Jennifer Moses has another excellent article, "Losing Hope in Louisiana," in today's Washington Post. You might think we have a new day dawning with government stepping up to its responsibility. It seems the majority wants government to act responsibly. It just doesn't seem we can get there from here.
Jennifer paints a picture that confirms what many have suspected. Things still aren't working well for the Hurricane Katrina victims. To a large extent as Jennifer points out, the media focus has moved on, but that doesn't mean the problems are fixed or that FEMA is actually getting the job done.
But if you go down to the shelters, wait in one of the blocks-long social services lines, or drive out to any of the many churches where evacuees sleep in pews...
You'll hear mothers complain that a shelter is no place to school -- let alone raise -- a child. And you'll hear one horror story after another about how FEMA has denied evacuees any financial assistance, accused applicants of fraud, lost their case numbers...
The picture that Jennifer Moses paints is one that should worry us all. In her last article, article, "Why Baton Rouge Is Still Bush Country" she pretty well sums up why we can't get past the problem of government inaction.
It doesn't help any that the Democrats haven't been able to speak plainly in decades. Because if under George W. Bush the Republican Party has become heartless, the Democratic Party has become spineless.
What really gets me as it does many others is the disconnect between what is being said by government officials and what is being actually done by our government. Paul Krugman explains the whole theory in his recent NY Times article, "Will Bush Deliver?" (paid subscription required)
One of their "new rules for radicals" is "Don't just do something, stand there." ...
For example, the public strongly supports a higher minimum wage, but conservatives have nonetheless managed to cut that wage in real terms by not raising it in the face of inflation.
Right now, the public strongly supports a major reconstruction effort, so that's what Mr. Bush had to promise. But as the TV cameras focus on other places and other issues, will the administration pay a heavy political price for a reconstruction that starts slowly and gradually peters out? The New York experience suggests that it won't.
So the new theory is tell the people what they want to hear but don't worry about the consequences of not following through with your commitments. I actually believe we're getting to a flash point where both ends of the spectrum are beginning to understand the problem. David Brooks' article, "As Parties Grow Weary, Time for an Insurgency," is a good example of the growing consensus that our political system just isn't working.
After a while, you get sick of the DeLays of the right and the Deans of the left. After a while, you tire of the current Republicans, who lack a coherent governing philosophy, and the current Democrats, who are completely bereft of ideas. After a while you begin to wonder: Did I really get engaged in politics so I could spend months arguing about the confirmation of Harriet Miers, the John Major of American jurisprudence?
We now have a government who seems to be committed not to the welfare of the public, but to making certain that people come to believe government is always ineffective. Paul Krugman goes on to explain what is happening in his article, "Miserable By Design."
So here's the key to understanding post-Katrina policy: Mr. Bush can't avoid helping Katrina's victims, but he doesn't want to legitimize institutions that help the needy, like the housing voucher program. As a result, his administration refuses to use those institutions, even when they are the best way to provide victims with aid. More generally, the administration is trying to treat Katrina's victims as harshly as the political realities allow, so as not to create a precedent for other aid efforts.
As the misery of the hurricane's survivors goes on, remember this: to a large extent, they are miserable by design.
It's really sad that our government has come to this. The key to understanding our government is that we have people in government who don't believe in government serving the people. What they believe in is absolute loyalty to those who they have gotten elected and to doing whatever is necessary to keep them in power. I've already written at length on this in, "Where change has to come from," "Accountability for Katrina, not 'finger pointing'," and "McCainism."
We must be close to everyone figuring out that we need people who believe in doing the right thing for all the people, not just those in power. After all Cal Thomas has come forward with this statement in his article, "Presidential poll pain."
President Bush's bubble contributes to declining poll numbers.
What should he do? First, he should replace those on his staff who seem to care more about him than they do about policy. If the policies are right and benefit the people, the approval and admiration will follow. But "loyalty tests" and "my president, right or wrong" is not policy. It is hero-worship and it can only blind people to policy objectives.
Nothing would fire up the country more (short of winning the war in Iraq and finding Osama bin Laden) than a crusade to liberate us from the grip of oil-producing nations that hate us and use our money to spread terrorism.
Even Cal Thomas is close to connecting the dots about what is wrong with our government.
As the quote from President Kennedy that Cal Thomas uses in his article says, "we can do better."