[Mb-civic] Estate tax alert + New Orleans
ean at sbcglobal.net
ean at sbcglobal.net
Thu Sep 1 18:29:01 PDT 2005
Astounding as it may seem, with sky-high deficits, the war in Iraq and,
most important, the snowballing catastrophe in New Orleans and the
Gulf states wrought by Hurricane Katrina, the U.S. Senates first
planned order of business when it returns on Sept. 6 is
a repeal of
the estate tax!
to take action against this unconscionable giveaway to the richest
The estate tax, cunningly and misleadingly called the death tax by
Republicans, affects fewer than 2% of Americans, i.e. the very
wealthiest. Yet repeal of it would cost our treasury up to $100 billion
a year which means higher deficits, cuts in social services, and/or
higher taxes for you. And even some Democrats are working on
compromises that would still cost the rest of us billions a year.
Many Senators are pushing for this because they have been
extensively lobbied by heirs to the Wal-Mart and Campbell soup
fortunes among other super-wealthy Americans. These families have
spent tens of millions of dollars to kill the tax over the past five years.
(This is yet another reason Public Citizen has initiated our Clean Up
Washington campaign, to break this shrouded, self-reinforcing loop
between Congress, lobbyists and wealthy special interests).
Please use this alert to send a clear message to your Senators offices
immediately: NO repeal of the estate tax and NO compromises. Let
the wealthiest American families help pay for the priorities and
burdens that the rest of us must shoulder! They can afford it.
(note from Mha Atma--cut and paste this sample message or write
NOW MORE THAN EVER, WITH THE GREAT DEVASTATION IN
THE SOUTH, WE SHOULD NOT HAVE MORE TAX BREAKS FOR
SUPER RICH WHILE THE NATION SUFFERS! DO NOT ALLOW
THE ESTATE TAX TO BE REPEALED OR "REFORMED" INTO
Did New Orleans Catastrophe Have to Happen?
'Times-Picayune' Had Repeatedly Raised Federal
By Will Bunch
Published: August 31, 2005 9:00 PM ET
PHILADELPHIA Even though Hurricane Katrina has moved well north
of the city, the waters may still keep rising in New Orleans. That's
because Lake Pontchartrain continues to pour through a two-block-
long break in the main levee, near the city's 17th Street Canal. With
much of the Crescent City some 10 feet below sea level, the rising tide
may not stop until it's level with the massive lake.
New Orleans had long known it was highly vulnerable to flooding and a
direct hit from a hurricane. In fact, the federal government has been
working with state and local officials in the region since the late 1960s
on major hurricane and flood relief efforts. When flooding from a
massive rainstorm in May 1995 killed six people, Congress authorized
the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project, or SELA.
Over the next 10 years, the Army Corps of Engineers, tasked with
carrying out SELA, spent $430 million on shoring up levees and
building pumping stations, with $50 million in local aid. But at least
$250 million in crucial projects remained, even as hurricane activity in
the Atlantic Basin increased dramatically and the levees surrounding
New Orleans continued to subside.
Yet after 2003, the flow of federal dollars toward SELA dropped to a
trickle. The Corps never tried to hide the fact that the spending
pressures of the war in Iraq, as well as homeland security -- coming at
the same time as federal tax cuts -- was the reason for the strain. At
least nine articles in the Times-Picayune from 2004 and 2005
specifically cite the cost of Iraq as a reason for the lack of hurricane-
and flood-control dollars.
Newhouse News Service, in an article posted late Tuesday night at
The Times-Picayune Web site, reported: "No one can say they didn't
see it coming. ... Now in the wake of one of the worst storms ever,
serious questions are being asked about the lack of preparation."
In early 2004, as the cost of the conflict in Iraq soared, President Bush
proposed spending less than 20 percent of what the Corps said was
needed for Lake Pontchartrain, according to a Feb. 16, 2004, article, in
New Orleans CityBusiness.
On June 8, 2004, Walter Maestri, emergency management chief for
Jefferson Parish, Louisiana; told the Times-Picayune: "It appears that
the money has been moved in the president's budget to handle
homeland security and the war in Iraq, and I suppose that's the price
we pay. Nobody locally is happy that the levees can't be finished, and
we are doing everything we can to make the case that this is a security
issue for us."
Also that June, with the 2004 hurricane season starting, the Corps'
project manager Al Naomi went before a local agency, the East
Jefferson Levee Authority, and essentially begged for $2 million for
urgent work that Washington was now unable to pay for. From the
June 18, 2004 Times-Picayune:
"The system is in great shape, but the levees are sinking. Everything is
sinking, and if we don't get the money fast enough to raise them, then
we can't stay ahead of the settlement," he said. "The problem that we
have isn't that the levee is low, but that the federal funds have dried up
so that we can't raise them."
The panel authorized that money, and on July 1, 2004, it had to pony
up another $250,000 when it learned that stretches of the levee in
Metairie had sunk by four feet. The agency had to pay for the work with
higher property taxes. The levee board noted in October 2004 that the
feds were also now not paying for a hoped-for $15 million project to
better shore up the banks of Lake Pontchartrain.
The 2004 hurricane season was the worst in decades. In spite of that,
the federal government came back this spring with the steepest
reduction in hurricane and flood-control funding for New Orleans in
history. Because of the proposed cuts, the Corps office there imposed
a hiring freeze. Officials said that money targeted for the SELA project
-- $10.4 million, down from $36.5 million -- was not enough to start any
There was, at the same time, a growing recognition that more research
was needed to see what New Orleans must do to protect itself from a
Category 4 or 5 hurricane. But once again, the money was not there.
As the Times-Picayune reported last Sept. 22:
"That second study would take about four years to complete and would
cost about $4 million, said Army Corps of Engineers project manager
Al Naomi. About $300,000 in federal money was proposed for the
2005 fiscal-year budget, and the state had agreed to match that
amount. But the cost of the Iraq war forced the Bush administration to
order the New Orleans district office not to begin any new studies, and
the 2005 budget no longer includes the needed money, he said."
The Senate was seeking to restore some of the SELA funding cuts for
2006. But now it's too late.
One project that a contractor had been racing to finish this summer: a
bridge and levee job right at the 17th Street Canal, site of the main
breach on Monday.
The Newhouse News Service article published Tuesday night
observed, "The Louisiana congressional delegation urged Congress
earlier this year to dedicate a stream of federal money to Louisiana's
coast, only to be opposed by the White House. ... In its budget, the
Bush administration proposed a significant reduction in funding for
southeast Louisiana's chief hurricane protection project. Bush
proposed $10.4 million, a sixth of what local officials say they need."
Local officials are now saying, the article reported, that had
Washington heeded their warnings about the dire need for hurricane
protection, including building up levees and repairing barrier islands,
"the damage might not have been nearly as bad as it turned out to be."
Will Bunch (letters at editorandpublisher.com) is senior writer at the
Philadelphia Daily News. He won a Pulitzer Prize in 1992 when he
reported for Newsday. Much of this article also appears on his blog,
Attytood, at the Daily News.
You are currently on Mha Atma's Earth Action Network email list,
option D (up to 3 emails/day). To be removed, or to switch options
(option A - 1x/week, option B - 3/wk, option C - up to 1x/day, option D -
up to 3x/day) please reply and let us know! If someone forwarded you
this email and you want to be on our list, send an email to
ean at sbcglobal.net and tell us which option you'd like.
"In times of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act."
--- George Orwell
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
More information about the Mb-civic