Seems like whenever I'm criticizing the latest cockamamie Bush scheme -- Social Security privatization, say -- and a conservative commenter has found himself backed into a corner and unable to defend it, they typically ask indignantly, "Oh, so what's the Democrats' big plan, then?!?" This is kind of like if you were to go to the doctor complaining of migraine headaches, and after he checks you out he says, "Well, unfortunately, it looks like I'm going to have to amputate your leg." And when you very firmly tell him you don't think that's going to solve the problem, the doctor gets all huffy and says, "Oh, I suppose you have a better plan, Mr. Hotshot?"
But in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and the devastation that it wrought, the Democrats saw a chance for them to do one of the things that, historically, they've done best: Employ the power of government to respond to a crisis and lessen the suffering for those most adversely affected by it. (See also the New Deal, World War II, the Civil Rights Act, etc.) While FEMA was still Keystone Kopping around New Orleans under the non-leadership of patronage poster child Mike Brown, the Democrats were proposing a comprehensive package of legislation designed to ease the hurricane victims' transition back into normal lives and help lay the groundwork for them to rebuild. That package's marquee bills would ease recently instituted bankruptcy penalties and offer tax refunds for those who lost property and jobs because of the disaster.
So there you have it: an actual plan to use government to make things better. Good show! And what did the Bush administration offer in response?
Well, apparently they want to suspend laws banning educational segregation for homeless children, because apparently all those refugee kids flowing out of Louisiana and Mississippi are going to be a distraction. They also want to suspend laws that set minimum pay wages for construction workers and service providers in the affected areas. What they don't want to do is expand Medicaid for hurricane victims, ease the bankruptcy bill in any way (link via Daily Kos), or have any kind of bipartisan investigation into federal, state, or local response to the disaster. (They are still working their little rear ends off to eliminate the estate tax, so . . . if your wealthy aunt from New Orleans died in the hurricane and left her flooded, torn-apart, rat- and corpse-ridden mansion to you in her will, you may not have to pay any taxes on it. Load off your mind, isn't it?)
So, to recap: Democrats -- easing tax and bankruptcy burdens on hurricane victims; working to find proper schooling and jobs for the displaced; demanding accountability for failures at all levels to prepare for and respond to the crisis. Republicans -- no bankruptcy protection, no changes to schooling restrictions, and pay cuts for those who will be trying to rebuild. (Oh, and the estate tax thing.)
Apparently this is what they mean when they talk about the "marketplace of ideas." So which one are you buying -- and which side are you going to trust to look out for you when the crap hits the fan?
Cross-posted at the ADP Blog.