Immediately following Hurricane Katrina, there was talk of a new war on poverty. Supposedly, we were a nation that had finally been awakened to the cycle of poverty that has gripped this country. Images of mostly poor African-Americans struggling to survive in the Superdome, or fleeing to rooftops to escape rising water, became a part of our national conscience.
Now, it appears that poverty is no longer the 'sexy' issue it had become in Katrina's aftermath. According to the Washington Post, this week "House GOP lawmakers will take steps to cut as much as $50 billion from the fiscal 2006 budget for health care for the poor, food stamps and farm supports, as well as considering across-the-board cuts in other programs."
Congratulations, my fellow Americans. We've just seen the shortest war in history. If you blinked, you probably missed it.
The neo-cons on the Hill claim that the money the government will spend on "hurricane relief" has forced them to find offsets in other federal programs. And they've found those offsets in health care for the poor, and food stamps. In other words, the very programs that many survivors of Hurricane Katrina will need to get back on their feet.
Call me crazy here. Or even call me a left-wing radical if you want. But instead of trying to balance the budget on the backs of the poor, the neo-cons may want to take a look at slashing Haliburton's no bid-contracts, and the tax cuts for the wealthy. Then again, that would be too much like right. And the Republican-controlled Congress has shown they lack the will to do the right thing.
History will record whether we used Hurricane Katrina as an opportunity to make life better for the least among us. And so far, we are failing that test.