In thinking about the aftermath of the Katrina Hurricane, we need to use this tragedy to give people back their hopes and dreams again after five years of Bush's misrule. We must create a modern-day Works Progress Administration similar to the one FDR formed at the height of the Great Depression. Here
are some of the projects that the WPA built over its lifetime.
The amount of work that is required to rebuild New Orleans will be staggering. There will be enough work for everybody who is unemployed and then some. Therefore, we, as Democrats, should adopt the mentality that the right to work is a basic human right and that nobody should be forced to starve because they can't find work.
The first people to be hired should be people with city-planning experience or middle-level management experience who would work with state and local authorities to rebuild the homes and infastructure and provide levee protection. Colleges from all over the country and abroad could provide students with majors in city planning, technology, and architecture. Lots of coordination with private companies and relief workers would be required.
At the head of this new WPA should be someone who has had a proven track record of managing disasters in the past. Obviously, nobody in the country has ever managed a disaster on this scale. But someone with a proven track record who has been in disasters of this nature on a regular basis is out there.
To pay for this, here is what we must do:
--End all of Bush's tax cuts. This task will require a national sacrifice similar to World War II and other such national emergencies.
--End the Iraq War and bring the troops home.
--Senator Kent Conrad wrote an excellent editorial in The Hill about how we have $300 billion a year in unpaid taxes because the IRS does not have the staff to collect them. We should hire the staff necessary to track down and collect every single unpaid tax in this country; if it is not paid, it should not be for lack of trying.
--Support the Conyers bill waiving the Bankruptcy Bill for people who were in the Hurricane and returning to the old rules.
--Raise the minimum wage to $10 an hour. Raising the minimum wage has no effect on job growth; in the UK, Tony Blair set a minimum wage that is twice as much as ours; it did not prevent the UK from creating 1-2 million new jobs, cutting unemployment to 4-5%, and wiping out a budget deficit.
--It is a fact of life that many Americans are unwilling to do the grunt work necessary to make things work, like picking fruits off a fruit tree, for instance. However, immigrants are willing to do it. We should raise the quota of legal immigrants to meet both unmet job demand for the new WPA and job demand for them elsewhere.
--Raising the immigration quota will provide more job growth because a disproportionate number of immigrants start their own businesses when they come to this country. This increases tax revenue and increases jobs as well.
--Hold a national contest to design and demonstrate a car which gets at least 100 miles per gallon, can travel at least 300 miles without filling up, and costs less than 150% of a conventional car. From all the entries, the top 100 contestants would demonstrate their cars, how they would run, and the business model that their company would use if they were selected. The winner gets to form their own company with money and loans provided by the government. The government would help them find facilities to create a plant so they can mass-produce the cars. Continued federal funding would be contingent on them not exporting jobs to third-world sweatshops.
These are some of the ideas that I am floating. Once we are done rebuilding the South, we should not disband the new WPA. We should focus on other projects around the country which need jobs. We could even send WPA teams around the globe to help with natural disasters elsewhere.
If we want to win in 2006 and 2008, we must persuade people to vote their hopes and not their fears. The problem with pandering to "moral values" voters is that these are people who have little hope in the present life, and are seduced by promises of an eternal life elsewhere, where everything will be fine. Many believe in an imminent apocalypse, and thus depend on Bush to protect them through thick and thin.
Working to create a modern-day utopia right here in this world, on the other hand, is much more real to people and much more possible than the hereafter. Creating a coherent vision of a utopia here in this world can beat a vision of going to heaven afterwards anytime.