FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Hurricane Katrina and Davis-Bacon Profiteering

by DAVID PRICE

President Bush stands confused and silent as his geographical base is first hammered by forces of unbridled nature, and then more brutally abused by those corporate profiteers who will emerge to lay claim to the devastated regions’ rebuilding. While the revocation of the Davis-Bacon Act conveniently limits the meager wages of devastated construction workers, we hear nothing about limiting the corporate profits to be made by these disasters.

The timidity of the Democrats is not surprising given their post-Lakoffian commitment to constructing their own Orwellian linguistic frames to counter Republican advances in bold dishonesty. Its too bad they are content to wage slogan wars without substance, because if America had an opposition party, it could rise in power by whipping-up some political outrage over the post-storm unrestrained profiteering for developers and re-building financiers, while local workers’ wages are legally set at substandard levels.

Forget about Kansas. The corruption trailing Katrina and Rita could make Florida, Louisiana, costal Texas and chunks of the southern heartland up for grabs to politicians willing to challenge the corporate strategies that will commodify human misery. But don’t get your hopes up, first we’d need a party interested in supporting workers with more than words.

Any politician interested in class warfare is being handed some pretty easy pickings. Those looking for safe poses could even hearken back to the glories of our past world wars, where beloved presidents castigated those who would profit from American suffering. Even before America entered into the Second World War, President Roosevelt declared that he did not “want to see a single war millionaire created in the United States as a result of this world disaster,” and Senator Truman described war profiteering as “treason.” It should be easy to convert these sentiments to the current disasters. But today Democratic leaders wait patiently while Bush stammers in confusion, declares a national day of prayer, then acts like a Walmart Manager hurrying to cut workers wages. There is silence concerning the millionaires who will be created by this world disaster.

America must expand discussions of reconstruction cost-limits beyond those of laborers and look to past crises efforts to limit the profits of owners, not workers. Politicians should look beyond the 1931 Davis-Bacon Act, back to the 1917 establishment of the United States General Munitions Board as it limited profits to be made by the American armament industry during the First World War. The Munitions Board, with some success (and some failures) limited the greed and profits to be made by human misery by limiting wartime profits to the modest limit of “cost-plus-ten-percent.”

While the First World War cost-plus wartime schemes, and those that followed in the Second World War had some significant problems (most notably involving tax relief schemes and inflated costs) they did limit cost overruns and succeeded in swelling workers wages at record rates. During World War II, federal cost-plus profiteering programs did not wholly eliminate price gouging, but they did limit the extent of war profiteering while simultaneously raising workers’ wages-for obvious reasons given owners’ new motivations to increase costs.

But Democrats and Republicans alike remain loyal to their corporate base, and the risks of changing loyalties from management to workers all but guarantee that no politician will seriously focus (even for purely partisan purposes) on Bush’s suspension of Davis-Bacon as an act of contempt for the working peoples whose lives have been devastated by the storm, and the economic prospects to follow.

DAVID PRICE teaches anthropology at St. Martin’s University in Olympia, Washington. He is the author of Threatening Anthropology: McCarthyism and the FBI’s Surveillance of Activist Anthropologists (Duke, 2004). His next book is entitled: Weaponizing Anthropology: American Anthropology and the Second World War. He can be reached at: dprice@stmartin.edu

 

 

 

 

 

 

CLARIFICATION

ALEXANDER COCKBURN, JEFFREY ST CLAIR, BECKY GRANT AND THE INSTITUTE FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF JOURNALISTIC CLARITY, COUNTERPUNCH

We published an article entitled “A Saudiless Arabia” by Wayne Madsen dated October 22, 2002 (the “Article”), on the website of the Institute for the Advancement of Journalistic Clarity, CounterPunch, www.counterpunch.org (the “Website”).

Although it was not our intention, counsel for Mohammed Hussein Al Amoudi has advised us the Article suggests, or could be read as suggesting, that Mr Al Amoudi has funded, supported, or is in some way associated with, the terrorist activities of Osama bin Laden and the Al Qaeda terrorist network.

We do not have any evidence connecting Mr Al Amoudi with terrorism.

As a result of an exchange of communications with Mr Al Amoudi’s lawyers, we have removed the Article from the Website.

We are pleased to clarify the position.

August 17, 2005

 

David Price a professor of anthropology at Saint Martin’s University in Lacey, Washington. He is the author of Weaponizing Anthropology: Social Science in Service of the Militarized State published by CounterPunch Books.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
December 09, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Nasty As They Wanna Be
Henry Giroux
Trump’s Second Gilded Age: Overcoming the Rule of Billionaires and Militarists
Andrew Levine
Trump’s Chumps: Victims of the Old Bait and Switch
Erin McCarley
American Nazis and the Fight for US History
Lewis Lapham
Hostile Takeover
Joshua Frank
This Week at CounterPunch: More Hollow Smears and Baseless Accusations
Paul Street
The Democrats Do Their Job, Again
Vijay Prashad
The Cuban Revolution: Defying Imperialism From Its Backyard
Michael Hudson - Sharmini Peries
Orwellian Economics
Mark Ames
The Anonymous Blacklist Promoted by the Washington Post Has Apparent Ties to Ukrainian Fascism and CIA Spying
Conn Hallinan
India & Pakistan: the Unthinkable
Andrew Smolski
Third Coast Pillory: Nativism on the Left – A Realer Smith
Joshua Sperber
Trump in the Age of Identity Politics
Brandy Baker
Jill Stein Sees Russia From Her House
Katheryne Schulz
Report from Santiago de Cuba: Celebrating Fidel’s Rebellious Life
Nelson Valdes
Fidel and the Good People
Norman Solomon
McCarthy’s Smiling Ghost: Democrats Point the Finger at Russia
Renee Parsons
The Snowflake Nation and Trump on Immigration
Margaret Kimberley
Black Fear of Trump
Michael J. Sainato
A Pruitt Running Through It: Trump Kills Nearly Useless EPA With Nomination of Oil Industry Hack
Ron Jacobs
Surviving Hate and Death—The AIDS Crisis in 1980s USA
David Swanson
Virginia’s Constitution Needs Improving
Louis Proyect
Narcos and the Story of Colombia’s Unhappiness
Paul Atwood
War Has Been, is, and Will be the American Way of Life…Unless?
John Wight
Syria and the Bodyguard of Lies
Richard Hardigan
Anti-Semitism Awareness Act: Senate Bill Criminalizes Criticism of Israel
Kathy Kelly
See How We Live
David Macaray
Trump Picks his Secretary of Labor. Ho-Hum.
Howard Lisnoff
Interview with a Political Organizer
Yves Engler
BDS and Anti-Semitism
Martha Durkee-Neuman
Millennial Organizers Want to See An Intersectional Understanding Of Gun Violence
Adam Parsons
Home Truths About the Climate Emergency
Brian Cloughley
The Decline and Fall of Britain
Eamonn Fingleton
U.S. China Policy: Is Obama Schizoid?
Graham Peebles
Worldwide Air Pollution is Making us Ill
Joseph Natoli
Fake News is Subjective?
Andre Vltchek
Tough-Talking Philippine President Duterte
Binoy Kampmark
Total Surveillance: Snooping in the United Kingdom
Guillermo R. Gil
Vivirse la película: Willful Opposition to the Fiscal Control Board in Puerto Rico
Patrick Bond
South Africa’s Junk Credit Rating was Avoided, But at the Cost of Junk Analysis
Clancy Sigal
Investigate the Protesters! A Trial Balloon Filled With Poison Gas
Charles R. Larson
Review:  Helon Habila’s The Chibok Girls: the Boko Haram Kidnappings and Islamist Militancy in Nigeria
December 08, 2016
John W. Whitehead
Power to the People: John Lennon’s Legacy Lives On
Mike Whitney
Rolling Back the Empire: Washington’s Proxy-Army Faces Decisive Defeat in Aleppo
Ellen Brown
“We’ll Look at Everything:” More Thoughts on Trump’s $1 Trillion Infrastructure Plan
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail