Mayor Ray Nagin was back in the nation's capital Thursday. This time he met with President George W. Bush about the lack of temporary housing in the Crescent City.
Nagin also discussed concerns over the levee protection system, who will pay for its reconstruction and how to create incentives to bring residents and businesses back to the city.
The mayor later said the nation can't afford to let the New Orleans metro area continue to suffer.
During the meeting, President Bush reassured Louisiana officials that the federal government will not forget its duty to help rebuild New Orleans from the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina.
Mayor Nagin told reporters that he is pleased by the level of federal support, but he's beginning to see some "Katrina fatigue" on Capitol Hill.
resident Bush's advisers insist that he's not abandoning conservatism in his commitment to rebuild the Gulf Coast. But a mark of conservative thinking is properly identifying problems before dedicating billions to solving them. The president hasn't done that in New Orleans. Instead, in his September 15 speech from Jackson Square, Bush vowed to combat "poverty"-a foe that cities and the feds have never conquered in their long war against urban decay.
From Froma Harrop:
New Orleans offers a quick study of Bush labor policy in action: On Aug. 29, Hurricane Katrina strikes, causing widespread destruction. Four days later, President Bush commits $10.1 billion of the taxpayers' money to rebuilding New Orleans. Four days after that, he suspends the Davis-Bacon Act - the law that requires federal contractors to pay workers the going local rate.
Illegal immigrants, willing to work at less-than-prevailing wages, stream into New Orleans. And a mere six weeks after the last evacuee leaves the Superdome, we hear of complaints by illegal workers that employers are stiffing them of their meager pay.
So here you have it, a lesson on how to crush the market for blue-collar labor. And it could have been done in four PowerPoint slides...
There's only one sane explanation of why Bush would try to lower wages in a tight labor market: He intended all along to flood the market with cheap foreign workers.
It's a simple setup: (1) Get rid of Davis-Bacon, so contractors can offer below-market pay that Americans and legal immigrants won't touch; (2) continue to disregard the law that forbids companies to hire undocumented workers; (3) when people complain that the workers restoring New Orleans are not legal, say that they are taking jobs no American wants.
The one price that may never rise, in the Bush mindset, is the price of labor. Companies must cope with rising costs for energy, drugs or land. If they can't deal with it, they go out of business. But cheap labor is somehow an entitlement...
And, the Dems will say hardly a word about any of this.
From the AFL-CIO comes AFL-CIO News: Workers Win Fair Wages as Bush Backs off Davis-Bacon Suspension:
In response to working families and their unions, as well as community and religious groups and some members of Congress, President George W. Bush on Oct. 26 rescinded his executive order that allowed contractors to pay substandard wages to construction workers rebuilding Gulf Coast areas devastated by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The order, which suspended the federal Davis-Bacon Act, now will expire Nov. 8.
Grassroots activists sent more than 350,000 e-mails and letters to their representatives demanding fair wages be reinstated for the Gulf Coast, where skilled, full-time workers average less than $20,000 a year in pay.
One of Bush's first acts after Hurricane Katrina hit was suspending Davis-Bacon. Enacted in 1931, Davis-Bacon ensures high-quality work standards and community prevailing wage requirements for federally funded rebuilding projects. A few days after suspending Davis-Bacon, Bush also suspended affirmative action rules for Katrina contractors.
Oddly enough, I don't see anything there about Bush also allowing contractors to hire anyone regardless of immigration status. In fact, other than the LA Dems, no other Dems are complaining about that.
Yet, all those illegal aliens will serve to reduce wages for American hurricane victims, and will just serve as a backdoor way for major contractors to screw American workers. So, why doesn't the AFL-CIO say anything about that? Why don't those politicians who complained about this say anything? Are they afraid that MALDEF will call them "mean-spirited"? Don't worry, scared Dems. Here, I'll hold your hand as you try to reach down deep inside for that last little speck of patriotism.
Almost two months after Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast and a month after promising in a nationally televised speech to help rebuild the region "quickly," President Bush has settled on a cautious, piecemeal approach that even many members of his own party fear will stall reconstruction and sow economic disarray.
Bush has made highly publicized trips to Louisiana and Mississippi on average of once a week since the storm, but the administration has yet to introduce legislation for two of the three proposals the president highlighted during his September speech from New Orleans.
...Despite mounting evidence that Washington is having trouble putting to use most of the $62 billion in emergency funds approved by Congress so far, the president has resisted appointing a recovery coordinator or further detailing his vision of how to tackle rebuilding. In interviews last week, he explained that he wanted state and local officials to act first.
...Bush's cautiousness appears to be partly a response to some conservatives' clamor for federal budget cuts to offset aid to the Gulf Coast.
...In addition, the scale and complexity of reconstruction pose special challenges for an administration that firmly favors market mechanisms over government action, at least domestically.
With the immediate crisis past, administration officials may be hoping that state and local efforts - and the free market - will relieve them of the thorniest decisions, as well as a substantial chunk of the estimated $200-billion price tag for the region's revival.
However, a variety of prominent Republicans warn that the president's approach is a recipe for trouble.
"So far, all we've done is shovel money out the door to meet the humanitarian needs," said Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa). "But henceforth, we've got to be very careful how we spend the money, and that means we're going to need a plan and somebody in charge."
..."With all due respect to the president, things are not going to bubble up from the bottom," said Jack Kemp, who was Housing and Urban Development secretary under President George H.W. Bush. "There has to be some federal leadership here."
Without clear signals from Washington, some reconstruction decisions are essentially being made on autopilot, raising the risk that the region and the nation will repeat past mistakes.
...Aides said officials were working behind the scenes to ensure that all of the proposals unveiled by the president in his New Orleans speech became law. (In addition to the worker accounts, Bush called for a Gulf Opportunity Zone, or GO Zone, that would provide tax breaks and loans to small businesses, as well as an Urban Homesteading Act that would give low-income families surplus government property and favorable mortgage rates in exchange for the promise to build homes.)
Meanwhile, administration budget officials are preparing another emergency spending bill - this time for about $20 billion, much of it for such clearly defined projects as rebuilding military bases and a NASA facility. The aides said that Bush had not ruled out proposing a reconstruction "czar" or coordinator, though such a post could not "compete with state and local decision-makers."
But if administration work on reconstruction is proceeding, it seems not to be occurring with anything like the urgency and decisiveness that Bush suggested it would when he stood before the cameras in a darkened and largely deserted New Orleans for his Sept. 15 address.
The president's shift from such bold rhetoric toward talk about the limits of federal involvement and the need for local and private-sector leadership is at least partly traceable to an unexpected revolt by congressional conservatives recently...
As the full dimensions of the rebuilding task become clear, Democrats and some GOP leaders are calling for a degree of government involvement that the president almost certainly finds objectionable. The White House appears to be searching for a way to put primary responsibility for coordinating the work on state and local officials...
By offering tax breaks and encouraging local leaders to come up with rebuilding proposals, the White House implicitly hopes Gulf Coast residents solve the riddle themselves.
But [Rep. Richard H. Baker (R-La.)] thinks that's unlikely. Last week, he proposed that Washington create a Louisiana Recovery Corp. aimed at making commitments to rebuild whole communities at once, so that residents have the assurances they need to invest there. The corporation would be able to borrow from the government and financial markets, buy up ruined areas and hire developers to rebuild them. Homeowners and local businesses could sell their storm-damaged properties to the firm or reserve spots in the rebuilt communities. If they refused to do either, the corporation could take the properties by eminent domain.
In a separate proposal, conservative Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) and liberal Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) called for a Cabinet-level Gulf Coast Recovery and Disaster Preparedness Agency, which would be the conduit for all federal funds to the region. A companion agency with a board of mostly state and local officials would come up with the rebuilding plan...
White House officials have all but rejected the Gregg-Kennedy proposal and offered only a polite nod to the Baker plan.
The administration has "bought into the idea this should be a bottom-up thing," Gregg said. "The danger is confusion, inefficiency and huge bureaucratic frustration."
...Bush is playing to similar mixed reviews in Washington, where fellow Republicans as well as policy analysts usually sympathetic to the administration said they had been baffled by an apparent lack of follow-through after the New Orleans speech...
UPDATE: Gregg has won $850,000 in the Powerball lottery.
...Meanwhile, a new concept of opportunity zones has emerged. After Hurricane Katrina, Bush proposed creating a Gulf Opportunity Zone that would qualify for about $2 billion in tax breaks. That idea has gotten plenty of attention on Capitol Hill lately.
[Stephanie] Tubbs Jones said she now fears the administration will push for opportunity zones solely in the Gulf region, and devote little political muscle to getting Congress to set up such zones in areas like Greater Cleveland that have suffered long-term job losses.
"My guess is that he's not going to try to do both," said Tubbs Jones, adding that she hopes she's wrong.
Others also are skeptical - both that Bush will push hard for it, and that Congress will show much enthusiasm for it...
Just how far down is the Bush administration and the GOP leadership dragging the Republican party?
In what may turn out to be one of the biggest free-falls in the history of presidential polling, President Bush's job-approval rating among African Americans has dropped to 2 percent, according to a new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll.
The drop among blacks drove Bush's overall job approval ratings to an all-time low of 39 percent in this poll. By comparison, 45 percent of whites and 36 percent of Hispanics approve of the job Bush is doing.
Maybe he might consider doing the American thing for a change rather than the un-American thing.
UPDATE: There were only 88 blacks in the survey, making the 2% figure highly questionable.
Like a reverse The Jungle, the "liberals" at the S.F. Chronicle have a Page 1 "Special to The Chronicle" report from Eliza Barclay entitled "As locals struggle, migrants find work in New Orleans":
Two weeks ago, Geremias Lopez was picking grapes near Bakersfield, but when he saw an advertisement on Univision, the nation's largest Spanish-language television network, for work on the Gulf Coast, he and a friend called the 1-800 number flashing on the screen and were soon aboard a Greyhound bus headed east.
Lopez and the 80-some other Mexican and Honduran immigrants in his crew are now earning $100 a day covering torn and mangled roofs with blue tarps until the roofs can be re-shingled and restored to some semblance of what they looked like before Hurricane Katrina struck six weeks ago.
Now, you might want to read up on how much your federal government is overpaying for those roofing jobs.
For New Orleans residents, most of whom have yet to return, life remains very hard, and very uncertain. But for Lopez and his migrant workmates, it's a noticeable improvement over their minimum-wage jobs as California fruit pickers or as poultry processors in Arkansas.
"Minimum-wage" to me implies some form of legal framework. Is he here legally?
They and Latino immigrants from all over the United States have been flocking to the region, often working for out-of-state companies which received the initial round of cleanup contracts.
Recognizing the demand for migrant labor, and to help speed reconstruction in the areas devastated by Hurricane Katrina, the Department of Homeland Security temporarily suspended rules mandating employers to prove that workers they hire are citizens or have a legal right to work in the United States.
In addition, President Bush suspended application in the Katrina-affected region of the 1931 Davis-Bacon Act, under which employers must pay prevailing wage rates on federally financed construction projects -- in order, Bush said, to "permit the employment of thousands of additional individuals."
The Louisiana Department of Labor says it has received requests from contractors to certify 500 illegal migrants. Agency officials estimate that the actual number of illegal migrants already working for contractors is far higher, because many employers are not bothering with the paperwork.
This is adding to the unhappiness of local contractors trying to re-establish their own businesses and hire local workers, after being evacuated or otherwise losing their ability to operate for weeks.
"The local people can't participate in their own recovery," said Jack Donahue, whose Mandeville, La.-based firm Donahue Favret Contractors Inc. specializes in such construction tasks as sheetrock and flooring removal and mold remediation.
Part of the problem, Donahue said, is that local construction workers scattered during the evacuation and are just beginning to come back. Many are returning to destroyed or severely damaged homes and have discovered that the hotels in the region are full of out-of-state workers, including migrants.
Now, the S.F. Chronicle's "migrants" are sleeping, several to a room, in a "dank" motel room that had been flooded. Someone else says, "It's also much better to be in a hotel instead of the outdoor camps where we were getting bit by mosquitoes."
Finally, the SFC lets us in on a little truth:
Of the 80-some roofers in Lopez and Morillo's motel, few are legal residents or possess temporary work visas, according to Morillo. Rarely was their immigration status an issue in their hiring.
It goes on, but somehow I think the SFC should do a gut check and remember which country they're living in.
President Bush yesterday sought to federalize hurricane-relief efforts, removing governors from the decision-making process.
"It wouldn't be necessary to get a request from the governor or take other action," White House press secretary Scott McClellan said yesterday.
"This would be," he added, "more of an automatic trigger."
Mr. McClellan was referring to a new, direct line of authority that would allow the president to place the Pentagon in charge of responding to natural disasters, terrorist attacks and outbreaks of disease.
"It may require change of law," Mr. Bush said yesterday. "It's very important for us as we look at the lessons of Katrina to think about other scenarios that might require a well-planned, significant federal response -- right off the bat -- to provide stability."
Our homeland security president is just trying to keep you safe, citizen.
But stabilizing a crisis might require federal troops to arrest looters and perform other law-enforcement duties, which would violate the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878. The law was passed in the wake of the Civil War and Reconstruction to prevent the use of federal troops from policing elections in former Confederate states.
The White House wants Congress to consider amending Posse Comitatus in order to grant the Pentagon greater powers.
Unfortunately, the only wise voice in the article comes from a most unlikely source. According to an ACLU spokeshole:
"Our strict separation between military and civilian power is one of the things that separates us from Latin America, for example... Changing that would put us on a huge slippery slope."
Also unfortunately, Bush appears to think of himself as El Commandante. Perhaps one day soon calls for impeachment will come from both sides of the aisle.