Thursday, September 15

Hurricane Katrina and the marketplace of ideas.

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.


Steve said...

If you really think that Republicans in this country are the pack of heartless pricks you have characterized here, how do you get through the day knowing that every other person you meet on the street is evil? You live in Alabama. That means 6 in 10 of your neighbors is a racist, unfeeling, mean spirited asshole. Maybe it makes you feel better to vent this shit, but it's still shit.

steve said...

Whether you agree with the plan Bush laid out in his speech or not, most would agree that now is the time to unite a nation around a cause. Instead we get this shit:

"Bush repeated a hotline number, 1-877-568-3317, for people to call to help reunite family members separated during the hurricane. Moments later, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., criticized Bush, saying "Leadership isn't a speech or a toll-free number."

"No American doubts that New Orleans will rise again," Kerry said. "They doubt the competence and commitment of this administration." House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid, in a joint statement, said, "We are concerned by Bush administration initiatives this week waiving wage protections, environmental safeguards and protections for veterans, minorities, women and the disabled.""

Paritisan bullshit! Go ahead and be proud of them if you want. Gain political points on the backs of hundreds of dead people. Be proud and outraged! Be assholes.

Doug said...

So let me make sure I have this straight. If someone feels that something Bush has done is incompetent, ill-considered, or otherwise inadequate, their choices, according to you, are:

a) Shut up and go along with it anyway, because we have to show a unified front; or
b) Be a "partisan asshole."

That's really not a great pair of choices, is it?

CoolSchool said...

Steve since you seem to be a Bush supporter your charge that Democrats were using the aftermath of Katrina to, "Gain political points on the backs of hundreds of dead people." caused me severe jaw droppage. Not only is it wrong but if you multiply your statement by a factor of ten you have what Bush did do with 9/11.

Anonymous said...

aGeorge Junior was in full pander mode last night, wasn't he? His personal best pander is still the $400 billion (whoops, $720 billion) Medicare prescription drug bill, but this is a close second. Way to stand up for the principles of limited government, Georgie.

Kevin said...

Don't forget about the no-bid contracts.

Not only do the companies in charge of rebuilding get to screw their workers (The workers whose lives were destroyed by this disaster...yay charity) by paying them, less. They basically have a blank check from our government to rebuild the Gulf region, paying themselves, more.

All of this, after companies like Halliburton are having record breaking years.

Excuse me while I go puke.

Kevin said...

Oh, and "No Child Left Behind" my ass....

"No Child Left Behind...Unless You Are Poor, Black, and the Victim of a Natural Disaster"

April said...

I liked that in Bush's speech last night he mentioned, proudly, that the people down in New Orleans can now get their mail! Well unless they have checks for food, clothing, and shelter in the mail the mail isn't helpful! Who cares if they can get their junkmail? Ooooh I can get 1/2 off a sandwich at McDonald's-too bad I don't have any money to pay the 1/2.

But then again can we really expect Bush to be helpful when he has to ask Condi permission to use the bathroom?

Anonymous said...

Steve, wouldn't it be nice if you could say something like, "Bush is doing a good job" - ? If you can't say that, you should question why you're so fired up on his behalf.

billy pilgrim said...

I watched "Man With The Screaming Brain" Last night.

I mean, rather than watching the President.

It made as much sense, if not more, and it had Bruce Campbell, with large brain stitches and a robotic wife, getting the crap knocked out of him; so that was bonus.

I feel sorry for all of you who had to watch the 'speech'; at gunpoint I presume.

April said...

Actually my parents wouldn't turn the channel. And I was too lazy to leave the room.

Steve said...

I must of missed the memo that declared the world 2 dimensional. Why is everyone around here such a pack of binary thinkers? Doug, you give 2 choices. Either go along or be an asshole. What happened to choice 3? Find what you absolutely agree with and endorse it, find what you generally agree with and find common ground and find what you can't live with and fight the extremes. Instead we just knee-jerk shit on everything.

George Bush earned respect in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 (deserved or not). There was bipartisan support for his actions. The lesson learned by the Democrats was that they can't let a Republican president earn points in leadership in the face of a nationally unifying event because they may not win an election.

And look at the polls. Most Americans agree that bitching and bickering is not what they want.

I'm not standing here saying Bush did an incredible job, but I've seen nothing that says he's a heartless jerk either.

Let's bitch about no bid contracts. The levees broke on Monday and the peanut gallery is bitching on Wednesday the Feds haven't fixed it. Let's go thru a competetive procurement. That's the way to get things done fast. Ankle biting.

ACG said...

I'm sorry, Steve, I hate to go all partisan, but what does it say about your characted when you watch an entire city fill with water and decide that your response is to fly out to the west coast to shill for Social Security reform? "Heartless jerk" might be a bit harsh, but I think that "thoughtless and unfeeling" could be in the same neighborhood.

Similarly, where is this leadership that the Democrats are supposedly trying so hard to keep him from showing? Can they possibly be so effective that any sign that Bush might be trying to be a leader is completely eradicated? While most Americans seem to agree that bitching isn't what they want, most Americans also seem to agree that Bush and his administration are doing a lousy job. Is this the Democrats' fault?

Doug said...


Steve, those aren't the two choices I prefer -- my point is that those are the only two choices you're willing to give me. Either I just sit there with my hands folded in my lap, thinking, "George Bush is doing a lousy job, but I'm just going to go along to get along because I don't want to ruffle any feathers in a time of crisis," or I speak up and get pounded by people like you for being bitterly partisan.

Your third choice -- "Find what you absolutely agree with and endorse it, find what you generally agree with and find common ground and find what you can't live with and fight the extremes" -- sounds lovely. It also sounds like what I did: I pointed out the respective Republican and Democratic visions for a Gulf Coast regrouping/rebuilding strategy, and said here's what I like and here's what I don't like. Got a problem with it? Fine, you have a right to your opinion. But it always seems like your opinion makes you thoughtful and a uniter, while my opinions are always knee-jerk and bitterly partisan. Convenient how that works out, isn't it?

And I'm sorry for hurting conservatives' delicate fee-fees if I get pissed off and decide I "can't live with" underpaying workers or the GOP continuing to work themselves into a lather over the estate tax when there are so many important things to worry about, but . . . well, such is life. If you want to debate those things, fine; but if all you want to do is pout about "partisanship" anytime someone has the audacity to disagree with you (or with George W. Bush), take it someplace else, k thx.

Doug said...

And while I'm on a football-and-caffeine-induced roll here, take your "If you really think that Republicans in this country are the pack of heartless pricks you have characterized here" straw men and take them elsewhere while you're at it. I thought I'd made it clear on this blog and in the past that I can, in fact, differentiate between Republicans in government and everyday folks who just happen to vote conservative, and that I don't paint all of them with the same broad brush. I have Republican relatives. I have Republican friends. As hard as this may be to fathom, I'm even dating a Republican -- and during the Alabama-South Carolina game yesterday afternoon (which Bama won in a walk, Roll f$#!ing Tide), we actually had a thoughtful, reasonable, non-shouting-or-name-calling political discussion! About abortion!!!11!1!!!1

Wish you coulda been there. It was beautiful.

Steve said...

Haven't pouted in a while and my fee-fee isn't particularly delicate. Pick the random shit on the edges and blow it up all you want. In the end it's still ankle biting. Proud of you that you can differentiate between everyday Republicans and the people they elect, but it's still a simplistic view. And your opinions are pretty much knee-jerk and bitterly partisan. If you go back to your original post is is full of links to other blogs who's knee's jerk even faster than yours.

What you pointed out was all the noble stuff the Dems proposed and the extreme periphery of the Reps side. Why is it that the Democrats always come off as "thoughful and uniters" while the Republicans always come off as pricks?

Doug said...

OK, this gives me an opportunity to ask a question I've been wanting an answer to for months now (hell, years).

Aside from the invasion of Afghanistan, which I vocally supported, what has Bush done or proposed in the last five years that I should support?

The Iraq war? Social Security privatization? The tax cuts? The federal response to Hurricane Katrina? The Federal Marriage Amendment?

Pick out something Bush has done that has gone right and that I, as a person whose political views lie decidedly to the left of center in most cases, should support. Make the case for it. Convince me it's a good idea.

Then, if I come up with a counter-argument, is that something you'll listen to and weigh on its merits? Or will you just roll your eyes and say I'm being a "knee-jerk" Bush hater?

Has it never occurred to you that maybe, just maybe, when I express my disagreement with something Bush has done or wants to do, that I've got reasons for it, that I'm not just taking rhetorical marching orders from some great big lefty mothership? If you don't think so, aren't you just kind of automatically dismissing my point of view out of hand, and therefore being every bit as condescendingly "knee-jerk" as you're accusing me of being?

Anonymous said...

I have Republican friends and I date one? That's mighty big of you.

You ought love everything I dislike about Bush policy and programs:

- Medicare drug program
- NCLB (co-sponsored by Teddy)
- Billions for rebuilding a flood plain full of the "less fortunate."
- Open borders
- Putting Clinton on the relief fund effort
- The last transportation budget bill

Pick one.

Anonymous said...

For all of you who were quick to blame (damn, you all are good at blaming), remember hurricane Andrew? Well, it seems that it took James Lee Witt five days to get FEMA federal relief to Homestead, FL. That's one day more than Michael Brown's FEMA reaction to Katrina. Just thought you might like to know.

Anonymous said...

Just in....

Mayor Nagin has miraculously found bus drivers for his buses to evacuate in the event Rita causes the need to do so.

Doug said...

Get the difibrillator ready, anonymous, you're about to find that we agree on some stuff.

Medicare drug benefit: It'll do more good for the pharm companies than it ever does for any consumers, and it was way overpriced even before Bush & Co. pulled their little bait-and-switch with the price tag.

No Child Left Behind: All stick, no carrot.

Open borders: I'm not saying we need to build a big Pat Buchanan concrete wall along the Rio Grande -- I'm still down with the whole huddled-masses-yearning-to-breathe-free -- but it's outrageous that four years after 9/11 we're still doing such a half-assed job of checking into the people who want in.

Transportation bill: Porktastic to an embarrassing degree.

Now, I do part company with you on your opposition to rebuilding the flood plain (what are we supposed to do? Just block off New Orleans and never let anyone live there again?) and Bill Clinton being involved with the relief effort. Come on, Billy Boy and GWHB did a decent job with the tsunami, why not let him help out with Katrina? I mean, whatever keeps him out of the Little Rock Hooters, right?

Steve said...

My point has never been opposition. I respect thoughtful opposition. What I don't respect is petty, overblown rhetoric and half-truths (more Bill from JC than you on the the half-truth thing) from either side. Yes I'm conservative by nature, but that doesn't mean I buy into everything that comes out of the administration or the Republicans and even policies I may not generally agree with I may defend against overblown rhetoric and half-truths because there are legitimate reasons to oppose and they are superceded by charges of elitism, racisms, classism and heartlessness.

I also have a pragmatic side that just can't stand impractical idealism. Progress is made by making deals with the devil (right or left). Digging your heals in and saying hell no except in the extreme cases is time wasting. Witness the Roberts confirmation process. Those opposed are generally standing up for votes in the next election. A political calculation versus a reasoned position backed by facts.

Doug said...

The Democrats who are opposing Roberts's nomination may not necessarily have the loftiest of motives for doing so, but "standing up for votes in the next election" isn't one of them. We're facing enough vitally important issues in this country -- Iraq, the budget, Katrina, health care -- that "I said no to John Roberts, vote for me!" isn't exactly going to be a big rallying cry for the Dems when the next election cycle rolls around. If anything, it's going to be the Republicans who try to hit the Dems with Roberts, exhorting people to vote against the "obstructionist" Democrats. To hear a lot of the conservative wing's pundits and bloggers tell it, the Senate's "advise and consent" responsibility basically means rubber-stamping anyone and everyone that the president nominates their way. Roger L. Simon all but came right out and said that voting against Roberts somehow goes against the Constitution.

Steve said...

The Democrats who will vote for Roberts will generally come from red states. Those against are either safe in their seats or making calculations depending on whether they're vulnerable to a farther left fellow Democrat. Bottom line is that Roberts is probably the best the left could ever hope for and "advise and consent" doesn't mean he/she has to look exactly like you/me. Elections mean something. You guys lost and while at least I don't want you to be lap dogs, I also want you to be practical. Look at the votes Breyer and Ginsburg got. It can be done.