Jobs and Joblessness on the Gulf Coast
The White House announced last week that it would reinstate the Davis-Bacon Act, the law that guarantees that construction workers on federally financed projects be paid at least the minimum prevailing wage. In an executive proclamation shortly after Hurricane Katrina, President Bush had revoked the law’s wage protections for workers in storm-struck parts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. Let’s hope this reversal is the start of a trend because more wrongs need righting.
The Labor Department has not yet restored the rule – also suspended shortly after Katrina – requiring federal contractors on hurricane-related projects to have a plan for hiring women, minorities, Vietnam veterans and the disabled. And Congress has not yet provided adequate unemployment benefits for some 400,000 people who lost their jobs to Katrina. Even a recent $400 million grant to help Louisiana with unemployment claims is less than half of the projected need for the coming year.
Unemployment pay from the states averages $270 a week nationwide. But in Louisiana, it’s $192, and in Mississippi it’s $169, the lowest in the country. Federal unemployment aid, generally for the self-employed, is no better. It all adds up to peanuts for the unemployed, who, in many cases, have lost everything and who are scattered around the country in places where costs are higher than in their home states.
The federal government must increase both state and federal unemployment benefits to a level that’s closer to the national average, and increase their duration, which is now 26 weeks. Widespread unemployment from Katrina is as much a national disaster as the destruction of infrastructure. The afflicted states simply can’t afford to foot the whole bill – and shouldn’t have to.
In the months since Katrina, plans to increase unemployment aid have flitted across Congress’s legislative radar screen, only to vanish as Republican lawmakers prepare to push a $70 billion tax cut package, much of it to benefit millionaire investors. As they did with the Davis-Bacon law, government leaders have to turn back from their wrongheaded pursuits and do the right things instead – and, preferably, soon.
Credit: New York Times Article
My Thoughts: These f#@!ers will face their judgement. What evil lurks in the house of white.