Friday, September 16, 2005

Much As I Thought

It's much as I thought, Bush. Stirring words about the indomitable American spirit. A call to the compassionate response of the citizenry, with prominent mention of churches and religious organizations. An appeal for continuing cash donations. And, yes, an acknowledgement of government failure: "I am responsible for the problem--and the solution," you said.

The solution? "One of the largest reconstruction projects the world has ever seen," you boasted. Bravo, Bush! "We'll build higher and better." Of course! This is America! You promise a massive government program, primarily geared to supporting the entrepreneur, the individual job-seeker, and the aspiring homeowner--all along the noble lines of "God helps those who help themselves."

But not a word about the fundamental reasons for the spectacular failure: the anti-government philosophy promulgated by your conservative gang for the past forty years or so, which has undermined not only the funding but the competent staffing of key government departments, including, obviously, the Federal Emergency Management Agency. This cumulative tide of me-firstism at the expense of social programs has effectively emasculated the government and its essential services.

Not a word, too, about how you plan to cover the cost of all this federal largesse with which you plan to cover your smarting rear end. Take it out of medicare and other social services for the poor? Or borrow more from China, Japan, Korea... and leave the debt for our children and grandchildren to worry about?

This disaster, I promise you, Bush, is only the tip of a Titanic iceberg. Nature just took the opportunity to hand us a significant wake-up call. What happens when the country's crumbling infrastructure--like the New Orleans levees--finally begins to show more than these few cracks? When the neglected education system bears fruit in further ignorance, and poverty, and dependence? When the health care system, such as it is, collapses under the weight of increasing costs and decreasing ability on the part of most Americans to meet them? When the American underclass reaches critical mass, as it surely must?

Bill Clinton had it right this morning in a television interview: the first imperative is to rescind your tax cuts for the wealthiest few, to begin to cover the costs of maintaining armies in Iraq and Afghanistan and the reconstruction along the Guld Coast. But your appeal for sacrifice, Bush, remains on a strictly voluntary basis. So far, as I understand it, the Bush I/Clinton fund has reached a total of $90 million--that's million, with an "m." A terrific effort, surely. But the cost estimates for your recovery programs are somewhere around $200 billion to the taxpayer. That's billion, with a "b." Charititable donations, in other words, are barely even a drop in this oversized bucket.

So what's the plan, Bush? Good to have recognized responsibility. Good to have promised significant help. Not to look at the other side of the ledger: bad.

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