Thursday, September 15, 2005

"An ideology of contempt for government"

Gov. Vilsack's been busy lately. In addition to hosting blogger conference calls, he's written an editorial in the New Democrat Online that is nothing short of brilliant. I'm becoming a fan of the guy. The key line comes as he's speaking of the disgraceful response of the national government following Hurricane Katrina: "These failures represent the broader failure of an ideology of contempt for the responsibilities of government,..."

Exactly. And what do the conservative extremists running the show call for to atone for the mistake of holding vital government institutions in contempt? Heap more contempt.

From the Governor:

...[C]urrent Republican proposals to turn the Gulf Coast into a conservative ideological laboratory with private-school vouchers, wholesale deregulation, and suspension of wage standards on federally financed construction projects must be rejected. A second, ideologically driven abandonment of public responsibility in this region would be intolerable.

Intolerable indeed. And these aren't just charges that Democrats are making. The Wall Street Journal covered this despicable attempt by Republicans to expand their ideology of contempt for government into the decimated Gulf Coast:

Congressional Republicans, backed by the White House, say they are using relief measures for the hurricane-ravaged Gulf coast to achieve a broad range of conservative economic and social policies, both in the storm zone and beyond.

Some new measures are already taking shape. In the past week, the Bush administration has suspended some union-friendly rules that require federal contractors pay prevailing wages, moved to ease tariffs on Canadian lumber, and allowed more foreign sugar imports to calm rising sugar prices. Just yesterday, it waived some affirmative-action rules for employers with federal contracts in the Gulf region.

Now, Republicans are working on legislation that would limit victims' right to sue, offer vouchers for displaced school children, lift some environment restrictions on new refineries and create tax-advantaged enterprise zones to maximize private-sector participation in recovery and reconstruction. Yesterday, the House overwhelmingly passed a bill that would offer sweeping protection against lawsuits to any person or organization that helps Katrina victims without compensation.

"The desire to bring conservative, free-market ideas to the Gulf Coast is white hot," says Rep. Mike Pence, the Indiana Republican who leads the Republican Study Group, an influential caucus of conservative House members. "We want to turn the Gulf Coast into a magnet for free enterprise. The last thing we want is a federal city where New Orleans once was."


Some conservatives expressed concern about the growing reach of the reconstruction effort. "Everyone is attaching their own agenda to this," said William A. Niskanen, a former Reagan White House economic adviser now at the libertarian Cato Institute. "It's being seen as a test of the conservative agenda, from enterprise zones to school vouchers and the repeal of labor laws, and these ideas deserve careful thought," he said.

They do deserve careful thought. I can't think of going any lower than to use a disaster of Katrina's magnitude for politcal gain. But that's exactly what many conservative extremists are doing.

As Rahm Emanuel put it:

"They're going back to the playbook on issues like tort reform, school vouchers and freeing business from environmental rules to achieve ideological objectives they haven't been able to get in the normal legislative process," said Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D., Ill.)

The conservative plan: If you can't get what you want through the normal channels, use unimaginable human suffering as political capital to do whatever you want. Sick, huh?


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