There are big issues to examine in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Why has it been acceptable to provide tax breaks primarily for the richest in our society when basic human needs have gone unmet for so many? There have been so many tax breaks over the past five years that to many it has simply become routine. Yet there are consequences. The tax cuts lead to higher deficits and the result, as we have witnessed in New Orleans, is inadequate funding of programs addressing the large-scale problems we expect our government to tackle for us, such as infrastructure improvements and services for basic human needs. For example, it has been known for some time that the levees in New Orleans could not withstand a hurricane of Katrina's magnitude. In fact, they needed maintenance work to hold in the face of even lesser storms. Yet we pinched pennies to support unproven supply side economic theory, giving tax breaks when spending could have saved lives. And what money was available was spent on misplaced priorities. The consequences, as we now know, are unacceptable.
Yet despite the evidence Hurricane Katrina brings, there are some in Congress considering more fiscal folly: a temporary repeal of the gasoline tax (which protects the country's roads and bridges -- essential for a smooth evacuation in any future crisis); a vote to repeal the estate tax (which provides incentives for charitable contributions to nonprofits like the Red Cross and others providing critical relief to Hurricane Katrina's victims); and the possibility of additional cuts in basic life-supports like food stamps, Medicaid, and student loans. These are some of the very programs victims of Hurricane Katrina and the communities that take them in will have to rely upon in the months ahead. Sound, equitable fiscal policies would dictate that these programs be expanded, not cut. And to pay for them, the tax cuts that have largely benefited the wealthiest in our society should be undone. It's time for shared sacrifice.
Wednesday, September 14, 2005
What Katrina Tells Us About Our Government's Priorities
This is by Gary Bass, Executive Director of OMB Watch in CounterPunch:
Posted by Jordan at 10:43 PM