Just Above Sunset
September 18, 2005 - Here we go again...













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Our columnist Bob Patterson, last Sunday, in his World's Laziest Journalist column approached the issue of how much race seemed to have played a part in the response of the Federal response to the hurricane that devastated New Orleans and much of the Gulf Coast. Bob's style is often more forceful than analytical - perhaps it's the Irish in him - and it might be time to investigate, in some detail, what seems to be shaping up to be a reopening of a racial divide in America, or perhaps more accurately, an uncovering of a divide that has always existed and now has been exposed, one more time.

First there is public opinion. Two new polls show President Bush's approval ratings at all-time lows. No news there, even if Suzanne Malveaux and Wolf Blitzer on CNN on Monday, September 12, claimed that Bush's poll numbers are going up. (See this on Blitzer saying, "Bush's stepped-up response to the Katrina disaster may be helping to push up his poll numbers." He either doesn't understand statistics, or he's lying to make someone or other feel better.") The facts? The AP-Ipsos poll has Bush at a thirty-nine percent job approval rating, and the Newsweek poll has him slightly lower - at thirty-eight percent. Newsweek also points out this is the first time since 9/11 that a clear majority of Americans disapprove of how Bush is handling terrorism and homeland security. Why? Perhaps the slow, disorganized federal response to Katrina has blemished his image - and that of the whole Republican Party. Its seems the AP-Ipsos poll notes that a full sixty-five percent of us think the country is on the wrong track while Newsweek notes that only thirty-eight percent of registered voters now say they would vote for a Republican if the Congressional elections were held today. Exactly fifty percent of registered voters say they would vote for a Democrat. But the most interesting nugget in the AP-Ipsos poll - while there fifty-two percent disapprove of Bush's handling of hurricane relief, seventy-eight percent of blacks blamed the president for the poor response, compared with forty-nine percent of whites.

What's up with that?

The New York Times' Elisabeth Bumiller on Monday, September 12, explains in Gulf Coast Isn't the Only Thing Left in Tatters; Bush's Status With Blacks Takes Hit

Bumiller has a reputation for writing puff pieces on how cool George is, and such a fine guy, but she knows trouble when she sees it, and she cites a third poll:

 

From the political perspective of the White House, Hurricane Katrina destroyed more than an enormous swath of the Gulf Coast. The storm also appears to have damaged the carefully laid plans of Karl Rove, President Bush's political adviser, to make inroads among black voters and expand the reach of the Republican Party for decades to come.

Many African-Americans across the country said they seethed as they watched the television pictures of the largely poor and black victims of Hurricane Katrina dying for food and water in the New Orleans Superdome and the convention center. A poll released last week by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center bore out that reaction as well as a deep racial divide: Two-thirds of African-Americans said the government's response to the crisis would have been faster if most of the victims had been white, while 77 percent of whites disagreed.

The anger has invigorated the president's critics. Kanye West, the rap star, raged off-script at a televised benefit for storm victims that "George Bush doesn't care about black people." Howard Dean, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, said in Miami last week that Americans "have to come to terms with the ugly truth that skin color, age and economics played a significant role in who survived and who did not."

 

Of course the White House says this is so very unfair, and kind of unseemly. Bumiller refers to Laura Bush in an interview with the American Urban Radio Network: "I think all of those remarks were disgusting, to be perfectly frank. Of course President Bush cares about everyone in our country." (Covered here by the Associated Press - "And I know that. I mean, I'm the person who lives with him. I know what he's like and I know what he thinks and I know how he cares about people.")

She's selling. Is anyone buying?

Bumiller also quotes Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the administration's most well-known African-American - "Nobody, especially the president, would have left people unattended on the basis of race." And Rice said that while on her way to where she grew up - Alabama - to attend a church service, of course.

Heck, Condoleezza Rice also told the New York Times on Monday that "the hurricane disaster that disproportionately struck poor blacks in New Orleans 'gives us an opportunity' to rectify historic injustices that she experienced as an African-American growing up in the South."

Heck, she's black, isn't she? And it's a great opportunity.

As they said over at Wonkette: "Finally an opportunity to rectify those injustices. The administration had been brainstorming on this for years."

Meanwhile, back at the ranch - actually the White House (Crawford Texas East) - Bumiller paints a different picture:

 

But behind the scenes in the West Wing, there has been anxiety and scrambling - after an initial misunderstanding, some of the president's advocates say, of the racial dimension to the crisis.

One of Mr. Bush's prominent African-American supporters called the White House to say he was aghast at the images from the president's first trip to the region, on Sept. 2, when Mr. Bush stood next to Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi and Gov. Bob Riley of Alabama, both white Republicans, and praised them for a job well done. Mr. Bush did not go into the heart of New Orleans to meet with black victims.

"I said, 'Grab some black people who look like they might be preachers,' " said the supporter, who asked not to be named because he did not want to be identified as criticizing the White House. Three days later, on Mr. Bush's next trip to the region, the president appeared in Baton Rouge at the side of T. D. Jakes, the conservative African-American television evangelist and the founder of a 30,000-member megachurch in southwest Dallas.

Bishop Jakes, a multimillionaire and best-selling author, is to deliver the sermon this Friday at the Washington National Cathedral, his office said, where Mr. Bush will mark a national day of prayer for Hurricane Katrina's victims. The bishop's style of preaching is black Pentecostal - he roars and rumbles in performances that got him on the cover of Time magazine as "America's best preacher" in 2001. More important to Mr. Rove, he has become a vital partner in the White House effort to court the black vote.

 

Ah, but can the preacher deliver for Karl, or will Karl have to Swift-Boat the preacher if he says the wrong things?

He won't say the wrong thing. These guys have received millions of dollars for their churches through Bush's programs to support religious-based social services. Heck, Bumiller notes that helps. There's Bush's increase in support among black voters - it jumped from nine percent in 2000 to eleven percent in 2004. Money talks.

And pressing the flesh helps:

 

On Tuesday in the Roosevelt Room, Mr. Bush met with black preachers and leaders of national charities, and sat next to Bishop Roy L. H. Winbush, a black religious leader from Louisiana. On Thursday, two senior White House officials, Claude Allen and James Towey, held a conference call with black religious leaders to ask what needed to be done. Mr. Towey is the director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, and Mr. Allen, who is African-American, is the president's domestic policy adviser.

One Bush supporter, the Rev. Eugene F. Rivers III, the president of the National Ten Point Leadership Foundation, a coalition that represents primarily black churches, said last week that something positive might come out of the crisis. "This is a moral and intellectual opportunity for the Bush administration to clearly articulate a policy agenda for the black poor," Mr. Rivers said in an interview.

Ken Mehlman, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, who has made reaching out to black voters a priority, put it simply. "We're going to work with them," Mr. Mehlman said. "This disaster showed how important it is that we do these things."

 

"We're going to work with them." Translation: "We're going to work them."

First job? Denial.

Bush Denies Racial Component to Response
Jennifer Loven, Associated Press, Monday, September 12, 2005 4:35 PM ET

 

President Bush denied Monday there was any racial component to people being left behind after Hurricane Katrina, despite suggestions from some critics that the response would have been quicker if so many of the victims hadn't been poor and black.

"The storm didn't discriminate and neither will the recovery effort," Bush said. "The rescue efforts were comprehensive. The recovery will be comprehensive."

Bush made the remarks to reporters beneath a highway overpass at the end of a tour that took him through several flooded New Orleans neighborhoods. Occasionally, Bush had to duck to avoid low-hanging electrical wires and branches.

It was Bush's first exposure to the on-the-ground leadership of his new hurricane relief chief, Vice Adm. Chad W. Allen of the U.S. Coast Guard.

The trip came as the White House is eager to show the president displaying hands-on, empathetic leadership in the storm effort. ...

 

Empathy is nice, even if you're not good at it. You get points for even faking it, even if you do it badly. At least you're trying. No one can be like Bill Clinton, and who would want to be?

And it makes denial of any racism a tad more conceivable. Maybe.

That's going to be hard work, given incident like this:

Police in Suburbs Blocked Evacuees, Witnesses Report
Gardiner Harris, New York Times, September 10, 2005

 

Police agencies to the south of New Orleans were so fearful of the crowds trying to leave the city after Hurricane Katrina that they sealed a crucial bridge over the Mississippi River and turned back hundreds of desperate evacuees, two paramedics who were in the crowd said.

The paramedics and two other witnesses said officers sometimes shot guns over the heads of fleeing people, who, instead of complying immediately with orders to leave the bridge, pleaded to be let through, the paramedics and two other witnesses said. The witnesses said they had been told by the New Orleans police to cross that same bridge because buses were waiting for them there.

Instead, a suburban police officer angrily ordered about 200 people to abandon an encampment between the highways near the bridge. The officer then confiscated their food and water, the four witnesses said. The incidents took place in the first days after the storm last week, they said.

"The police kept saying, 'We don't want another Superdome,' and 'This isn't New Orleans,' " said Larry Bradshaw, a San Francisco paramedic who was among those fleeing.

Arthur Lawson, chief of the Gretna, La., Police Department, confirmed that his officers, along with those from the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office and the Crescent City Connection Police, sealed the bridge.

"There was no place for them to come on our side," Mr. Lawson said. ...

 

Of course this was all over the news - even Shepherd Smith and Geraldo Rivera on the ground for Fox News were screaming about it to Sean Hannity back in the studio - and Smith pretty much told Hannity, who was saying it was no big deal, to stuff it. In fact, you could listen to a first hand account with much more detail on National Public Radio on Ira Glass' "This American Life" - Saturday, September 10, 2005 After The Flood. It's worse than the Times suggests. The person there was white, and amazed. Being white counts. She got across.

The coming race war? Or is it just class?

Note this from Christopher Cooper, of The Wall Street Journal

 

Despite the disaster that has overwhelmed New Orleans, the city's monied, mostly white elite is hanging on and maneuvering to play a role in the recovery when the floodwaters of Katrina are gone. "New Orleans is ready to be rebuilt. Let's start right here," says Mr. O'Dwyer, standing in his expansive kitchen, next to a counter covered with a jumble of weaponry and electric wires.

More than a few people in Uptown, the fashionable district surrounding St. Charles Ave., have ancestors who arrived here in the 1700s. High society is still dominated by these old-line families, represented today by prominent figures such as former New Orleans Board of Trade President Thomas Westfeldt; Richard Freeman, scion of the family that long owned the city's Coca-Cola bottling plant; and William Boatner Reily, owner of a Louisiana coffee company. Their social pecking order is dictated by the mysterious hierarchy of "krewes," groups with hereditary membership that participate in the annual carnival leading up to Mardi Gras. In recent years, the city's most powerful business circles have expanded to include some newcomers and non-whites, such as Mayor Ray Nagin, the former Cox Communications executive elected in 2002.

A few blocks from Mr. O'Dwyer, in an exclusive gated community known as Audubon Place, is the home of James Reiss, descendent of an old-line Uptown family. He fled Hurricane Katrina just before the storm and returned soon afterward by private helicopter. Mr. Reiss became wealthy as a supplier of electronic systems to shipbuilders, and he serves in Mayor Nagin's administration as chairman of the city's Regional Transit Authority. When New Orleans descended into a spiral of looting and anarchy, Mr. Reiss helicoptered in an Israeli security company to guard his Audubon Place house and those of his neighbors.

He says he has been in contact with about 40 other New Orleans business leaders since the storm. Tomorrow, he says, he and some of those leaders plan to be in Dallas, meeting with Mr. Nagin to begin mapping out a future for the city.

The power elite of New Orleans - whether they are still in the city or have moved temporarily to enclaves such as Destin, Fla., and Vail, Colo. - insist the remade city won't simply restore the old order. New Orleans before the flood was burdened by a teeming underclass, substandard schools and a high crime rate. The city has few corporate headquarters.

The new city must be something very different, Mr. Reiss says, with better services and fewer poor people. "Those who want to see this city rebuilt want to see it done in a completely different way: demographically, geographically and politically," he says. "I'm not just speaking for myself here. The way we've been living is not going to happen again, or we're out." ...

 

That's pretty clear. And helicoptering in an Israeli security company to guard the Audubon Place house - and those of his neighbors - is a nice touch.

Maybe it's just class, but Digby over at Hullabaloo says the obvious - there is a great desire to pivot the conversation to poverty rather than race because people believe that we will then be able to create a class argument that can appeal to working class whites and blacks alike.

Dream on.

 

Racism informs many Americans' ideas about poverty. It is also one of the darker philosophical underpinnings of our vaunted American individualism. From the beginning we had problems because government programs often had to help blacks as a last resort. It is why today many people believe that welfare has a black face even though far more welfare recipients are white. It is why we have developed the idea that the poor (pictured in our minds' eye as black and brown) are lazy and shiftless rather than unfortunate. (Europe, with its long history of class division doesn't see poverty this way.) It's why certain people made the assumption that the poor and black in New Orleans were all on welfare rather than the truth, which is that many of them are members of the urban working poor.

There are certainly many conservatives who hold a philosophy of small government for different reasons than racism. They may believe that power corrupts or that big government is inefficient. But there is no sense of economic self-interest in working class whites being against high taxes for millionaires and corporations and there is no reason that they should be worried about big government takeover of healthcare when thiers is terrible if it exists at all. And yet many of them vote against the party that promises to tax millionaires and corporations and provide national health insurance.

The sad fact is that in that great sea of Republican red, there are many whites who would rather do without health care than see money go to pay for programs that they believe benefit blacks to the detriment of whites. Their prejudice overwhelms their economic self-interest and always has. They vote for the party that reinforces their belief that government programs only benefit the undeserving African American poor.

That is why liberals have to accept that race must be part of the argument. We are making progress. Things are better. But progress requires staying focused on the issue and ensuring that there is no slippage, no matter how difficult and cumbersome this debate feels at times. The liberal agenda depends upon forcing this out of the national bloodstream with each successive generation not only for moral reasons, which I know we all believe, but it also depends upon forcing it out of the bloodstream for practical reasons. Until this knee jerk reaction to black poverty among certain whites (and Pat Buchanan), particularly in the south, is brought to heel we are fighting an uphill battle to muster the consensus we need to create the kind of nation that guarantees its citizens a modern, decent safety net regardless of race or class.

 

Again, dream on.

Note this from the Chicago Tribune back on September 4 –

 

BATON ROUGE, La. - They locked down the entrance doors Thursday at the Baton Rouge hotel where I'm staying alongside hundreds of New Orleans residents driven from their homes by Hurricane Katrina.

"Because of the riots," the hotel managers explained. Armed Gunmen from New Orleans were headed this way, they had heard.

"It's the blacks," whispered one white woman in the elevator. "We always worried this would happen."

 

Compare and contrast this from CNN:

 

I am stunned by an interview I conducted with New Orleans Detective Lawrence Dupree. He told me they were trying to rescue people with a helicopter and the people were so poor they were afraid it would cost too much to get a ride and they had no money for a "ticket." Dupree was shaken telling us the story. He just couldn't believe these people were afraid they'd be charged for a rescue.

 

Two Americas, it seems.

But really, as Newsweek points out in their September 19 issue, the Federal response itself wasn't racist, really. It was just systematically incompetent (emphases added below):

 

It's a standing joke among the president's top aides: who gets to deliver the bad news? Warm and hearty in public, Bush can be cold and snappish in private, and aides sometimes cringe before the displeasure of the president of the United States, or, as he is known in West Wing jargon, POTUS. The bad news on this early morning, Tuesday, Aug. 30, some 24 hours after Hurricane Katrina had ripped through New Orleans, was that the president would have to cut short his five-week vacation by a couple of days and return to Washington. The president's chief of staff, Andrew Card; his deputy chief of staff, Joe Hagin; his counselor, Dan Bartlett, and his spokesman, Scott McClellan, held a conference call to discuss the question of the president's early return and the delicate task of telling him. Hagin, it was decided, as senior aide on the ground, would do the deed.

The president did not growl this time. He had already decided to return to Washington and hold a meeting of his top advisers on the following day, Wednesday. This would give them a day to get back from their vacations and their staffs to work up some ideas about what to do in the aftermath of the storm. President Bush knew the storm and its consequences had been bad; but he didn't quite realize how bad.

The reality, say several aides who did not wish to be quoted because it might displease the president, did not really sink in until Thursday night. Some White House staffers were watching the evening news and thought the president needed to see the horrific reports coming out of New Orleans. Counselor Bartlett made up a DVD of the newscasts so Bush could see them in their entirety as he flew down to the Gulf Coast the next morning on Air Force One.

How this could be - how the president of the United States could have even less "situational awareness," as they say in the military, than the average American about the worst natural disaster in a century - is one of the more perplexing and troubling chapters in a story that, despite moments of heroism and acts of great generosity, ranks as a national disgrace.

President George W. Bush has always trusted his gut. He prides himself in ignoring the distracting chatter, the caterwauling of the media elites, the Washington political buzz machine. He has boasted that he doesn't read the papers. His doggedness is often admirable. It is easy for presidents to overreact to the noise around them.

But it is not clear what President Bush does read or watch, aside from the occasional biography and an hour or two of ESPN here and there. Bush can be petulant about dissent; he equates disagreement with disloyalty. After five years in office, he is surrounded largely by people who agree with him. Bush can ask tough questions, but it's mostly a one-way street. Most presidents keep a devil's advocate around. Lyndon Johnson had George Ball on Vietnam; President Ronald Reagan and Bush's father, George H.W. Bush, grudgingly listened to the arguments of Budget Director Richard Darman, who told them what they didn't wish to hear: that they would have to raise taxes. When Hurricane Katrina struck, it appears there was no one to tell President Bush the plain truth: that the state and local governments had been overwhelmed, that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was not up to the job and that the military, the only institution with the resources to cope, couldn't act without a declaration from the president overriding all other authority.

 

The bubble had been built years ago and no one was going to burst it.

But was it racist? No –

 

Liberals will say they were indifferent to the plight of poor African-Americans. It is true that Katrina laid bare society's massive neglect of its least fortunate. The inner thoughts and motivations of Bush and his top advisers are impossible to know for certain. Though it seems abstract at a time of such suffering, high-minded considerations about the balance of power between state and federal government were clearly at play. It's also possible that after at least four years of more or less constant crisis, Bush and his team are numb.

The failure of the government's response to Hurricane Katrina worked like a power blackout. Problems cascaded and compounded; each mistake made the next mistake worse.

 

So it seems to be a systemic management problem.

 

Bad news rarely flows up in bureaucracies. For most of those first few days, Bush was hearing what a good job the Feds were doing. Bush likes "metrics," numbers to measure performance, so the bureaucrats gave him reassuring statistics. At a press availability on Wednesday, Bush duly rattled them off: there were 400 trucks transporting 5.4 million meals and 13.4 million liters of water along with 3.4 million pounds of ice. Yet it was obvious to anyone watching TV that New Orleans had turned into a Third World hellhole.

The denial and the frustration finally collided aboard Air Force One on Friday. As the president's plane sat on the tarmac at New Orleans airport, a confrontation occurred that was described by one participant as "as blunt as you can get without the Secret Service getting involved." Governor Blanco was there, along with various congressmen and senators and Mayor Nagin (who took advantage of the opportunity to take a shower aboard the plane). One by one, the lawmakers listed their grievances as Bush listened. Rep. Bobby Jindal, whose district encompasses New Orleans, told of a sheriff who had called FEMA for assistance. According to Jindal, the sheriff was told to e-mail his request, "and the guy was sitting in a district underwater and with no electricity," Jindal said, incredulously. "How does that make any sense?" Jindal later told NEWSWEEK that "almost everybody" around the conference table had a similar story about how the federal response "just wasn't working." With each tale, "the president just shook his head, as if he couldn't believe what he was hearing," says Jindal, a conservative Republican and Bush appointee who lost a close race to Blanco. Repeatedly, the president turned to his aides and said, "Fix it."

 

But it was too late to fix it.

Newsweek warps up with this:

 

Late last week, Bush was, by some accounts, down and angry. But another Bush aide described the atmosphere inside the White House as "strangely surreal and almost detached." At one meeting described by this insider, officials were oddly self-congratulatory, perhaps in an effort to buck each other up. Life inside a bunker can be strange, especially in defeat.

 

So, not racist - just clueless, by design.

Time Magazine the same week adds more - Louisiana governor Kathleen Blanco's attempts to get help from Washington:

 

The day the storm hit, she asked President Bush for "everything you've got." But almost nothing arrived, and she couldn't wait any longer. So she called the White House and demanded to speak to the President. George Bush could not be located, two Louisiana officials told Time, so she asked for chief of staff Andrew Card, who was also unavailable. Finally, after being passed to another office or two, she left a message with DHS adviser Frances Frago Townsend. She waited hours but had to make another call herself before she finally got Bush on the line. "Help is on the way," he told her.

 

Yep, she had to leave a message.

But what is this help that is on the way.  See this other item in Time:

 

By late last week, Administration aides were describing a three-part comeback plan. The first: Spend freely, and worry about the tab and the consequences later ... The second tactic could be summed up as, Don't look back. The White House has sent delegates to meetings in Washington of outside Republican groups who have plans to blame the Democrats and state and local officials.

... The third move: ... Advisers are proceeding with plans to gin up base-conservative voters... focused around tax reform... no plans to delay tax cuts... veto anticipated congressional approval of increased federal funding for embryonic-stem-cell research.

 

When in doubt, cut taxes for the rich and play to your base. Race is not an issue.

This is what to do:

 

Private contractors, guided by two former directors of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other well-connected lobbyists and consultants, are rushing to cash in on the unprecedented sums to be spent on Hurricane Katrina relief and reconstruction.

From global engineering and construction firms like the Fluor Corporation and Halliburton to local trash removal and road-building concerns, the private sector is poised to reap a windfall of business in the largest domestic rebuilding effort ever undertaken.

Normal federal contracting rules are largely suspended in the rush to help people displaced by the storm and reopen New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. Hundreds of millions of dollars in no-bid contracts have already been let and billions more are to flow to the private sector in the weeks and months to come. Congress has already appropriated more than $62 billion for an effort that is projected to cost well over $100 billion.

Some experts warn that the crisis atmosphere and the open federal purse are a bonanza for lobbyists and private companies and are likely to lead to the contract abuses, cronyism and waste that numerous investigations have uncovered in post-war Iraq.

 

That is from the New York Times, and this is from the Washington Post

 

The Bush administration is importing many of the contracting practices blamed for spending abuses in Iraq as it begins the largest and costliest rebuilding effort in U.S. history.

The first large-scale contracts related to Hurricane Katrina, as in Iraq, were awarded without competitive bidding, and using so-called cost-plus provisions that guarantee contractors a certain profit regardless of how much they spend.

 

These guys are not racists. The locals may be, but not the feds.

They're just careful with our tax money. As in this:

Bush Suspends Pay Act In Areas Hit by Storm
Thomas B. Edsall - Washington Post - Friday, September 9, 2005; Page D03

 

President Bush yesterday suspended application of the federal law governing workers' pay on federal contracts in the Hurricane Katrina-damaged areas of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi. The action infuriated labor leaders and their Democratic supporters in Congress, who said it will lower wages and make it harder for union contractors to win bids.

The Davis-Bacon Act, passed in 1931 during the Great Depression, 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. Many Republicans have opposed Davis-Bacon, charging that it amounts to a taxpayer subsidy to unions.

In a letter to Congress, Bush said he has the power to suspend the law because of the national emergency caused by the hurricane: "I have found that the conditions caused by Hurricane Katrina constitute a 'national emergency.' "

Bush wrote that his decision is justified because Davis-Bacon increases construction costs, and suspension "will result in greater assistance to these devastated communities and will permit the employment of thousands of additional individuals."

AFL-CIO President John J. Sweeney denounced the Bush announcement as "outrageous."

"Employers are all too eager to exploit workers," he said. "This is no time to make that easier. What a double tragedy it would be to allow the destruction of Hurricane Katrina to depress living standards even further."

Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, accused Bush of "using the devastation of Hurricane Katrina to cut the wages of people desperately trying to rebuild their lives and their communities."

Miller said: "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." ...

 

So why would he do this?

You see, suspending this Davis-Bacon Act will mean no one will exploit the situation. And we have this federal deficit of course. At nine dollars for each hour's work these fat cat construction workers would be pulling in 18,900 a year - and now they'll get much less. We'll all be safe from the greedy bastards, and keep our economy sound after all - they will pay income tax on each of those less-than-nine dollars. Of course the "poverty Line" figures according to the "2003 Poverty Guidelines" from the Department of Health and Human Services? For a family of four that works out to this - anything below 18,400, and 15,260 for a family of three, puts you in what the feds themselves define as poverty. Oh well, just so long as no one gets rich.

But it gets better. Note this: now that the president, by executive order, has suspended Davis-Bacon, now the plan is to suspend wage rules for service workers:

 

Labor Department and White House officials are examining a similar move for service workers covered by the McNamara-O'Hara Service Contract Act, which extended prevailing wage rules to service workers. Administration officials are concerned that workers on demolition and debris removal jobs could protest that even with construction wage supports lifted, they should be paid prevailing wages because their work is more service-related than construction-related.

 

The only problem seems to be Davis-Bacon has a specific provision allowing the president to suspend it during a national emergency - "The Service Contract Act does not, and its suspension may be unprecedented, labor experts say."

Let's see.  This could go to court.  The president does not have the authority under the McNamara-O'Hara Service Contract Act to suspend it.  What will the administration lawyers offer as an argument if challenged in a lawsuit?  Suspending the act may be illegal but this is a national emergency?  Worked for detaining citizens without charges, legal advice or even a hearing - and worked for allowing torture.  Call the McNamara-O'Hara Service Contract Act "quaint."  That might work.  Second line of defense?  No one should get rich off the reconstruction.  No - even they don't have the balls to redefine "rich" as being paid below their own poverty line benchmarks. (Well, maybe they do.) 

 

A "let the marketplace decide" argument might be just the ticket.  If people choose to pay less than minimum wage and others accept the jobs at those wages, well, that's the invisible hand at work, making things better for everyone.  And the PR campaign would be just like the one out here that Arnold Shwarzenegger has going on - Don Sipple, Shwarzenegger's media consultant, has this strategy "based on a lot of polling" to create a "phenomenon of anger" among voters toward firefighters, police officers, teachers and others of that sort - greedy bastards who want your money.  Let the market decide.

Well, Laura Bush is half-right about her husband.  He doesn't hate black folk.  He's all business - and ill-informed if not detached from reality, petulant, willful, sneering and childish.  But he doesn't seem to be a racist.  That's just the net effect.































 
 
 
 

Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
 
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