A lot of liberal bloggers are arguing that Bush defunded NOLA's levee engineering and storm defense projects so he could pay for the war in Iraq. With all due respect, that's nonsense. All the cuts combined: $71 million from the New Orleans district, $27 million from the Corps project to complete repairs on levees (including the very section that was breached), plus some $60-odd million from the state budget, all together add up to less than one day of the Iraq War. The total spent on the levee project over 10 years equals about 4 days. Even the $2 billion estimated to build a comprehensive Category 5 protection system would keep our soldiers in Iraq for only another fortnight.
The reality is that Bush's tax cuts caused this catastrophe. The Iraq war, as costly and corrupt as it is, is just peanuts compared to the tax cuts. Repealing the tax breaks on just the very rich would pay for the ongoing Iraq debacle and then some. Repealing all the tax cuts might not plug the growing leak in our national debt, but at least it would move the true costs of war, and our spendthrift GOP leadership, to the here and now rather than passing the pain along to our children.
Of course the war is part of the problem, robbing states of the men and equipment that could have been instrumental in preventing loss of life, but I think focusing on the war's dollar cost is not productive. Why? Because they're at it again. Next week the GOP-controlled Senate is expected to vote to permanently repeal the estate tax, a brand new giveaway which would reduce tax revenues by something like $75 BILLION every year. That would be on top of the $100 BILLION per year if Bush's current tax cuts are made permanent. Never mind the estimated $12 to $24 BILLION that charities would lose every year as collateral damage. Altogether we could carry on 3 more Iraq wars with the money that the GOP want to divert from common good to personal wealth.
This is not just a matter of bad timing or bad taste -- it's a moral outrage.
Connecting Bush's unpopular war in Iraq to the Bush administration's failure to manage the humanitarian nightmare in New Orleans may be smart politics. Many pundits have argued, perhaps rightly, that Bush's presidency and his party's continued legitimacy live or die on the Iraq war. So it's never a bad thing to point out more reasons why people should be unhappy about Bush's misadventures in Mesopotamia.
But this is about a lot more than just failed invasion of Iraq. This is a picture of what happens when the modern conservative movement succeeds. Their stated goal is to "starve the beast" so that they can "drown it in a bathtub." Cutting taxes to already anemic domestic programs was expected to lead to this kind of result. As this author points out unless liberal citizens and the opposition party start raising hell about anti-tax, anti-government ideology we're going to get more and more of this type of tragedy. And the corporatists will make out both ways -- it's part of the plan.
Taxation is a moral issue. It's way past time to reclaim the high ground from the knee-jerk tax-haters. It's too late for the victims of Katrina, but we owe it to their memory to make sure this never, ever happens again in America.
P.S.: Shouldn't Hurricanes fans be more sensitive?
P/S 2: Just by way of comparison, the transportation bill contained $500 million for bridges in Alaska that most experts agree are not needed. That's about five Iraq-days, and about twenty years of NO levee spending. The reason that was funded and the dire need in Louisiana was not? The chariman of the appropriations comittee is from Alaska. Oink, oink.