Roger Hickey is co-director of the Campaign for America's Future.
Now is the time for Americans take action to help all those affected by Hurricane Katrina—but also to take back our government to make it an effective instrument for rebuilding America.
The failure of the Bush administration to plan for the predictable destruction of Hurricane Katrina demonstrates how the radical conservative attack on government has utterly failed our country. But our problem didn’t start with Bush. Decades of anti-government ideology, tax cutting, ultra-individualism and slashed public investment have brought us an Administration that is unable to do even the basics: to respond effectively to natural disasters and protect the general welfare. And that failure has reminded all Americans of the ongoing disaster of poverty in America.
Therefore, we ask you to join with millions of fellow Americans to demand decisive action to address the immediate problems of rebuilding the devastated region. But we need to do more. In place of the failed right-wing vision of government that has ignored growing poverty and neglected America’s public needs with such tragic results, we pledge ourselves to work together to advance a larger progressive agenda to address our country’s real problems.
Please, take the public pledge to support a bold plan to Rebuild the Gulf Coast and Rebuild America .
Starting today, we pledge to work together to build support for an ambitious plan we call Rebuild the Gulf Coast and Rebuild America.
1. We want Congress and the Bush Administration to take immediate steps, as proposed by Senate Minority Leader Reid, to meet the urgent health care, housing, education and economic needs of the millions of Americans affected by Katrina.
2. We call for a long-term effort to rebuild the Gulf Coast region—to reestablish commerce, construct energy-efficient housing, and reduce the impact of future natural disasters by rebuilding in a way that works with, not against, natural wetlands and river systems. This reconstruction effort should include jobs and training for unemployed residents of the Gulf—similar to the Civilian Conservation Corps—as proposed by NAACP Chair Julian Bond. This would put money in the pockets of the 400,000 newly unemployed people—in places where few jobs are available, especially for the unskilled.
3. We call for strengthening, not weakening, the social safety net—for those affected by the hurricane and for all Americans. We call on Congress not to proceed with the Bush administration’s planned budget cuts in Medicaid, housing, food stamps and education.
Congress should repeal the recently-passed bankruptcy bill to help families struggling with disasters and soaring gas prices.
Congress should stop Bush’s Social Security privatization plan because we need guaranteed family security.
We pledge to work for economic change to build an America where no one is stuck in poverty, and where all our people have jobs, health care, education, and healthy communities.
4. We call on President Bush and Republicans in Congress to renounce all efforts to repeal the estate tax—not just postpone a vote as Senator Frist has now done. And they should also give up their continuing campaign to make the Bush tax cuts permanent. Instead of rewarding the rich with favors, we need to restore tax fairness while raising the revenues for the investment we need to rebuild America.
5. We demand a plan to start bringing our troops home from Iraq and rebuild the stretched National Guard to deal with future emergencies.
6. We pledge to work to pass the Apollo Alliance plan for energy independence—starting with immediate efforts to reduce U.S. demand for foreign oil. America should declare a goal of reducing our dependence on foreign energy and of dramatically cutting pollution that alters the earth’s climate. This will require retooling our homes, communities and transportation systems and challenging vested energy interests to change. And we urge Congress to move quickly on Sen. Byron Dorgan’s plan for an excess profits tax on energy companies, with revenue devoted to reconstruction and investment in energy independence.
We need your help to move forward this bold agenda to Rebuild the Gulf Coast and Rebuild America. Please, take a public pledge to work toward this agenda by sending this message to your elected officials—and to let them know you won’t stop until we have transformed our government from one that tells us: "You are on your own," to a democratic instrument that helps us declare, "We can solve any problem together."