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Inequality: Lessons of 9-11 and New Orleans

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Message Stephen Crockett
Inequality: Lessons of 9-11 and New Orleans

It is alarming that the Corporate mainstream media and most of the American political establishment has failed to look deeply into the role of government in promoting inequality in the aftermath of the 9-11 and New Orleans disasters. The policies of our federal government in the rebuilding efforts should be aimed at lifting the poor underclass of New Orleans and other Gulf Coast communities out of poverty and into the middle class. Unfortunately under the leadership of the Bush Republicans, the rebuilding and relief efforts have seemingly been designed to promote Corporate interests and the rich financial backers of Bush Republicanism.

The current situation reflects attitudes and approaches that were clearly demonstrated in New York after the 9-11 terrorist attacks. The Corporate mainstream media and our entire national political leadership were essentially asleep on the job and/or blinded by class biases concerning those activities. The federal government gave tax money to the families of 9-11 victims based on their economic class standings. The families of wealthy victims with high paying jobs received much more tax money than the families of poorer victims. Nobody protested this very basic injustice!

Our citizens should have been treated equally in the amount of public tax dollars they received. Our government should not be using our tax dollars to insure that wealthy families stay wealthy and the poor stay poor. The Bush Republicans controlled the process and naturally rewarded the rich with our tax dollars. The injustice was ignored by the Corporate mainstream media because they bought into the inequality mindset of Bush Republicanism.

This Bush republican inequality mindset sees an ever growing concentration of wealth and power into the hands of the ruling elite as both just and inevitable. This is not the premise of our Founding Fathers. This mindset is creating government policies that are destroying the American middle class. Our Founding Fathers advocated a dynamic and growing middle class. The middle class is the very essence of the great American Dream and American Democracy.

In rebuilding the World Trade Center site, many small businesses were forced out of the community by government policies. New Orleans seems likely to see rebuilding efforts that do the same. Already, the rebuilding effort seems biased in favor of wealthy corporations and against the poor.

Already, the relief efforts have been played by "no bid" contracts received by politically connected corporations. Cruise ships have been chartered at annual rates that would buy a house in many parts of the United States. Bush has pushed to lower wages in the disaster area by suspending wage laws. The citizens of these communities actually need higher incomes to help with the rebuilding and recovery. Bush Republicans are pushing for massive tax breaks for businesses but blocking debt relief for average citizens. Many Democrats advocated suspending the new tighter bankruptcy standards from going into effect in the stricken areas for at least a year.

The New Orleans and Gulf Coast communities are suffering in similar ways as New York in the aftermath of 9-11 as a result of the responses of Bush Republicans. In both cases, the Bush Republican spin machine unsuccessfully tried to blame Clinton for their failure to prevent the 9-11 attacks. They were simply asleep on the job concerning Islamic terrorism before 9-11 in the Bush Administration. They were equally asleep on the job concerning Hurricane Katrina and the vulnerability of New Orleans. They have been trying massively to spin the failures of FEMA and the Bush White House concerning Katrina on the Democratic Mayor of New Orleans and the Democratic Governor of Louisiana. Neither spin job was logically sound or convincing.

More alarming than the political spin is the sheer incompetence of the Bush Administration demonstrated in the aftermaths of both disasters. The economic elitism of Bush Republicanism seems to make Bush Republicans incapable of serving all citizens equally. The poor are truly forgotten and left to fend for themselves under Bush Republican rule. Somehow the Christian love of the poor so common in the American psyche seems to be missing in Bush Republicanism.

The Frist-Vitter Bill recently passed in the US Senate authorizing loans to local Gulf Coast governments to provide essential services clearly endorses inequality and punishes poor communities. It is grossly unfair. Loans to local governments after natural disasters are routinely turned into grants if those devastated communities are unable to repay in 3 years. The Frist-Vitter legislation specifically eliminates this legal provision for victims of Hurricane Katrina.

The idea of the loans becoming grants is that all Americans should help devastated communities by sharing the burden as taxpayers rather than driving up local taxes and local public debts in already devastated communities. The Bush White House, the House Republican leadership, the Senate Republican Majority Leader Bill Frist and Louisiana Senator David Vitter blocked the victims of Hurricane Katrina from being treated like all other Americans.

No citizen of Alabama, Mississippi or Louisiana should ever forgive Bush, Frist or Vitter for making them second-class citizens by raising their future local and state taxes. They should not be saddled with excessive public debts. This bill should be a source of shame for the Republican Party.

Our government should build the hurricane victims new permanent homes at subsidized rates. The poor should become homeowners and move into the middle class. Small neighborhood businesses should be given priority treatment over huge corporations and developers in the rebuilding of New Orleans. Local labor should be used over outside contractors and paid reasonable fees. Workers should be paid good wages.

We need to learn some lessons from 9-11 concerning inequality in order not to repeat mistakes while rebuilding New Orleans. Let us make our Founding Fathers proud of us again. We need to seek a better future for New Orleans by moving our poorer citizens into the middle class and home ownership.

Written by Stephen Crockett (co-host of Democratic Talk Radio http://www.democratictalkradio.com ). Mail: 7A Planville Drive, Fayetteville, Tennessee 37334. Email: midsouthcm@aol.com .
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Stephen Crockett is co-host of Democratic Talk Radio and author of the Democratic Voices opinion column.
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