The closing window on Katrina's poverty debate
By Deanna Zandt
But what looked like a chance to talk up new programs is fast becoming a scramble to save the old ones.
Conservatives have already used the storm for causes of their own, like suspending requirements that federal contractors have affirmative action plans and pay locally prevailing wages. And with federal costs for rebuilding the Gulf Coast estimated at up to $200 billion, Congressional Republican leaders are pushing for spending cuts, with programs like Medicaid and food stamps especially vulnerable.
"We've had a stunning reversal in just a few weeks," said Robert Greenstein, director of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal advocacy group in Washington. "We've gone from a situation in which we might have a long-overdue debate on deep poverty to the possibility, perhaps even the likelihood, that low-income people will be asked to bear the costs. I would find it unimaginable if it wasn't actually happening."
All this despite widespread public approval for rolling back the tax cuts to support recovery, combined with record-low poll numbers for the president's job approval rating (check out Peek's post on 2% of African-Americans approving of Bush's job performance). Unfortunately, the blogswarm and the mainstream media have both moved on to Harriet Miers and her lack of substance, while others are picking over the indictments running amok in the GOP.
Not that these things are important, but we progressives all agree that poverty is the source of pretty much all the world's woes -- but then we allow our collective ADD to move on from the naked ugliness of our country's failures to protect our own.
Deanna Zandt is a contributing editor at AlterNet, and manages Start Making Sense.