government contractors to pay the prevailing or average pay in the region. This will allow favored companies to take advantage of workers who desperately need jobs.

"In New Orleans, where a quarter of the city was poor, the prevailing wage for construction labor is about $9 per hour, according to the Department of Labor. In effect, President Bush is saying that people should be paid less than $9 an hour to rebuild their communities. "--Rep. George Miller (D-CA), quoted in Washington Post, 9/9/05
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"Companies such as Halliburton's Kellogg Brown & Root that are given federal contracts to rebuild in the Gulf region are under no obligation to pass the savings from reduced labor costs onto taxpayers. There is nothing to prevent these contractors from cutting workers' wages and boosting their own profits, while passing no savings onto taxpayers. " --OMBWatch.org, 9/19/05

Just in case the workers in New Orleans get uppity and demand a decent wage, Bu$hCo has increased the number of foreign workers allowed to work on offshore oil rigs damaged by Hurricane Katrina; and are giving employers in the region a pass on hiring undocumented workers (illegal aliens). These people think of everything. It 's too bad we don 't have people like that in the Department of Defense or FEMA.

FEMA 's inept response to the Katrina disaster resulted in a still-undetermined number of people dying in the rising floodwaters; and whenever there are dead bodies, Bu$hCo knows who to call --Kenyon International. This company is a wholly owned subsidiary of SCI Corp., which is owned by Bush contributor and friend Robert Waltrip. Kenyon cleaned-up at the World Trade Center after 9/11; it is currently cleaning up on mass graves in Iraq, and now they 're cleaning up in New Orleans --literally and financially. Picking up dead bodies during the Bush years is pretty steady work.

So it 's easy to see why the Bush Administration loves disaster. The 9/11 disaster allowed them to push the PATRIOT ACT through Congress and reorganize the entire federal government, so they could more effectively take advantage of future disasters. Bu$hCo 's do-it-yourself disaster, the Iraq War, has all the profiteering potential of a natural disaster like Katrina, plus a big payday for favored members of the defense industry; but the real beauty of the Iraq War disaster is that it doesn 't have to end. It can just go on and on. It is the mother of all disasters.

Now, while Kenyon International is still gathering bodies in New Orleans, a new disaster, Hurricane Rita, is churning its way across the Gulf. By the time you read this, we will know where our latest disaster is, and whether FEMA was ready this time. We know Bu$hCo is ready and waiting.

"Back in World War II, there was an agency--led by a man named Harry Truman--which aggressively prosecuted companies that tried to profiteer on the war. Now profiteering on war, and on national tragedy it seems, is simply seen in Washington as good business, to be rewarded by investors. " --Dave Lindorff, CounterPunch, 9/3/05

Mick Youther is one of the surplus population that is such a nuisance in BushWorld. Contact him at myouther@siu.edu
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