God's Politics

God's Politics

Rose Marie Berger: Time for a Gulf Coast WPA?

As we cross the year and a half mark since the United States lost more than 1,500 people, a major American city, and had roughly 90,000 square miles devastated by the perfect storms of Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Bush, I want to highlight a recently released report (“A New Agenda for the Gulf”) by our friends at The Institute for Southern Studies. The
14-page report documents the scope of the crisis in the Gulf. The report also reveals that, while state and local leadership is important, many of the most pressing issues go straight to Washington, D.C., and that federal action is needed to jump-start the recovery. President Bush and the new congressional leadership have all said Katrina and the Gulf Coast are still a top priority. The report gives more than 30 action steps Congress and the president can take now to help turn things around.


These include:

*A comprehensive review of those cases where victims have had their housing aid cut off and reinstate those found to have been wrongly terminated.
*Transfer education recovery efforts from FEMA to the Department of Education.
*Require the U.S. Public Health Service and Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry to provide ongoing care and testing to residents exposed to toxic pollution released in the storms’ aftermath.
*Congress should pass a Gulf Coast Civic Works Project (based on the Works Progress Administration model used during the Great Depression) that would hire residents of the Gulf Coast to rebuild their homes and communities.

Rose Marie Berger is an associate editor and poetry editor for Sojourners magazine.

Comments read comments(12)
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posted March 2, 2007 at 9:42 pm

Why should the Gulf Coast be rebuilt? It seems to me that people are making rational decisions to stay away from a place that has lost much of its value to them. What are these people doing today? Many of them have become productive members of other communities. Should the federal government create artificial incentives (subsidies) to attract them back to a place they left? Won’t that create incentives for people who never lived there to return in their place? Who is most likely to take advantage of such a set of incentives? The poor? Or those with enough resources to relocate? Who will pay for all of this? People who never lived there and think that living there is a bad idea will pay taxes, some of which will be diverted to this subsidy. People will be forced to do something which government decision makers claim is a good deed, but may in fact have adverse effects. Any good deed done under compulsion loses its virtue. On the other hand, thousands of believers have been remarkably effective at ministering to those who are rightly classified as the least of these. They have given of their time, effort, and money voluntarily with excellent results. Everywhere, we observe government aid as being slow, misdirected, and inefficient. The church doesn’t need the government. We can be the force for social good without it. Then, Christ will get all the glory, instead of the god of the State.

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posted March 2, 2007 at 9:44 pm

Hee hee. Good one Rose. List Bush in the same breath as Katrina and Rita (as perfect storms) and then turn to the Administration for assistance in working to implement your plan. How not to make friends and influence people. Exibit A.

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posted March 2, 2007 at 9:46 pm

Wouldn’t it also be better for the environment if most of New Orleans was never rebuilt? If I was king for a day, the levees wouldn’t be rebuilt and the Mississippi River would be allowed to return to its natural course. Everyone who was displaced would receive a one-time gov’t voucher to help them get their lives back together – somewhere else.

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posted March 3, 2007 at 12:49 am

the tone of this conversation so far is ignoring the most glaring reason to rebuild – COMMUNITY! this is where people lived and grew up and have their families and their family graves and the family businesses and their local church communities and their best life-long friends. you cannot put a dollar value on this but it is worth salvaging for the people affected. to lose your entire existence – your house & your job, the thing you need most is your COMMUNITY and your best friends and familiarity. i grew up on the MS gulf coast & water came knee-deep into my parents’ home where they raised their kids & where they have friendships that have existed longer than i have. after that ordeal, to tell them and others like them to leave would have broken them. they need community, we all need community to sustain us, especially in times when we are hurting. its value is immeasurable, certainly by some foolish economic analysis of the situation.

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posted March 3, 2007 at 1:39 am

Excuse me Rosie – but I have search Google for hurricanes and I can not find one that was names ‘Bush’ over the past few decades. OH – I get it…another lame slam on the President, how original. I believe that it is the states responsibility to get their act together and make sure their citizens are cared for honey. Rebuilding all of New Orleans with them being below sea level makes as much sense as Duluth MN reclaiming land from Lake Superior and expanding the city into the lake. HELLO – does anyone think that this might happen again since the governor of LA is only rebuilding the dikes to handle a category 3 storm again? A few years ago we had a major flood in northern MN around the Fargo – Morehead area. The governors of MN and ND worked with FEMA and thousands of people from MN and ND came to their aid. They also refused some to rebuild their houses on their original lots because ‘this could happen again’. These areas are now flood planes for the future. I hold the Governor of LA and the Mayor of NO most responsible for what has and has not taken place down there. Then again the mayor might be too busy making sure that NO is a ‘chocolate’ city. They need to take responsibility – now. Later – .

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posted March 3, 2007 at 3:33 am

I agree with ModerateLad. I live in Pensacola, FL. Hurricane Ivan created huge problems here, but Bush did a great job fixing it. And by “Bush,” I mean “Former Governor Jeb.” While of course the President and FEMA (which, incidentally, did a great job here—in fact they actually won’t STOP giving us money) have a responsibility, I do not understand why people keep blaming Bush as if he signed a bill authorizing Katrina to destroy New Orleans. The local and state governments should be the first line of defense; the feds should be there to pick up what they cannot. God bless.

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Mark P

posted March 3, 2007 at 5:04 pm

Entitlement society.

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carl copas

posted March 3, 2007 at 8:16 pm

“Love your neighbor”?

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posted March 3, 2007 at 8:38 pm

Rose, you forgot about Hurricane Kathleen (the grossly incompetent Louisiana governor) and the Mayor Nagin memorial bus pool.

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posted March 7, 2007 at 10:25 pm

Rose Seems like this one died early.SO – what are Kathleen and Nagin going to do to get that area back together again?Later – .

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