Friday, September 02, 2005

Aftermath of Katrina

When the United States responds to a natural disaster as though we were a Third World backwater country, something is seriously screwed up. The total incompetence of the response is mind-boggling. Of course, I'm not a Bush fan to begin with, but I think it's perfectly reasonable for people to be pointing fingers at the federal government and Bush in particular. I'm sure some of the incompetence is at the level of state and local officials who aren't necessarily affected by the feds, but I think over the next few weeks we'll see more and more evidence of how the federal government, and yes Bush, screwed up. In a sad way, it's useful as a demonstration to Americans of what happens when the government is run by people who deeply despise government or, at best, are uninterested in basic government functions.

More specifically, this is the result when the country is being run by a Republican party that holds the following (internally contradictory) belief system:

1. The federal government should be shrunk -- in Grover Norquist's famous quote, they've been trying to shrink it until it can be drowned in the bathtub. Specifically, this belief manifests itself in cuts to funding to state governments and cuts to basic social and infrastructure programs.

2. Massive tax cuts. This is, of course, the major goal of shrinking the federal government -- so you can cut taxes. To be fair to Bush, tax cuts were a useful spur to the economy which was starting to go into recession in 2001 and took a huge hit after September 11th. However, I have always objected to the focus of the cuts, much of which went to the already-wealthy. (For what's it's worth, I got next to nothing.) And the wisdom of continuing to make tax cuts a major focus of your domestic policy when you're in the midst of a huge war effort is dubious.

3. Enormous and expanding military power and an interventionist foreign policy. We have the most powerful and technologically advanced military in the world. By far. No one even comes close. This doesn't happen by accident; it happens because we've made a public policy decision to do whatever it takes to make our military the best. If we wanted to have the best, most advanced infrastructure system, we would. It's just not been a policy priority. What has been a policy priority is to undertake a massively expensive war effort while cutting taxes. As anyone who reads this blog knows, I supported the Iraq war, but you can't conduct that type of operation and continue to push for major tax cuts. Unless, of course, you're planning on taking the money from other government spending -- on, say, infrastructure, emergency management programs etc. There is also a tendency in Congress to fund incredibly expensive new gadgets for the military -- some of which have little value.

4. a) Government should be a friend to business; b) pork is politically useful so we will look the other way while it happens (even though our public position is that we oppose federal government spending). Today's Republicans have no qualms about funneling large amounts of public money to various business interests, as well as to stupid projects in their districts. Take a look through the recent Energy Policy and transportation authorization bills and you'll see massive giveaways to conventional energy interests, and funding for ludicrous infrastructure projects that, coincidentally, will occur in the home states of powerful Congressmen (and really, it's mostly men). So what little money is left over after you've lowered taxes while expanding military needs is being funneled toward useless projects and influential corporations.

Not to sound callous, but I'm just pleased it actually happened while the people responsible for this delightful new Frankenstein government philosophy are still in charge and can be blamed for it.

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