Sunday, September 18, 2005

Bush's Priority in NOLA: Cut Wages, Reward Cronies

What was the first thing President Bush did to aid the victims of Hurricane Katrina? Cut their wages. On September 8th, Dubya suspended the Davis-Bacon Act of 1931 in certain areas directly affected by Hurricane Katrina.

Dubya's action allows companies lining up for a piece of the $200 or $300 billion needed to rebuild the Gulf Coast region to cut the wages of the folks who are actually going to do the work.

It's important to also note that companies connected to Bush and Cheney have already been awarded no-bid contracts in the recovery effort.

At least two major corporate clients of lobbyist Joe Allbaugh, President George W. Bush's former campaign manager and a former head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, have already been tapped to start recovery work along the battered Gulf Coast.

One is Shaw Group Inc. and the other is Halliburton Co. subsidiary Kellogg Brown and Root. Vice President Dick Cheney is a former head of Halliburton.

Bechtel National Inc., a unit of San Francisco-based Bechtel Corp., has also been selected by FEMA to provide short-term housing for people displaced by the hurricane. Bush named Bechtel's CEO to his Export Council and put the former CEO of Bechtel Energy in charge of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation.

Experts say it has been common practice in both Republican and Democratic administrations for policy makers to take lobbying jobs once they leave office, and many of the same companies seeking contracts in the wake of Hurricane Katrina have already received billions of dollars for work in Iraq.

Halliburton alone has earned more than $9 billion. Pentagon audits released by Democrats in June showed $1.03 billion in "questioned" costs and $422 million in "unsupported" costs for Halliburton's work in Iraq.

This is the same administration that cannot account for $8.8 (B)billion it transferred to government ministries in Iraq. True, the money reportedly came from revenues from the United Nations' former oil-for-food program, oil sales and seized assets -- all Iraqi money. Still, it's just missing. No record of it. Nearly NINE BILLION DOLLARS. Gone.

But it's not all bad news. As he so often has, Dubya seems to have messed up in his proclamation. According to Rep. George Miller (D-CA), Dubya was in such a hurry to cut victim's wages he failed to follow the law.
The President suspended wage standards for workers on the Gulf Coast before he declared a national emergency. That means he was so focused on cutting the wages of people who'd be returning to the Gulf Coast to rebuild their lives and their communities that, in order to hasten the suspension, he failed to follow the law. And at the same time the White House was cutting workers' wages, it was busy awarding no-bid contracts. The President has proven once again that he's more interested in governing for the few than in governing for all of us.

The President's pay cut affects tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands, of Americans who desperately need a decent income to rebuild their lives. People working construction jobs in the Gulf Coast might only have earned $7 or $8 in the first place; now, the only protection left for them is the federal minimum wage, which is a disgraceful $5.15 an hour because Republicans repeatedly refuse to increase it.

What the President has done is immoral.

I agree. America can do better than George W. Bush.