HOW SENIORS CAN HELP VICTIMS OF KATRINA,
RITA & CONGRESS
by Frank Kaiser
Across Washington, Republican congressional heads spin like Linda Blair's as their "drown the government in a bathtub" doctrine meets "hundreds of billions needed to help victims
Who knew there'd be such a stink over a few thousand New Orleanians apparently left to die after Hurricane Katrina hit? Most were poor. Perhaps better off dead, anyway, if I interpret the president's mother correctly.
House Speaker Dennis Hastert's declaration that rebuilding hurricane-ravaged New Orleans "doesn't make sense," like those fuzzy Abscam photos of Congressmen taking bribes, has caught the true spirit of today's Congress. After all, New Orleans is/was a Democratic town full of African Americans. That's why the city didn't get the infrastructure assistance it needed to withstand Katrina in the first place.
Just Republican bad luck that meddling liberal news media stirred the nation's sympathy. Now we've got to pay the piper.
So where will all those needed billions come from? We're already suffocating under a $331-billion deficit for the year.
Democrats have suggested - perhaps with their fingers crossed behind them - that Congress give up political pork for a year. Like that quarter-billion dollar "Bridge to Nowhere" in Alaska. Of course, Republicans are having none of it. Pork is the American Way, after all.
Maybe members of Congress will give back their recent $3,100 raises.
How about repealing Bush's tax cuts for super-rich Americans?
Now don't go crackers on me! Just one year's suspension would return $225-billion to the treasury. That would cover most of the cost of rebuilding New Orleans.
Or, let's bring our troops home from Iraq. As the late Rear Admiral Eugene Carroll said, "There is an old military doctrine called the First Rule of Holes: If you find yourself stuck in one, stop digging." That would save a couple hundred billion.
Personally, I believe we should have thought about this before Katrina hit.
What would it have taken? Five minutes of the president's vacation for him to call the Rev. Pat Robertson? Robertson, you'll remember, single-handedly diverted a hurricane from Virginia Beach. Why not use his awesome powers to divert Katrina and Rita, perhaps sending them to the Yucatan where only poor Mexicans would be inconvenienced?
They're used to it.
With all the denials, delays, and debunking going around, it seems to me that some maturity is needed here. We seniors have experience in these matters. We've lived long enough to have experience in damn near everything.
Cancel the Medicare Drug Bill
Let's see, we could have a million-geezer clean-up crew bus to Houston. But with all the bathroom stops we'd have to make along the way, we'd be lucky to cross the Texas border by 2008.
Here's an idea! Suggest that Congress cancel the Medicare drug bill set to go into affect in January. Even keeping in the part benefiting the poor, killing the rest of that bill would save our country at least $600- to $900-billion.
This clever ploy would make us geezers look oh-so altruistic while in reality saving us all from going bananas puzzling over the choice of which HMO we want to pick our pockets. Like Representative Lynn Westmoreland, Republican of Georgia, said, "Most seniors are not going to know what to do with [the Medicare drug benefit] anyway."
What I like about this gambit is that we seniors lose nothing. The bill benefits only the pharmaceutical and insurance companies that wrote it. Yet, by "giving up" our long-sought drug "benefit," we could insist that, for fairness sake, Congress cancel the billions given to cash-rich, profit-gouging corporations - like the recent $14-billion donation to the oil industry.
We might even get those Washington boys and girls to stop allowing US companies to "headquarter" in Bermuda to avoid paying their fair share of taxes.
Push some, and I'll bet we could get Congress to restore to the VA budget the billions necessary to care for our wounded returning from Iraq.
Putting $600- 900-billion on the table turns heads, even in Washington.
Who knows? It could be the start of something big.
Like getting back our country.
© 2005-Frank Kaiser
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