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Where Were Your Legislators Post-Katrina?
Joshua Holland pushes for good governance on Alternet:

There was plenty of government to go around somewhere. The image of hundreds of school buses, which could have evacuated New Orleans residents, that were lying under 10 feet of water in an abandoned city depot is emblematic. The federal government had water, medicine, food and security at hand, in addition to the transportation needed to get it down to the coast in a hurry. As the Washington Post's Bill Arkin wrote, "The problem wasn't the lack of resources available. It was leadership, decisiveness, foresight. The problem was commanding and mobilizing the resources, civil and military."

And the sad and unsettling statement by President Bush that the military is the "institution of our government most capable of massive logistical operations" only drove the point home. Katrina showed that Americans need a more inclusive idea of security from their representatives, instead of just the usual platitudes about "strong defense."

The vivid failure to protect American citizens in harm's way gives progressives a rare opportunity to change the subject in an important national discussion; right now, a unified left could reframe the debate about the role of government from whether smaller is better to a discussion of what we expect it to do. The way to do that is to highlight a concept that should become a shibboleth for progressives: the imperative of good governance.

Good governance is a catch-all phrase used by scholars of comparative politics. They define it differently, but in its most succinct form, the idea has four parts. First, and most importantly, good governance means responding to the needs of your citizenry. That may seem painfully obvious to you and I, but the world is full of leaders who don't get it -- or don't care to.

...Don't listen to the rhetoric coming from either side, just look at their legislative proposals and ask, cui bono?, or "who gains?" The legislation bouncing around makes one thing clear: No matter what the Nader set says, there is without a doubt a dime's worth of difference between the two parties' governing philosophies.

Just a few examples. While Illinois Democrats Rahm Emmanuel and Barack Obama were pushing legislation to speed tax refunds to hurricane victims, UPI reported that Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., and Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., were busy searching for a dead body rich enough to pay estate taxes so that they could put the repeal of the so-called "death tax" back on Congress's legislative agenda. Unfortunately for them, so few people are wealthy enough to pay the tax that, so far, their search has been fruitless.

Legislators went to their pet issues, and it was so revealing that the Washington Post ran a story headlined, "Some GOP Legislators Hit Jarring Notes in Addressing Katrina."

While Representative Jim McDermott, D-Wash., formerly a child psychologist, offered legislation that would extend benefits to tens of thousands of children in need of relief, Rick Santorum, R-Penn., was looking out for his donors, one of which is the corporate AccuWeather meteorological service. So he got busy in the days following the disaster by advancing legislation that would keep the National Weather Service out of the business of predicting the next deadly storm.

Naturally, both parties approved the emergency supplemental spending bill by a wide margin. But while several dozen conservative legislators led by Todd Aiken, R-Mo., were trying to push an amendment that would mandate cutting the non-defense budget by 2.5% across the board, Democrats were also proposing comprehensive, long-term aid to the stricken areas for housing, keeping kids in school and healthcare.

...At the same time, the New York Times reported that "Republican leaders in Congress and some White House officials see opportunities in Hurricane Katrina" to advance controversial legislation like "giving students vouchers to pay for private schools, paying churches to help with temporary housing and scaling back business regulation." In addition to President Bush's suspension of federal prevailing-wage laws, Senator James Inhofe, R-Okla., offered a bill that would allow the EPA to suspend environmental regulations during the reconstruction. These acts are the very essence of poor governance: placing cronyism and ideology over the needs of devastated communities.

Posted by aalkon at September 21, 2005 10:11 AM

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Thank you!

This illustrates my points about Congress nicely.

One of the cruelest jokes on the American public is that we are allowed to think we elect leaders, when in fact we saddle ourselves with people interested more in pork than greatness.

Posted by: Radwaste at September 21, 2005 3:22 PM

Wrong question! Not Where Were Your Legislators Post-Katrina? But Where Were Your Voters Pre-Katrina?

Is there any sane taxpayer of moderate alertness who did not understand that:

1. New Orleans was tremendously poor?

2. New Orleans was tremendously black?

3. New Orleans was built below sea level?

4. That New Orleans was corruptly governed?

5. The levees might not hold?

6. Shoring them up would cost millions, and might still be insufficient? And would further deform the area ecology?

7. That this disaster, like our own Big Ones, was only a matter of time?

I want to meet somebody, ANYBODY, who wasn't with the Army Corps or some locally interested party, who argued EVEN ONCE that we needed to be spending money on this. At a certain point, complaining about relief is like asking a wife-beater why he didn't have an icepack ready for her blackened eye.

> we saddle ourselves with people interested
> more in pork than greatness.

Well, we don't give them the jobs if they don't bring home the pork. Counting on greatness in others generally is a bad idea. Counting on it from politicians is a horrid one.

Posted by: Crid at September 21, 2005 5:23 PM

For whatever my opinion is worth, Crid, this is probably your most eloquent and thoughtful posts.

Posted by: Patrick at September 21, 2005 7:16 PM

Patrick, dude, one of us is having a bad week

Posted by: Crid at September 21, 2005 8:41 PM

There is a story about coping with Katrina, but the "questionable content" block stops me from posting the URL. Search for "Thoughts On Disaster Survival", in quotes.

Posted by: Radwaste at September 23, 2005 2:50 AM

Now that Hurricane Rita is heading for Texas - I have 3 questions.

1. did someone e-mail the president so he could be prepared??

2. will he only care because the storm is hitting HIS state??

3. when will the current regime become "factually" aware that they are as useless as tits on a bull???

Posted by: DRAGONLADY at September 23, 2005 12:05 PM

Dragonlady, you're funny. Y'all come back...

Posted by: Amy Alkon at September 23, 2005 3:09 PM

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