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Born Again in New Orleans

The right-wing’s central dogma is limited government, hoisted aloft on the twin pillars of tax cuts and personal responsibility.

Ronald Reagan made famous the notion that “government isn’t the solution — government is the problem,” which played well in the theater of American politics for a generation. Right along with welfare queens, a favorite target of the Reagan claque was “tax-and-spend liberals.”

While cleverly tarring the opposition as profligates, Reagan practiced an even more odious fiscal policy that could be described as “borrow and spend.” Like the current occupant of the White House, programs that helped poor and working-class people were hacked away as “waste, fraud and abuse,” while gigantic subsidies for corporations and massive military spending, coupled with tax cuts for the wealthy, increased budget deficits beyond comprehension.

Without a hint of irony, a top-tier Republican lobbyist in a glass suite like Grover Norquist describes this mechanism as starving the beast.

The practical effect of putting the beast on a ration of bread and water during this time has become painfully apparent in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. While it may sound trite, putting profits ahead of people when it came to setting this nation’s budget priorities has led directly to a number of extremely painful consequences.

Necessary measures to prevent levee breaches were shortchanged. Preparation for an effective and timely response to emergencies was neglected, with responsibility given to incompetent political hacks. Restoring what has been lost will require an effort — and resources — on a scale never before seen.

The president, before a backdrop lovingly created by his PR imagemasters, delivered a speech to the nation Thursday night that was uncharacteristically humble and humane.

In it, he took responsibility for the failure of the government to respond quickly and effectively to the disaster. He addressed the issues of poverty and racism, and how the legacy of injustice was responsible for much of the suffering on the Gulf Coast today. He pledged that the government would provide the necessary resources to make victims whole again.

The nation as a whole may nod approvingly, but the unease among Bush’s base of the “have-mores” is palpable. His grand gesture is earning him comparisons with Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson — not the least from right-wingers who despise them as symbols of “big government.”

Bush has never been reticent about his religious experience, about how his life was transformed after being “born again.”

Is his new-found compassion for the poor and concern for the victims of historical injustice evidence of yet another life-transforming experience?

Perhaps. But on the day after his speech, Bush was asked how his administration would pay for the expensive promises he’d made, and if tax increases would be required — the “shared sacrifice” he so routinely invokes when it comes to, say, the adventure in Iraq.

If Bush is indeed a changed man, it sure doesn’t square with his unequivocal rejection of higher taxes to pay for his promises. So what is the message, besides that promises are made to be broken?

Talk is cheap. Rebuilding the devastated Gulf Coast will not be. In any case, what really matters to the White House is Bush’s image and poll numbers. Karl Rove won’t be dispatching FEMA to deal with that disaster.

Bill Pahnelas lives in Richmond, Virginia. He can be reached at: wpahnelas@thesupplyroom.com

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

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