Saturday, September 17, 2005

Katrina Reconstruction Problems: Where are the Democrats?

Like father, like son.

There's a lot of talk going around the 'net about the suspension by president G. W. Bush of the Davis-Bacon Act for reconstruction of effected areas in the Gulf Coast region in the wake of Katrina. First, it turns out that his father, George H. W. Bush, also suspended the Davis-Bacon Act in 1992 following the devastation of South Florida after Hurricane Andrew. His suspension was indefinite, and was not restored until Clinton took office in 1993. Created in 1931, the act is named after it's two Repubican sponsors (yes, back when Republicans seemed to respect workers) James Davis and Robert L. Bacon. The other presidents who suspended the Davis-Bacon act were Franklin D. Roosevelt, who suspended it for 3 weeks to manage administrative adjustments because of the New Deal in 1934. Richard M. Nixon also supsended the act in February of 1971 in an attempt to lower inflation pressures. He reinstated the act after just 28 days due to allegations of political motive behind the move--giving the impression that construction workers were to blame for the inflation problems.

Proclamation 7924 was issued and signed by the president on September 8th, 2005. Rep. George Miller (D-CA) has stated in a post at TPMCafe that he believes that the proclomation was issued "illegally" by President Bush, because it was done before a national emergency had been declared. I cannot find any information on the time or date that an "official" procomation of "National Emergency" was listed by the President as required to be able to use the wording as an "excuse" or reasoning for the suspension of the Davis-Bacon Act. You can read Rep. Miller's posting here.

According to various sources, the "prevailng wage" in New Orleans (which was protected as the "lowest wage" possible under the Davis-Bacon Act) was around $9.00/hour. This "prevailing wage" in inadequate by many standards, especially for skilled labor. To pay laborers less than this amount, while at the same time rewarding no-bid contracts to friends of the administration, is despicable. It shouldn't, of course, be surprising to anyone.

However, my growing dissapointment is what I perceived as a lack of Democratic action or speaking out against the proclamation suspending the Davis-Bacon Act. I was able to find that Rep. Susan Davis (D-CA) has co-sponsored legislation that would recind the president's proclomation. You can read her statement here. It is time for the Democrats to stand up, speak out (and speak loudly) about this proclamation's effect on the residents of these already devastated areas, as well as questioning the supsension (whether or not it was done legally), and the awarding of no-bid contracts to Bush family friends (such as Halliburton for millitary base reconstruction, and this disturbing story about the award of a contract to remove bodies by Kenyon International. Kenyon International is a subsidiary of Service Corporation International (SCI), a scandal-ridden Texas-based company operated by a friend of the Bush family. Recently, SCI subsidiaries have been implicated in illegally discarding and desecrating corpses.

This is not a time for inaction. If you agree that the Davis-Bacon Act should not have been suspended by President Bush, write your congressperson today. I just wrote my congresswoman, Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) regarding the Davis-Bacon Act and the activities of this adminstration that should lead to Articles of Impeachment being drafted against President Bush. Below is an excerpt:

I am particularly concerned with the president's choice via Executive Proclamation 7924 which suspends the Davis-Bacon Act in areas hardest hit by Hurricane Katrina. Since the prevailing wage as set by the Dept of Labor is considerably less than what most skilled individuals here in Madison, WI would receive, I believe that suspension of this Act is dangerous to the nation as a precedent being set for the dismantling of the Davis-Bacon Act. I believe that these low wages that gov't contractors would be able to pay will continue the institutionalized poverty along the Gulf Coast, especially in areas of New Orleans and Mississippi.

I have also learned that President Bush may have signed the executive order before the actual declaration of a "National Emergency" which is required to be able to suspend the Act. This information was posted at TPM Cafe ( by Rep. George Miller (D-CA).

It is my further opinion that it is time the Democrats in the House of Representatives took a stand and speak out in the strongest possible terms regarding the diastrous response to Katrina by FEMA and DHS, and the president himself (who played golf, got a guitar, and ate cake while New Orleans drowned, and required a DVD 4 days after the hurricane to be able to "understand" the gravity of the situation). This is neglect of his Oath of Office of the highest order.

Because of this and our nation's disastrous policies in an illegal war (Iraq), I have joined with (now approaching over a hundred) other bloggers in a progressive coaliton that believes it is time to begin strong investigations in the House and begin the process of bringing Articles of Impeachment against the President George W. Bush.
You can use the text above if you'd like, and tailor it to your own needs (obviously if you're not in Rep. Baldwin's district, you'd want to remove the reference to Madison, WI). This is a time of action. Inaction is as good as agreeing with the Bush Administration.

Recind the proclamation. Now.

On another note from Wisconsin: More censorship of Freedom of Speech?

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