Thursday, August 03, 2006

Talking the talk

But not walking the walk. This president's message is geared toward quick political points. His actual actions and results are quite different.

First, with Iraq. The Christian Science Monitor:
WASHINGTON – The US-led reconstruction effort in Iraq - comparable to the Marshall Plan after World War II - is drawing to a close, but falling short of its original goals.

Of 14,000 planned projects, more than 500 have not been started. Others are in progress including a new oil pipeline to run through northern Iraq.
The president almost three years ago:
I proposed to Congress that the United States provide additional funding for our work in Iraq, the greatest financial commitment of its kind since the Marshall Plan. Having helped to liberate Iraq, we will honor our pledges to Iraq, and by helping the Iraqi people build a stable and peaceful country, we will make our own countries more secure.

The primary goal of our coalition in Iraq is self-government for the people of Iraq, reached by orderly and democratic process. This process must unfold according to the needs of Iraqis, neither hurried, nor delayed by the wishes of other parties. And the United Nations can contribute greatly to the cause of Iraq self-government. America is working with friends and allies on a new Security Council resolution, which will expand the U.N.'s role in Iraq. As in the aftermath of other conflicts, the United Nations should assist in developing a constitution, in training civil servants, and conducting free and fair elections.
The Washington Post noticed this recently:
Poverty forced its way to the top of President Bush's agenda in the confusing days after Hurricane Katrina battered the Gulf Coast and flooded New Orleans. Confronted with one of the most pressing political crises of his presidency, Bush, who in the past had faced withering criticism for speaking little about the poor, said the nation has a solemn duty to help them.

"All of us saw on television, there's . . . some deep, persistent poverty in this region," he said in a prime-time speech from New Orleans's Jackson Square, 17 days after the Aug. 29 hurricane. "That poverty has roots in a history of racial discrimination, which cut off generations from the opportunity of America. We have a duty to confront this poverty with bold action."

As it happened, poverty's turn in the presidential limelight was brief. Bush has talked little about the issue since the immediate crisis passed, while pursuing policies that his liberal critics say will hurt the poor. He has publicly mentioned domestic poverty six times since giving back-to-back speeches on the issue in September. Domestic poverty did not come up in his State of the Union address in January, and his most recent budget included no new initiatives directed at the poor.
I was hopeful that Katrina could be a moment of rethinking for the "conservative' Texan. (His budgets and power-lust could add to this post.) But, this war on poverty was more of a military parade like a low-rent dictator's.

In fact, the parade is over and the Hurricane zone still suffers. Time Magainze Online:
Barbee is co-author of a report, published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association, which tries to put some real numbers behind what many health care professionals have known anecdotally: that New Orleans may be in the midst of a serious breakdown, both among residents and the health care system needed to treat them. Barbee and his co-authors — psychiatrists Mark Townsend, also of LSUHSC, and Richard Weisler, of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill — pull together data that, collectively, provide a bleak snapshot of the city’s mental health condition as it approaches the storm's one-year anniversary.

Shortly after Katrina, the report says, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention poll determined that roughly half of respondents indicated a possible need for mental health assistance, yet fewer than 2% were getting counseling. A February survey of people living in temporary FEMA-subsidized housing found that more than two-thirds of female caregivers reported feelings of anxiety, depression and other mental health disorders. As many as half of the children they were caring for were suffering from mental disorders of their own. A poll of police officers and firefighters, most of whom lost homes in the storm, found that roughly 20% were experiencing post-traumatic stress syndrome and that one in four emergency responders was suffering from major depression. More troubling, perhaps, is a 25% jump in the mortality rate, including a threefold increase in the suicide rate — a conservative estimate since many self-inflicted deaths are classified as accidental.

To make matters worse, the city is suffering from a dearth of mental health services. By most estimates, a little less than half of the city’s pre-Katrina population of 450,000 has returned. But there are only a total of 20 psychiatric beds available in the few New Orleans hospitals that have reopened, compared to about 300 before the storm. By last April, the report says, only 22 of 196 psychiatrists were practicing in the city, shifting a good portion of mental health treatment to the 140 primary care physicians, out of 617, who had returned. With 96 inpatient psychiatry beds, the Medical Center of Louisiana — better known as Charity Hospital — was once the city's biggest mental health care provider. Now, it dispenses emergency care from a makeshift clinic housed in a former Lord & Taylor department store. The heavily flooded hospital may never reopen.
The scale of this president's failures is beyond recent historical precedent.


Blogger Ezzie said...

How is it the President's fault that people don't want to move back to a destroyed city?

3:45 PM  
Blogger copy editor said...

My issue is more that his war on poverty lasted about two weeks. Nice speeches, then they get onto usual business.

3:48 PM  

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