Sunday, December 11, 2005

Cynthia Tucker in the AJC: God help us if we can't help New Orleans

The GOP has decided NOLA shouldn't get so much help, rather, we should cut the taxes of the wealthiest instead: "A conservative Congress has drained the nation's treasury --- stuffing the Christmas stockings of the rich with tax breaks, handing out corporate welfare to Big Business and sticking to idiotic boondoggles such as the Star Wars missile defense program. Suddenly, though, this spendthrift Congress and its enabler, President Bush, have gotten fiscal religion. It's funny how that didn't happen until the Gulf Coast needed big money for reconstruction.

This is far from what the president pledged in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, making 10 trips to the devastated Gulf Coast in the span of six weeks. Standing before TV cameras in New Orleans' historic Jackson Square, he promised 'one of the largest reconstruction efforts the world has ever seen.' But that's just a distant dream now. Suddenly, the richest country in the world cannot afford to spend billions to restore the Gulf Coast. The same country that has laid out $20 billion so far for the reconstruction of Iraq.

How is it that the Gulf Coast has disappeared so easily from the list of priorities for public spending? Why is it that American citizens who suffered from a devastating act of God find so little support from their elected representatives?

The entire tone of the conversation about the coastal region, especially New Orleans, has shifted. Much of the dialogue --- especially by the conservative pundits who act as the echo chamber for the GOP --- has painted a picture not of victims of a hurricane but rather of shiftless do-nothings who don't deserve aid. That's what happens when any group of people falls out of favor with the ruling Republican Party: They are portrayed as lazy and worthless losers who would be worse off if the government lifted a hand to help them. It's funny how that philosophy has taken hold in America, allowing us to comfortably escape responsibility for our fellow citizens."


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