Monday, September 12, 2005

Conservatism Failed the Gulf Coast and the US

From the Center for American Progress....

Conservatives have hectored Americans for three decades with tall tales about the evils of government. But ask yourself a simple question: what have conservatives done for the hardest hit families in the Gulf Coast? The tax cuts did nothing for them. Their kids are stuck in sub-par schools. Many lack basic health insurance. Few have any assets or savings. And thousands didn’t have the basic means or networks to get out safely. The “ownership society” means nothing to them.

“Less government” means fewer protections and opportunities to get ahead. “A strong defense” meant the strong were defended while the vulnerable were left behind. “Federalism” meant legal squabbling while people were stuck on roofs. The pillars of modern conservatism failed to provide even the basic needs of those hit by Hurricane Katrina.

Government is not the problem. Conservative government is the problem.The Bush administration’s actions have only reinforced the need for smart government that protects the public good, not an anti-government ideology that puts private interests above common needs. Relentless budget cuts and misplaced policy priorities left vital government capabilities uncoordinated, stripped of critical funding, and in the hands of political novices. These were the results of deliberate decisions by our nation’s conservative leaders who blindly adhered to the failed notion that less government is always better. When America needed its officials to step up to the challenge of a massive disaster, conservative government let us down.

Conservatives claim to be the promoters of a strong defense, but ended up delivering only weakness and uncertainty.For years, conservatives have thumped their chest about their supposed strength and resolve, but then withered in the face of a huge national disaster. They have failed to protect our nation and prepare us for adversity. Four years after 9/11, the nation’s Army is severely overstretched and under-recruited. The nation is bogged down in Iraq. Terrorist networks are growing across the globe. Chemical plants remain unguarded. And our newly created Department of Homeland Security can’t handle the aftermath of a hurricane. Even leading conservative voices are asking what would happen if we suffered a biological or chemical attack. This is not what the country thinks of as a strong defense.

Taking care of the wealthy first does nothing to ensure shared sacrifice and mutual responsibility for America’s needs and security. For the first time in history, a wartime president and his allies in Congress have sacrificed the nation's well-being to their ideology by asking nothing from those who have prospered so much from the collective work of all Americans.

After cutting taxes for the wealthy after 9/11 and before the war in Iraq, conservatives now have the audacity to claim that Katrina should actually speed up the move to repeal the estate tax for millionaires. The culmination of thirty years of conservative dreams and proposals has produced little more than a destabilized economy racked by corruption and misplaced priorities that favor the needs of the few over the national interest.

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