White House still isn't responding to Katrina victims

The Kerry bumper sticker that's still on my car is my small defiant way of letting the world know that I didn't vote for and do not support George W. Bush's corrupt, selfish, greedy, mean-spirited and morally bankrupt administration.

It's been a year since the re-election of George W. Bush. During that time, President Bush has been tested in some fundamental ways. Hurricane Katrina was the perfect storm for FEMA. Was our government under Mr. Bush's leadership able to respond to people in need on a massive scale? No. With four years to prepare for more mayhem following Sept. 11, and knowing that the deployment of National Guard troops to Iraq left us vulnerable in the event of a domestic natural disaster, the administration flunked the midterm.

Is the White House doing any better in the recovery effort? No. A New York Times editorial on Nov. 14 said it well. "Public outrage is clearly growing over the federal government's woefully inadequate program for housing the hundreds of thousands of people displaced by Hurricane Katrina."

The Times argues that the HUD Section 8 voucher program should be used to meet the need, but the Bush administration has "been working feverishly to cripple HUD and destroy the Section 8 voucher program for years." The Times editorial concludes, "Still focused on tax cuts for the wealthy, the administration is apparently hoping that people who need housing will be frustrated by the difficult process of applying for federal relief dollars and simply give up and go away."

Bush's 2006 budget, released in February, sustained deficit-swelling tax cuts to the rich while cutting social programs like food stamps and home energy assistance, forcing the poor and elderly to choose between food and heat.

In September, House Republicans proposed to pay for Katrina damage and the war in Iraq by cutting food stamps for 300,000 working poor from the program. Rolling back tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans wasn't even considered.

According to the Sacramento Bee, the average food stamp benefit is $86 per month. The U.S. Department of Agriculture just released a report that 13.2 percent of the nation's population doesn't have enough food because they can't afford it.

The public perception is that Katrina relief is being paid for by cutting safety net programs. In that light, Bush's draconian cuts may now be too severe even for this Republican controlled Congress. Human needs advocates have prevailed upon some moderate House Republicans to reject the most onerous slashes to Medicaid, child support, food stamps and foster care in legislation now being considered.

Bush's manmade disaster, the war in Iraq, is faring no better. While Mr. Bush attacks critics of the war, he is doing nothing to end it. His recent invective against anyone who dares to question the war, calling critics "deeply irresponsible" and again invoking the specter of terrorism, is offensive and counterproductive. Whether Mr. Bush and his defense hawks manipulated the intelligence information about weapons of mass destruction or not, we are now in an undeclared war of questionable purpose with no foreseeable end. It is fitting that our elected representatives challenge Mr. Bush as commander-in-chief. It is pathetic that his best defense of the war is to attack his critics.

With over 2,000 American soldiers dead and an astounding 15,000 maimed and wounded, he has been diffident in providing adequate medical and support services for these wounded soldiers as they adjust to civilian life with their disabilities.

Improving the health care delivery system for all veterans and ensuring that today's soldiers and families are supported should be a given. These veterans, most of whom are part of the working poor, need the government's safety net. Ironically today's veterans are finding it more difficult to access health care and benefits. They cannot depend on the government that they fought for to ensure adequate services.

In the 1960s, social programs were created by President Lyndon Johnson and dubbed the "war on poverty." The programs have had mixed results, but the intent of President Johnson was to eradicate poverty.

Things are different for the less fortunate in this fat-cat administration. Today, it is appalling to realize that in Bush's topsy-turvy world of Orwellian doublespeak, "war on poverty" means war on poor people, and as wars go, he's having more success at home than abroad.

n Abby Johnson is a resident of Carson City, and a part-time resident of Baker. She consults on community development and nuclear waste issues. Her opinions are her own and do not necessarily reflect those of her clients.


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