In his speech at the National Cathedral, Bush essentially said that his administration will not fund Katrina reconstruction costs, which will probably run to $200 billion, through additional taxes, but rather through smarter spending--though as the article makes clear, Sen. Coburn (R-OK lesbian school bathrooms) is certainly not happy about the administration's lack of commitment to fiscal restraint.
In the spirit of fiscal restraint, then, I have a few suggestions for the President on how to adequately curtail spending so as to better afford Katrina reconstruction:
1) Refuse to concede to Grover Norquist's wet dream of eliminating the estate tax, regardless of whether he couches it in terms of helping Katrina victims or not.
2) Demand a White House/Congressional inquiry into the demotion of Bunnatine Greenhouse, as well as into Halliburton's continued systematic overcharging and defrauding of the US Military and the American taxpayer. Follow this up by creating a special panel of independent auditors from the CBO or anywhere else to oversee and audit the reconstruction contracts in the gulf coast.
3) Cut down on the pork-barrel spending for your Republican colleagues, best symbolized by Ted Steven's and Don Young's infamous bridges to nowhere.
4) Eliminating tens of billions of dollars a year in subsidies to the fossil fuel industry, which is already making obscene record profits.
5) Initiating a "strategic withdrawal" from Iraq, saving a billion dollars a week.
6) Eliminate needless and dangerous WMD spending that could escalate into a new proliferation arms race, such as $9.2 billion in fiscal year 2005 for Missile Defense, or, as a lesser example, $150 million for the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator.
Mr. President, these are but a few humble suggestions that could free up tens of billions of dollars, if not more over the long term, without any adverse effects. In fact, these cuts might even increase your popularity--not only with your conservative, anti-spending base, but also with moderates and liberals, who also strongly disapprove of the spending in question.
To hasten the revitalization of New Orleans, and assist with eliminating the equality that you also mentioned in your speech, I could also recommend reinstating the prevailing wage law for New Orleans reconstruction--the wage law which you quite unwisely suspended not very long ago. Presidents from FDR to Clinton have proven that the best way to eliminate equality is to guarantee fair pay for hard work, especially in an area hit hard by catastrophe, as the whole nation was after the great depression.
As Bonddad, one of my favorite diarists on Daily Kos, has convincingly pointed out, a nation cannot pay for the consequences of two national disasters and an elective war without sacrifice--much less while continuing to slash the responsibilities of those who can afford it the most.
You have arrived at a big fork in a long road, Mr. President. Despite your initial failure in managing the Katrina disaster, you have a golden opportunity to take a lasting step to create more economic, social and racial equality. Try not to blow it.