New Orleans recovery must become a priority

Published 8:57 am Thursday, January 25, 2007

By Staff
President Bush offered Tuesday during his State of the Union Address a number of ideas for improving the lives of Americans here at home. Plans for affordable health care, a stable economy and a solid Social Security system were all presented by the president as ways to "make life better for our fellow Americans, and help them to build a future of hope and opportunity."
However, the president failed to address how the federal government will solve any of the problems that still exist for the millions of Americans along the Gulf Coast trying to recover from Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita. It is also worth noting none of our representatives in Washington D.C. – Rep. Fred Upton and senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow – in their responses to the State of the Union Address held the president accountable for neglecting to even mention the devastating storms.
That is why we feel it should be a top priority for President Bush, his administration and all of Congress to thrust to the forefront of the nation's agenda a precise, demanding plan for revitalizing the economy, health and solidarity of the Gulf Coast so its residents and those displaced by the storm can too have a chance at a better future.
The federal bill for fighting the war in Iraq has already surpassed the $500 billion mark, and the president is now ready to send more than 20,000 additional troops, and inevitably more taxpayer money, to the Middle East.
President Bush proudly noted Tuesday that 7.2 million new jobs have been created since he took office, and he also made sure the nation knew that January marked the 41st month in a row with job growth in the U.S.
Republicans and Democrats in office have pledged for months to "cross bipartisan lines" and join together in creating meaningful legislation in ethics reform, alternative energy opportunities and immigration reform. The new Democrat majority in Washington has loudly advertised their "first 100 hours" under new Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi as a measure to share the benefit of the wealth with all Americans, but, in his party's response, Sen. Jim Webb only briefly mentioned the priority of "restoring the vitality of New Orleans."
Sadly, though, both President Bush and members of Congress have turned a blind eye to the victims of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, which ravaged our own people on our own soil 18 months ago.
The amount of federal funding for jump-starting the Gulf Coast should not pale in comparison to the dollars sent to an overseas war. Job creation should not be hailed or praised at a time when employment is critically needed in New Orleans and Biloxi, Miss., and when businesses are simultaneously leaving the area for better opportunities. And, if political parties want to show they are willing to bury ideological differences in favor of progress, they should do so by immediately passing legislation designating only our country's finest resources and funds to repairing and returning to prestige the beautiful and proud states of our South.
Such measures would prove to Americans, and most importantly residents of the Gulf Coast, that they are, and will always be, our top priority.